Golden Fleece

Out-of-Town readers and others will be interested in an item which appeared not long ago in Life Magazine. “Doyle Goldy, a sheep rancher, of Palisades, Wash., was fed up with wrestling with his sheep. Every time he tried to shear them they wriggled and kicked so much that they wore him out, especially the rams. Then Goldy heard about tranquilizers and their effect on people. He asked a doctor whether a tranquilizer would work on a ram. Probably so, answered the doctor, and he doubted that it would have any long-term effect. Goldy gave one of his rambunctious rams a specially prepared injection of it and a wonderfully tranquil expression spread over the animal’s face. Then as Goldy applied the shears and his son David watched, the ram submitted without a wriggle.”

This is a wholly new venture with sheep, of course, but its use has been well known in the human world for a hundred and fifty years. The large-scale shearing movement which began in Britain in the second half of the eighteenth century necessitated new techniques generally; to-day the variety of tranquilizers is so considerable that the fleece merchants are spoiled for choice (that’s putting it mildly);

The first great name in tranquilizers is Wesley. Before his time the fleece merchants had to contend with wriggling and kicking wholesale. Most of the herds were newly driven in from the countryside and did not take kindly to their new environments; some, indeed, kicked and broke the machines used for shearing them, and there were occasional signs of whole herds refusing to be shorn at all. Near Manchester in 1819 several head were openly butchered as an example to the others, in spite of protests from humane societies.

Wesley’s prescription was an adaptation of several old formulae. The chief ingredients were Sky Pie and Humble Pie, laced with Mumbo. The tranquilizing effect was remarkable for its time: a full injection of Wesleyism produced pleasant dreams of pasture and cud and made the subject at once quiescent and willing to be sheered. A revolution in herdsmanship had taken place. Some old-fashioned fleece merchants ignored the new methods, preferring the heavy hand and the big stick (there was, in fact, a proprietary brand of big stick now known as Calvin’s); nevertheless, tranquilizers were in.

Their use spread rapidly in the nineteenth century, but Wesley’s formula found no rival (though many imitations, such as Booth’s Salve, tried to take the market by advertising). After a time, however, an interesting scientific fact showed itself. In modern times, certain insecticides have apparently lost their power because slight mutations have taken precedence and produced new bug generations which are non-susceptible to those bug powders. The same thing happened in the shearing world; before the nineteenth century ended it was apparent that the herds were no longer being tranquilized by the Sky-Pie formula.

The fleece merchants’ backroom experts produced several interesting experiments while they searched fresh avenues for a new tranquilizer. In the face of one outbreak of kicking, their episcopal and mayoral section made effective use of a sedative called Charity; its chief ingredient was a minute quantity of the base metal Handout. It was commonly believed that an overdose of this would be dangerous (to somebody or other); the discovery that it was not so paved the way for one of the great tranquilizers of modern times.

Testing doses of the new mixture (ninepence and fourpence) were given in the early nineteen-hundreds, and it was brought to full strength after the second world war. The basic formula of Thin Soup and Crumbs remains; only specifics for various purposes have been added. Injection with the mixture produces an expression of heavenly bliss while the shearing is going on and even, it is thought, inability to feel the shears; one large group known as the Labour herd seems acquiescent to almost anything with this tranquilizer (though its old rams are suspected of being self-immunized).

Different localities have different tranquilizers, of course. In some parts of the world the Soup-and-Crumbs concoction has not caught on and they have the Yewtoo drug. This induces a trance in which the subject, while actually being sheared, sees himself doing the shearing in a Cadillac. Another local preparation is Krushchov Salts (formerly known as Stalinoids), which gives an illusion of boundless freedom at the same moment as a copper’s club descends; where the injection does not take place, the subject is removed to a cold climate for further treatment

With the pace of shearing being continually stepped up, new tranquilizers are on the way all the time. It has been discovered, for example, that the ownership of any small piece of imitation fleece is itself a tranquilizer, since it gives an impression of having somehow shared in the shearing. Another handy phenomenon is the occasional emergence in a herd of a young female with over-developed hindquarters and thorax; watching her, they can be sheared twice over.

Summing up, what has changed is the tranquilizers’ basic ingredient The old one, Pie in the Sky, has given way to Pie on Earth—the Papal dose to be taken timidly. Even Wesley’s and similar brands have had to fight competition by going over largely to this formula, while Graham’s Hotgosp (a new and much inferior product) consists almost entirely of it. The contemporary “tranquilizer dream” does not hallucine the subject with his nightgowned, harp-pinging self on a cloud. Its vision is of a super-gadget home for him, with super-chassis creatures in the garage and the kitchen. There is hardly a difference, except that the shears snicker a good deal faster nowadays.

Watch out for mutations, however. About fifty-three years ago a new variety appeared which had developed sensitivity to shearing to such an extent as to be immune to tranquilizers. The tendency of this group is to pass on its acquired consciousness, so that the logical outcome of its growth would be a complete rejection of shearing altogether. Since it’s a damnfool business anyway, that would be a fine thing for everybody. As mutations survive or not according to their suitability to the environment, this obviously is the one with the future. Watch out!


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