We Got Him – The Fourth Sheep!
After more than six months of planning, reconnaissance expeditions, failed attempts, hope and heartbreak, on Monday of this week the fourth sheep found sanctuary at Edgar’s Mission.
And when he did, there was hardly a dry eye among our rescue team and all of those who had become so heavily invested in this journey.
Alerted earlier this year to the merry meanderings of four sheep in the Wombat State Forest – a large expanse of trees, dense vegetation and disused mineshafts of some 70,000 hectares – our curiosity, concern and compassion were piqued.
Impossible, it seemed. But only so for now, we pondered.
The area most frequented by these happy wanderers, we learned from numerous callers and Facebook sightings, was just shy of the tiny township of Daylesford.
Legend has it these woolly wonders were the sole survivors of a truck rollover some eight years ago. Fleeing into the nearby bush, the sheep had stoically survived, bushranger-like, by their wits and smarts, for many a year.
But the only things they were to ever steal were the hearts of all those who learned of their romantic tale.
Displaying the steadfast resilience of their kind, they had managed to survive, beating the elements of nature, bushfires and motorists. But sadly, not their human-selected genetics for wool growth.
And despite eluding many attempts at capture over the years, it was only a matter of time before these wild colonial sheep would have succumbed to the burden that was their fleece.
On April 25th of this year, we had our first sighting.
It came after over one hour of searching, much of which saw the Lady in the Hat carrying the pooped-out dear Ruby. Just as we were resigning ourselves that the existence of the sheep lent more to romantic storytelling than to fact, there they were. Staring down the road at us just as we were about to jump in the car and head on home, mission complete.
But as we know now, it was just the beginning.
Yet it was to take until late October to successfully carry out our diligently crafted plan – in part, at least.
One that navigated its way through the treacherous forest, complete with its rugged and most non-user-friendly terrain.
Alas, by this time, the most senior sheep, as evidenced by his teeth, or moreover lack thereof, had been found passed away. His body lying motionless under a tree, his eyes staring out into a world he would never again see. Whatever it was, it must have been quick, we deduced, for there was no sign of struggle or visible ill-health. It was as if he had peacefully passed away, dying as he had lived, under the stars. We named this lad Jack Dolan, after the “wild colonial boy”.
And so it was only the very aged Ned Kelly and his trusty “partner in crime” and equally long-in-the-tooth buddy, Harry Power, who were to find sanctuary that day. A bittersweet joy, knowing that the fourth sheep, Mad Dan Morgan, was still out there.
Returning repeatedly to the area, the sightings of him were few and fleeting. On one occasion, the fleet-of-hoof lad high-tailed it off to an adjacent forested area that headed back almost to Ballarat! As the days ticked on, alas, the sightings did not.
But a promise is a promise.
Returning to the area most frequented by the sheep, we laid out the fleece of Harry Power, hoping against hope that Mad Dan Morgan would reconnect with its familiarity.
And he did.
On Monday, beyond our wildest dreams. There in the clearing, as we expected, was not only the fleece but Mad Dan, not too far away.
Moments later, that promise was to be fulfilled. But typing those words just now does nothing to do justice to the efforts to achieve it.
And although jubilation overcame us all, it was to pale into insignificance against the sight that was soon to fill our eyes and threaten to burst our hearts, when all three surviving wild colonial sheep were reunited at sanctuary – Jack Dolan being there in spirit.
And like all ripping yarns, there is a moral to this story: to remember to never, ever, not ever, give up, because when you turn “impossible” to “I’m possible”, anything can happen! We give thanks to the fourth sheep for so splendiferously reminding us of this!