It was still spring when they bought the lamb. Trowa's uncle had taken him out to the big lot in town, one of the old cattle holding pens. Gesturing widely, he instructed Trowa to "find a winner", and sat back to watch and shot the shit with the stockman.
Trowa had never seen so many sheep in one place. There were hundreds of little pens and each pen held at least five lambs. The bleating was deafening, overwhelming and Trowa was tempted to choose the first he came to, but a glance over his shoulder prodded him into action. "A winner" he’d said, and a winner Trowa would find.
Most of them looked alike, black faces and tan colored wool. Trowa wandered the paddocks, peering over wood fencing, hanging off pipe bars for a better look. He thought, at least, that he was choosing it but turned around in one pen to find the Oxford had chose him instead. Its small black muzzle nudged his hand and he knew, this one was his winner.
As May rolled into June, Mister Peabody grew; not much taller than his original height, he reached a comfortable dog size. And like most dogs, followed his boy. Trowa spent the summer outdoors, his 4H project on his heels despite the activity - his chores, fishing, reading under the apple tree, even on bike rides to Brian Furliem’s house rarely discouraged the animal.
Mid-August, Trowa’s uncle started talking about the fair in a month’s time and Trowa began grooming the lamb for show. Its gray wool was getting tight and thick, its body barreled in gained fat and muscle. ‘A winner’, his uncle had declared Mister Peabody to be.
A winner he was - blue ribbon, and of prime quality. Proud of his lamb, Trowa ignored the invitations of friends, ignored the rest of the fair and spent his time in the livestock barn. He watched as other animals, especially raised for this fair, came and went. Mister Peabody was leashed, and Trowa was walking him around the corral, trying to keep from being head-butted when the man came.
Against his protests, his lamb had been sold. 'Good eating', his blue ribbon pet had been declared. And Trowa could do no more than pass the lead rope over to new hands. 'It’s what we are, what we have to do,' his uncle had said.
That following spring, Trowa chose the first lamb he came to, kept it penned for the summer, and ignored it that fall.
The crackle of static warned him before the pilot’s voice was heard. Trowa glanced away from his constant scan of the vegetation below and held up five fingers to the sergeant in charge. The man nodded, and stood at a crouch.
"Listen up!" his shout could be heard over the rotor-blades. "LZ in four! Lock and load, gentlemen! We’re landing hot, we’re landing ready!"
The snap-click of magazines being inspected, ammunition stores being verified and equipment checked reverberated. Trowa’s eyes flicked from one face to the other before turning back to the ground below.
Blue-ribbon lambs and it was fair time.