Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


October 15, 2013

WE THE PEOPLE: Fleecing the flock

CROSSVILLE — I once raised sheep.

Not many, mind you. We usually had only a few dozen ewes and three rams.

The sheep produced meat, but the annual cost was almost exactly the same as the money earned from the lambs. That cost included feed, but also less obvious expenses. There was the alfalfa that could have been sold. There was depreciation of equipment, as well as depreciation of purchased sheep. Some lambs were saved for future breeding stock, and those sales were lost.

Once a year, however, the sheep were shorn. The value of the fleece turned out to be my profit.

Shearing can be done, responsibly, only once a year. Sheep need excess wool in the winter to keep warm (reducing food bills and veterinary expenses). As long as wool is removed in a sustainable manner, sheep remain healthy and there can be modest profits. Push for more, and the system usually collapses.

Sheep don’t like being fleeced. They won’t stand like dogs waiting to be scratched while you run clippers over them. They need to be tricked into compliance.

To fleece a sheep, the animal is first upended and leaned back against your legs to provide minimal support. The sheep, thus, is propped up with all four feet off the ground. The shearer must avoid creating total panic, which would lead to flailing and slashing hooves followed by a hasty retreat. Instead, he tries to induce a controlled sense of insecurity that distracts the animal while its fleece is removed. Most sheep turn their head to the side and stare at the ground in front of their nose. Given moderate anxiety, they offer minimal resistance as their valuable asset, the wool they produced, is taken from them.

Stability allows sheep see the “big picture.” Stability is necessary for normal ovine life; eating, rearing children and engaging in relatively harmless pecking-order games. Only after getting four feet on the ground can a newly fleeced sheep recognize its loss and run, bleating, back to the flock in shame.

I was skillful enough on the farm. I inflicted very few nicks or scrapes and extracted many a quality, intact fleece. As a result, the victim (given a rest) soon forgot the ordeal and was easy to fleece the following year.

The overlords who fleece us also know that insecurity creates dependence and distraction. To be efficient, they make us dependent upon what little support remains while our valuable assets are continually shorn. They make us fear the loss of our job or our retirement income just as the sheep fear the loss of the deceptive support given by the legs of the shearer. They want us in debt from cradle to grave. They orchestrate fictitious threats to our physical safety so that we feel the need to lean on the military, law enforcement, or some other “security provider.” They fabricate overblown crises so their work can proceed smoothly as we stare at the ground in front of our noses, avoiding the big picture.

It’s been said that people have more insight than sheep and are more likely to resist fleecing, but the evidence is thin.

• • •

This column represents alternative thoughts to other published columns in the Crossville Chronicle. “We the People” is published each Wednesday. Opinions expressed in “We the People” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact John Wund, editor, at

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