Behind today's photograph lies a strange tale. Well, perhaps it isn't strange to those who understand the minds of sheep - but to me it seemed more than a little weird.
The incident I am talking about took place a couple of years ago. Every year in early September a number of the ministers in our Presbytery take off for a day retreat somewhere. Occasionally this has been in the form of a spiritual retreat. (On one occasion we even spent most of the day in total silence - no mean feat for a bunch of Church of Scotland ministers!) but on other occasions it has been little more than a day out exploring some part of the country.
In September 2004, I suggested that we take a trip down to the north of England to a part of Westmoreland where a friend of mine had a hotel. We enjoyed a lovely lunch in the hotel then set out for a walk in the rolling hills and dales of this beautiful part of the countryside. It is is criss-crossed with stone walls and you have to climb over many stiles to make your way through the fields.
In one particular field a flock of sheep grazed quietly. But as we approached their end of the field, the sheep started, one by one, to move over to our right and to line themselves up on the brow of the hill, as if they were playing the part of some Native American Indians in an old-fashioned Western. I don't know who the leader was, or what the signal might have been, but suddenly the sheep started to charge over the hill towards us at full speed. [Had it been cattle rather than sheep I would not have stood there taking a photograph!]
The charging sheep swept in front of us then round our left hand side and behind us again until they were back on our right hand side where they stopped.... and simply stared.
But I have to confess that the teamwork was amazing! How did they decide as a group what they were going to do? Who gave the orders? How did they know when to turn?