ANCRAMDALE—Sylvester Stallone was not in town, but last week there was a be-on-the-look-out bulletin issued for Rambo.
This renegade male ovine, significantly shorter than the Rambo of movie fame, tips the scales at 170 pounds, is three-years-old and has white hair. He’s been known to hang with a sizeable local gang known as The Flock.
Jeremy Peele, the owner of Herondale Farm on Wiltsie Bridge Road, where they raise mixed livestock—grass-fed beef and lamb along with pigs and chickens, reported via town wide email that one of his mature rams had gone missing Tuesday morning April 21. He asked anyone who saw the fugitive to give him a call.
Mr. Peele told The Columbia Paper by phone this week that Rambo had been in a corral getting ready for the move from his winter pasture, where he chills with a couple of donkeys. When farm personnel attempted to load Rambo into a trailer with two other rams “he wanted none of it,” said Mr. Peele, and muscled his way through three layers of enclosure, including sheep fencing, high tensile wire and wooden fencing. The white dorper sheep, a meat breed with hair, not wool, which it sheds, began running around the farm.
Mr. Peele said “Four of us tried to coax him back into a corral with more rigid, solid panel sides, coming at him from different angles, but he eventually took off” headed away from Herondale down Empire Road toward Nancy Miller’s Snook Hill Farm.
But he didn’t get that far and made a left turn into the Berkshire Hills Eisenberg Summer Camp, where he was spotted several times by the caretaker.
The next morning, Mr. Peele and his posse went in. One of the guys was “pretty good with a lasso,” said Mr. Peele but he couldn’t get close enough. By this point Rambo was pretty wary and fled the camp. He was headed back toward Herondale but instead kept on going.
Mr. Peele, who was part of search party behind the sheep on foot along with others in cars trying to stay ahead of him, said Rambo was “covering ground very quickly.” He wandered through a horse farm and a former dog kennel and then slipped under the radar for four or five hours.
On Thursday, the escapee showed up at Art and Sue Bassin’s horse farm, Cricket Hill on Snyder Road, and by Friday he was headed for the high ground, where he holed up at the Dembos on Roche Drive. Mr. Peele said the Dembos have some horses there that Rambo “seemed interested in” and he stuck around for some time alongside their paddock. He may have been missing his donkey companions back at the farm.
Rambo’s hunkering down behavior gave rise to a plan to lure him in for capture.
Mr. Peele said they set up some temporary fencing and inside it stationed two tempting ewes in the field at the Dembos next to the horses, where Rambo seemed to settle. The scheme to attract the ram did work, said Mr. Peele; the ram did get very close to the ewes but every time his would-be nabbers showed up, he took to the woods.
After days and failed attempts, the big gun was called in: Animal Control Officer Wes Powell, who brought in a tranquillizer gun. Not only did the shot miss the target, but the blast spooked the sheep, causing Rambo and his new ewe partners in crime—to make a run for it.
Then there were three sheep on the lam.
By Wednesday, April 29, the three runaways made an appearance down the road at the Wilcox place, where they found solace for a short while in the company of three resident steers.
On April 30, the trio traveled cross country along a woodland trail, which eventually led them to the Woodhull property off Wiltsie Bridge, which Mr. Peele rents and where coincidentally, the rest of the flock, about 35 ewes and 50 lambs, were pastured.
Reba, the Great Pyrenees assigned to keep the flock in line, was on the job at Woodhull. The dog was named after Reba McIntyre, “They’re both from Nashville,” noted Mr. Peele.
Once Rambo and his entourage showed up there, the fence was taken down, Reba was put on a leash and led into the barn and, according to established procedure, all the sheep followed her inside, even Rambo and his sidekick ewes, which had apparently grown weary of life on the run.
After all that chasing around, in the end the sheep came home by themselves, said Mr. Peele, a native of the UK, who grew up in the west part of England.
He bought Herondale 12 years ago and embarked on a second career as a farmer, a departure his initial line of work in investment management.
In retrospect, it would seem Bo Peep had it right… “leave them alone and they’ll come home wagging their tails behind them.”
To contact Diane Valden email