Stillwater River, inside the A-B boundary, on the trail to Sioux Charley

4:30 A.M. Pitch black. Deep winter. Nothing but darkness and cold. Jack Ballard and I are making time up the trail before first light for an end-of-the-season deer hunt. The light from my headlamp swings back and forth, making me dizzy. I turn it off and move silently up the canyon. We’re aiming for a spot about three miles up and across the river…Out of nowhere it hits us — a howl comes straight out of the darkness.

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17a, a pregnant Romney, ambles into the chute and stops. Her fleece corkscrews out from her body sending out shoots of thick wool in all directions. Grace, my ten-year old daughter, buries her hands deep into the wooly fleece and smiles. She runs off to find Anabel Lombard, the ewe’s owner, to have her to hold 17a’s fleece once it’s sheared. Grace has never chosen a fleece before. She goes with her intuition; with the way her hands feel buried into the ewe’s wool, with the way the ewe stops, tilts her head back, and looks up at this girl leaning over the railing, as though asking to be chosen.

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