I (almost) have no words to describe the pure insanity of the last couple hours’ excursion to the home of the mouse-who-shall-not-be-named (and who really looks a lot more like an oversize, growth-hormone, induced rat anyway). Talk about heading into the heart of darkness if the heart of darkness was the inside of a hunk of Swiss cheese.

The horror.

To be fair, all prior experiences at this particular parental torture chamber child’s paradise have gone swimmingly. There has been the normal level of wretched running around clutching coins in one hand and kids’ sweaty palms in the other as we dash from one game to the next.  Usually the heavily perspiring parents and frenetic kids are worth it for a few hours of out-of-the-ordinary.

Tonight, out-of-the-ordinary had passed go, failed to collect $100 and headed straight to crazy town. There were 3 separate mega-birthday parties in Chuck-E-ville tonight. My antiperspirant quailed.

Not a single booth was open. Not a single activity had less than 3 kids waiting to play. And let’s not even go into the number of teens and adults who were crowding out the little kids and feeding fistfuls of coins into the basketball machines as they lived out their hoop dreams.  I should have run like the wind. Instead we stepped into the rabbit hole and off the map of normal by a mile.

The sheer pitch and decibel level of the place would have had dogs running for cover. It was sheep dipping season all over again.

My dad grew up on a farm in the South African Karoo. It’s a bleak and beautiful part of the country where farmers battle the elements and raise Dorper and Merino sheep.

Windmill in the KarooPhoto Credit: South African Tourism

We spent every single school holiday there when I was a child. It was paradise on earth. We were involved in every fascinating aspect of the farm. Rising with the pre-dawn mists to head up to the milking pens, joining the farmhands on horse back to round up grazing sheep, distributing pig slop, swimming in the dam, turtle watching, and dreaming of having a meerkat of our own like my dad did when he was a boy tucked into the very same bedroom where we also slept.

Did I already mention it was a sheep farm? Because that’s what makes this story relevant to tonight’s experience. Folks, sheep can be mighty loud. Especially when there are about 1,000 of them camped in close proximity to the farmhouse for their annual dipping extravaganza. For those of you unfamiliar with the verbiage, Wikipedia describes it thus:

The term sheep dip refers to a liquid formulation of insecticide and fungicide which shepherds and farmers may use to protect their sheep from infestation against external parasites such as itch mite (Psorobia ovis), blow-fly, ticks, keds and lice. Plunge sheep dips may be a permanent in-ground structure or a steel transportable mobile dip.


Photo credit: Stackyard

If you’re more of a visual person, it looks like this:

We grew up on tall tales about family members who had fallen into the dipping sloot and experienced the process from the inside out. But what you really need to know is that in order to dip 1,000 sheep there is a lot of herding and separating and chasing and penning involved. And inevitably the ewes (that’s the momma sheep) become separated from their new lambs. Pure pandemonium results. Imagine if you will 500 or so ewes all separated from their babies and bleating at the tops of their panicked lungs. Then imagine a similar number of lambs looking for their mommas and bleating their tiny little guts out just as loudly.

Imagine all this for THREE. WHOLE. DAYS.

That’s smack-dab, exactly what we walked into tonight. The bleating of a hundred kids all looking for food, fun and friends and the equally loud responses by parents trying to herd their little ones back to the tables, out from under equipment and the danger of being trampled by the masses. I felt vulnerably small without my horse. The only good thing I can say is that it didn’t last for three days.

It just felt like it.