On holiday in southern Germany last week the little red-haired girl and I are cycling a long, slow, straight line uphill through cornfields, plum and apple orchards, vineyards and pasture on the way to her horse-riding lesson. Brought up on the flatlands of northern Germany she wimps out on anything above a 2% grade, so we had a lot of time to get a good long look at the herd of sheep munching and bleating away on the left.
Looks like that sheep’s out to get a tan instead of a meal, I tell her.
You mean the one in the middle there?
Sure, that one there lying on its back. You know what, it hasn’t moved a bit since we first saw it. Maybe it’s dead?
It could be. They say that if a sheep lies on its back, the weight of the internal organs pushes on to the heart so much, it stops beating.
Really? Aw come on, don’t gimme that! Where did you hear a thing like that?
I read it in Wendy.
Wendy? But that’s a horsie magazine for girls! (starting to get giggly together now) What on earth are they doing talking about sheep in a horse magazine?
I don’t know, you can look it up when you get home.
But you’ve got about 500 of them back home you picked up for two euros at that flea market. What, I’m supposed to find the one page in the whole stack of Wendies that talks about dead sheep? (Adopting squeaky professorial voice.) Wendy’s Fun farm fact! A sheep will die if it lies on its back.
Stop it! (She nearly falls of the bike.)
Maybe I could look it up in the Enyclopedia of Dead Sheep we packed along with our toothbrushes and combs?
Stop being funny! I can’t ride!
OK. But seriously, can that be true? And anyway, why would a sheep roll over onto its back in the first place?
I don’t know. But I’m sure I read it somewhere.
Maybe it only happens to really fat ones.