Sheep Pens


My breath hangs like a cloud in the still air when I step outside. The grass is frozen now, and the needles of the pines are white with hoarfrost. I missed these days during the summer. Our home is beautiful enough during the warm seasons, when the grass is green and the creeks are high. But I think ice suits it better. Ice and wind and snow. It fits our people better, somehow.

The sheep are already gathered when I go down to their pens. They huddle together for warmth, the air soft and hazy and smelling of wet wool and manure. I like that smell. It reminds me of my father, of our home before life became so dangerous, so unpredictable. The sheep don’t feel it, of course. As long as we bring them out to pasture in the morning, they are content.

The crates of ammunition in the back of their pens don’t bother them at all. They bother me. But no one listens to me.

“They’re winter supplies,” my father tells me. “That’s what you tell anyone that asks. That’s all they need to know.”

I drill it into my head. Winter supplies. Blankets and warm clothing, food and grain and flour. Dried meats. Not bullets. Not gunpowder.

We can’t be shot for blankets.

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