This section is from the book "Scientific Sewing And Garment Cutting", by Antoinette Van Hoesen Wakeman. Also available from Amazon: Scientific Sewing And Garment Cutting: For Use In Schools And In The Home.
There was once a little white lamb, with mild eyes and a short woolly tail, that lived near the Pacific Ocean in a pretty green valley with high mountains on either side.
When this little lamb was about four weeks old, it began to nibble grass and other green things: before this its only food was its mothers milk. It grew a little every day, and when it was eight months old it was almost as large as its mother.
One day the Mexican shepherd who took care of this lamb, its mother, and three or four hundred other sheep and lambs, took it to a little stream that ran through the valley, and washed it. Then, after putting it in a pen, he cut off all its soft white wool. The shepherd was so skillful that, when he had finished cutting, the whole fleece was in a single sheet the size and shape of the lamb. The fleece is the wool of a sheep or lamb after it has been cut from its body.
When the shepherd had clipped the wool from each of the lambs that were eight months old, he packed all the fleeces together in great sacks. These sacks were sent to a place called a factory. The first wool cut from a lamb is the best; but there are different kinds of wool, even in a single fleece. Some parts of these fleeces, therefore, were made into very fine, soft cloth, and some into the nicest lamb's-wool yarn, and such delicate wool thread as is used in working the models in the first and second grades.
The lamb we are reading about was of the variety known as the Spanish merino; and like all sheep of this kind, it had rather a small body, and very long, thick wool. When its wool was cut off, it could walk and run much easier than before. It was then taken with the other sheep to a State a long distance from where it was born, called Wyoming. The farmers there wanted some long-wooled Spanish merino sheep; for they had only South-Downs, Leicesters, and other common varieties.
The Mexican shepherd, dressed in an oilskin coat and trousers, with a blue shirt of sheep's wool trimmed with gay buttons and lacings, and a broad-brimmed hat, went with our lamb and the other sheep, to take care of them. Sheep must always have some one to look after them; for they are gentle, helpless creatures, and it matters not how old they are, they never seem to know enough to take good care of themselves. But though in some ways they require more care than other animals, man can well afford to give them attention, for they are very useful indeed. Their wool, which is a species of hair, is one of the most valuable materials in the world for all kinds of clothing. Their flesh, which is called mutton, makes very good food; and their skins are made into a leather that is used for many purposes.
If our lamb had lived in some other part of the world, it would have had a very different kind of a shepherd to care for it. In Scotland he would have been, in olden times, a blue-eyed, light-haired man, with a long white cloak made of the locks of the sheep. He would have carried a crook, or crosier, as a staff; a sling for throwing stones; and a pipe or flute on which to play while his flock ate grass. With him there would have been a dog, trained to help drive and care for the sheep.
In Yorkshire, England, in the olden times, a shepherd was quite an important man, who had a great many friends; for there were many shepherds in Yorkshire. They had one Sunday in the year set apart for them, called the "Shepherds' Sunday;" and the time when they cut the wool from their sheep, called "sheep-shearing time," was observed as a great festival.
If our lamb had lived in France, he would very likely have had a young girl to take care of him and the rest of the flock. The French shepherdess knits while she tends her flock, instead of playing on a pipe like the Scotch shepherd.
It was a long journey from the first home of our lamb to Wyoming; and as the sheep walked all the way, it took them a good many days to get there. But the longest way is finally passed if we keep steadily on, and the hardest task is at last accomplished if we do a little every day. In some of the places through which the sheep passed, there was very little water and almost no grass. Such a place is called a desert. The way was not only long, but hard, and the sheep and lambs often lay down to rest. Sometimes the Mexican shepherd also got so heated and tired that he dug away the hot top of the earth; and when he came to that which was cool, he put his oilskin coat over some low sage bushes, in order to make a little shelter from the sun, and lay down for a time.
At last the lamb, its shepherd, and the other sheep, arrived at their new home. I wish you could have seen it! There were bright flowers, green grass, blue skies, a pretty brook that emptied its water into a river not far away, and many other pleasant and beautiful things. By this time the wool had grown again all over the lambs; but the shepherd did not cut it off now, for winter was at hand, and they would need this thick covering to protect them from the cold winds and the snow. When the spring came once more, bringing warmth and sunshine and the flowers, the shepherd cut the wool from all his sheep; for they could then do without their heavy coats, just as boys and girls can wear lighter clothing when it is warm. The lamb had now grown to be a young sheep; and although it had more wool than when it was first sheared, its fleece was not worth so much, because it was not lamb's wool. Still it was very nice, because it was of the merino variety; and the merino sheep, even when they are old, have fine wool.