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Tackling Lucy

The following is a free excerpt from Dave Fox’s award-winning book of travel humor essays, Getting Lost: Mishaps of an Accidental Nomad.

This chapter appears in the book’s first edition, but was cut from the second edition for editorial reasons. It’s still one of Dave’s favorite stories, however, so he’s including it here. Both the first and second editions are available for purchase on this website. This and several other “deleted scenes” are also now available as Kindle Single: Loster: Hilarious Travel Tales Rescued from the Elusive First Edition of “Getting Lost.”

Learn more about the difference between the first and second editions here.

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The original, self-published edition of "Getting Lost" includes nine additional short stories that were cut from the Inkwater Press second edition. While the first edition is now out of print, a few copies are still available via this website.

Dingle, Ireland: 2000

The sheep was on a mission. She was trotting quickly, almost running, in the direction of downtown Dingle with a confident stride and a mischievous glint in her eyes.

There were lots of sheep in Ireland. Too many to count. But I could tell this one was different. This sheep was a rebel.

I had just stepped out the door of my bed-and-breakfast on my way to interview a pub owner about Dingle’s folk music scene. It was an innocent enough goal: Take a few notes, then go chat up a few more sources, maybe slurp down a pint of Guinness, and if I was lucky, squeeze in a hike before the evening’s music sessions revved up. But that’s one of the funny things about life: you never know when a runaway sheep is going to cross your path and change everything.

“Lucy!” a voice shouted from up the road. It was a farmer. A very pissed off farmer with a knack for profanity. Granted, most Irish men have a knack for profanity, but this guy was really good. “Lucy, yeh get the fook back hare noow!”

I looked up the hill at the farmer, then down the hill at Lucy the Sheep, who was headed somewhere very important. Lucy’s trot was quickening. She was going to have to move faster if she was going to make it to… the pub? The hair salon? It was hard to tell where she was off to, but it was clearly someplace important.

“Lucy!” the farmer shouted again. “Come the fook back hare!” I wondered why he was yelling at Lucy. Did he think she was suddenly going to turn obedient?

“Oh? Come back there? Is that what you want me to do? Oh. Okay. Baah!”

No. That wasn’t going to happen. Lucy was a rebel. She knew it. I knew it. The farmer looked silly telling her what to do. But people behave strangely when they’re losing control of a situation. They panic and blame whoever is around them for their crisis. They make ridiculous demands.

Suddenly, the farmer realized demanding anything of a renegade sheep was futile. He stopped yelling at Lucy. He turned to the only other creature in the vicinity who could be yelled at: me.

“Stop her!” he commanded.

Asking me to help stop Lucy was dumber than telling Lucy to stop herself. I was raised in the suburbs. My only experience with sheep involved a sweater or two. I am confident the farmer would not have asked me to stop Lucy had there been any other human being on the street. I was his only hope, but he didn’t know who he was talking to. Lucy slowed down and turned around. We sized each other up. She was heavier and smellier than me. She also had more confidence. Confidence is important in psyching out your opponent. Lucy stopped and glared at me.

“I can kick your ass,” said the expression in her eyes.

Getting your ass kicked is no fun under any circumstance. Getting your ass kicked by a sheep seemed especially degrading.

“Stop her for fook’s sake!” the farmer shouted more urgently. I blinked back at him. I didn’t want to stop Lucy. Lucy would probably hurt me. Besides, I was kind of rooting for her.

The farmer was running, panting for breath. He was gaining on Lucy. I watched as he lumbered past me. Lucy dodged him as he came within grabbing distance.

The farmer looked back up the road at me. I couldn’t tell if he was more pissed at the sheep or me. I wasn’t being helpful.

“I’m from the suburbs,” I wanted to explain. “From the American suburbs. We don’t have sheep. We have dogs and cats. I was attacked by a dog when I was six. It was traumatic. I don’t want to be attacked by a sheep.”

But there was no time for this conversation. We had a crisis. I was in Ireland, where a real man wouldn’t let a sheep get away. I was not making an impressive showing.

The farmer lunged at Lucy again, which was when she seemed to figure out the dynamic between the three of us. Her stupid owner was angry and determined to apprehend her. The stupid tourist up the road was scared and determined to avoid her. Lucy’s decision was a no-brainer. Elude the stupid farmer and charge the stupid tourist.

