The only creatures on that hillside who were more brainless, more stubborn, more skittish and goofy and easily distracted than the human volunteers, were those blasted sheep. The pasture and the pen were only maybe fifty yards away from each other (forty-nine of those yards pointing straight down; we could have simply picked up the sheep and dropped them into the pen if we could have caught the crazy beasts), but it took us nearly an hour of sheer buffoonery to do the job.
First, we thought we could just 'holler' them down the hill. "Go, sheep! Go on! Go, sheep, go!" We sounded like we'd been scripted by Dr. Seuss.
The sheep, naturally, heeded our counsel by running in circles and pooing.
So we determined that we were going to have to 'chase' them to the pen. We removed various jackets and hats and began jogging and flailing and, by this time, breathing out threatenings against those cursed sheep and their posterity to the third and fourth generations, convinced that we could scare them into cooperating.
The sheep responded by assuming individual trajectories and running in what was now forty different circles and bleating revolutionary slogans back at their tormentors. And pooing some more.
Next on the agenda, then, was an attempt at creating a seminary movie moment by kidnapping a few of the lambs and carrying them toward the pen, confident that their mothers would follow along out of powerful maternal instinct. Oh, the mileage we would get out of this object lesson!
Unfortunately, sheep don't watch seminary movies, and instead read in our act of collecting all the lambs an offer of free babysitting. They celebrated their new-found liberty by frolicking in a general anti-pen direction, and, of course, pooing.
Eventually, however, a few sheep gravitated toward the pen, and once we got three or four contained, the rest, as sheep are wont to do, followed them in.
Now it was time for the wrestling match wherein the local herdsmen would quite literally pick up a sheep in a position reminiscent of the Heimlich maneuver, and call out "Dos!" or "Cuatro!", which told the volunteers how many cc's of medicine that sheep would need.
Meanwhile, we were either filling syringes with anywhere from two to five cc's of this milky substance or handing them to others, who would then rush over to the Heimliched sheep and squirt the medicine into its mouth.
Yeah, that went well.
Not knowing that this stuff could well mean the difference between good health and poor, perhaps even between surviving the wet Andean winter or not, the sheep had less than zero interest in cooperating with the immunizers.
They spit. They thrashed. They pulled out shivs and menaced the other sheep. Recalcitrant nincompoops.
As if that weren't enough, once the medicine which wasn't all over the volunteer's shoe was in the sheep's mouth, the volunteer would actually have to massage its throat to FORCE it to swallow.
Then the immunizer would shout "PAINT!", and another volunteer would rush over to brush red dye on the sheep's head, who would finally be released to go its way, only to be as obstinate and stupid about exiting the pen as it had been about entering.
From start to finish, it was one big exercise in coercion and, at times, sheer, teeth-gritting determination not to be out-maneuvered by a 150 pound bag of helium in a wool sweater. Those sheep did everything they could to reject what was being offered to them.
They were short-sighted and temperamental and even aggressively determined to remain unprotected, exposed, and vulnerable to whatever disease or malady lay ahead. They had to be led, pushed, and wrestled. Some took several attempts from several well-stomped laborers to finally get the job done.
But at the end of the day, every one of those silly sheep bore on its head the symbol of its renewed health and brighter future.
I learned a lot of things that morning. About sheep and people and how mind-blowingly difficult it can sometimes be to do something good and necessary and life-saving for others.
About the kind of vision and effort it takes to call and contain and get the attention of creatures who might otherwise never pay any heed to what you do or say or want for them.
About the love that is poured into the healing of broken hearts, and the mark set upon those hearts when they have been made whole by the Master Physician.
And mostly, I learned a little more about the Good Shepherd, who on another hillside on another Easter, reclaimed His sheep and, one by one, anointed their heads with salvation, inviting them to forever lie down in the green pastures of eternal life.
All we, like sheep, have gone astray. But we hear the voice of the Shepherd, who knows us, who has borne our griefs, carried our sorrows, and graven us on the palms of His hands.
And we follow Him.
DeNae is a Music teacher, composer, arranger; director of the Las Vegas Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus. She is also a free-lance writer; one published book, "The Accidental Gringo".
She says that her writing style is "essayist", which means she, like Norman Mailor and Moses, is incapable of uploading digital pictures to her blog.
She has been a Seminary, Institute and Gospel Doctrine instructor for 19 years. What does that mean? Don't try to argue with her. She'll kick your butt, every time. DeNae has lived in Seattle; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and currently lives in Las Vegas with the cute guy she married, 24 years ago and her 4 kids.
She also wanted everyone to know that in her previous life, she was a Victoria's Secret model and happily married to Matthew McConoghey. You can find DeNae on her blog, My Real Life Was Backordered.