So she did. She reversed her downhill trot, running more laboriously up the road now, straight toward me.

“Stop her!” the farmer barked at me again.

I dove out of Lucy’s way.

Lucy ran behind a house.

“She’s behind the house!” the farmer shouted at me.

“Yes,” I wanted to say. “I can see that. Thank you. Have a nice day.” Instead, I stood there, frozen.

“I’ll stay on the road,” the farmer shouted. “You go corner her behind the house!”

I blinked, wondering what this guy’s problem was. I didn’t like the way he ordered me around. He stood on the road like a drill sergeant, giving commands as if he had rehearsed them for some sort of renegade sheep preparedness drill. I was starting to side with Lucy. The farmer was a jerk. If I were cooped up on his farm, I’d run away too. But caught up in the adrenaline of the moment, I felt a sense of responsibility. Pathetic as his plan was, the man was counting on me to help capture his sheep.

I followed Lucy behind the house. A narrow path, maybe three feet wide, ran behind the building. It was flanked by a five-foot cement wall. The path dead-ended at the far side of the house. Lucy was in the corner now. She looked at back at me, and for the first time, I saw fear in her eyes.

“Chase her around the other side!” the farmer was yelling, his voice now muffled by the building between us. “I’ll catch her when she comes out!” But I couldn’t chase Lucy. The path didn’t go around to the other side of the house. Without intending to, I had trapped her.

“Where is she?” the voice from the other side of the house inquired. “Chase her over here for fook’s sake!” He couldn’t see me, in a standoff with his sheep. I wanted to sneak Lucy out of there somehow. But the sheep and I did not speak the same language, and the farmer was getting impatient.

Lucy looked sad. And scared. And in a debate with herself: fight or flight?

For me, the answer was clear: If she wanted to get out of there, the smart thing would be to charge me, head down, eyes ablaze, baahing wildly as she came toward me. I was more afraid of Lucy than she was of me. But apparently she didn’t figure that out, because the next thing she decided to try was to scale the cement wall.

For a sheep her size to jump over a wall this tall would be impossible, unless she happened to be Lucy the Bionic Sheep. She was not. She jumped up against the wall, hooves a-flying, trying to escape. She was clumsy. She slipped back down on the concrete and made a second attempt.

I couldn’t let her do this. She looked terrified now, and I worried she would wound herself in her panic.

“She’s over here,” I shouted to the farmer. He needed to apprehend Lucy before she hurt herself.

“Well bring her over here then!” he yelled.

I was tired of his orders. “Now look here, you fooking fook,” I wanted to tell him. “First of all, she’s your fooking sheep, not mine, so quit telling me what to do. Secondly, maybe if you weren’t such a fooking arse, your fooking sheep wouldn’t fooking try to fooking escape.”

If he wasn’t going to come over here to capture Lucy, I was going to let her go.

I stepped aside. “Go Lucy!” I whispered. “Run away to the fields! Go quietly! Go now! There is no time for goodbyes. If I see you in the pub later, you can buy me a pint.”

Lucy looked at me inquisitively for a moment. Then, she understood.

“Baah,” she whispered.

She started trotting toward me, just fast enough to make it clear that if I tried anything sneaky, she would still kick my ass. I stepped aside.

But then, Lucy made a horrible tactical error. Rather than tiptoeing off to the field, she ran around to the front of the house. She started down the hill – right where the farmer was standing. I ran out to watch. The farmer glared at me as his sheep ran down the hill.

“Ummm… there she is!” I shouted. “Get her!”

And he did. He pounced on Lucy, who was tired by now. He grabbed her by the ears. She bucked a couple of times, then surrendered to his grip.

“Come on, Lucy,” the farmer said.

His tone had changed now. He spoke to his sheep, almost with affection. “Let’s go,” he said as he maneuvered her up the hill.

Neither the farmer nor Lucy stopped to look at me as they made their way home. I felt they each owed me thanks – the farmer for my feigned assistance, Lucy for my attempts to free her once and for all. But it was clear to me the two had a special bond, and now that they were reunited, they were oblivious to me and the rest of the world. The farmer would take Lucy home. Hopefully, he would shear her and sell the wool for sweaters. The alternative was too sad to contemplate.

Just to be safe, I stuck to fish and chips the rest of my time in Ireland.

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Published on Saturday, March 1, 2008

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