Sunday, September 13, 2009

Shetlands don't have wool

This will, no doubt, come as a huge surprise to those of you who have been raising Shetlands and spinning their, um, well, whatever they grow on their bodies. No, seriously, Katherine and I were at one of our little events yesterday where they pay us to sit and spin, knit, make soap, and attempt to educate city slickers about what we're doing. A woman felt one of my Shetland lambskins and said, "What is this?"

"A Shetland lambskin," I said.

"Really? Sheep?"

At this point, her all-knowing husband pops up, "Well, they're not real sheep like the white ones," and which point I interrupt.

"Oh, yes, they are sheep. Just as there are many breeds of dogs, there are many breeds of sheep that are all different sizes and colors."

He cuts me off with, "Yeah, but they don't have wool. They have hair."

Eeeeeeek!!! For the five years that my daughters and I have been doing this, I've been telling them that you have to be nice to people, regardless of how misinformed they are. After all, we're here to educate people. So, if they say, "Look, kids, she's weaving on a loom," or "She's making cotton," you just smile sweetly and say to the children, "Well, actually it's a spinning wheel, and I'm spinning yarn from wool." (Yes, we really have heard these more than once.)

And I have always done a good job practicing what I preached, never getting upset when people say the silliest things. I even continued smiling yesterday when at least three people saw my spotted lambskins and said, "Hey look, cows." It's pretty easy to keep smiling at a comment like that because I'm chuckling to myself as I correct them and say, "No, they're sheep." Because 99.9% of people believe me! They're fascinated to learn that sheep can grow wool in many different colors -- and that they can even have spots. They swoon over the silky softness of the Shetland wool and say, "Wow, this isn't scratchy at all!" And voila, they have a new appreciation for premium wool.

But when this man tried to say that Shetlands aren't real sheep and don't have wool even after I'd attempted to tell him and his wife about the breed, I was seriously annoyed and briefly insulted until I realized that he was just clueless. I tried again to tell them about the sheep, and he turned around and walked off in a huff. His wife stayed, however, and listened to my spiel. Later, of course, I thought of all sorts of clever comebacks, but it was too late. And he still might have walked off in a huff, thinking that I know absolutely nothing about these sheep that I've been raising for the past six years. Still, a part of me wishes I had asked him, "So, if it's not wool, what is my daughter spinning there?"


Sally said...

I feel your pain! Some days it is more difficult than others to be genial to the mis-informed.

Tammy said...

I just came back from a display Celtic event yesterday too, and it is amazing how generally clueless (and sometimes opinionated) the general public is regarding animals! I think my two favorite comments yesterday were --- the little boy who pretty much scolded me for not brushing my sheep everyday (because obviously they looked a mess to him!) and the lady that came rushing up and said, oh (in reference to a spotted ram lamb I had) that is a bighorn mountain sheep isn't it!! Like you it's easy to smile when this happens, but once in a while you'll get a know it all smirker and it's hard to keep it up. Thanks for sharing the story!

Mom L said...

You have much more patience than I would have had!!! I get very frustrated with the know-it-alls. I have learned a lot about sheep, chickens, goats, and other animals from these blogs, and I treasure the knowledge. I live in an apartment with my cat but, although I have volunteered at a small zoo and am familiar with most animals, I do not have first hand knowledge of breeds and varieties.

Thank you!!!

Nancy in Iowa

Anonymous said...

My favorite was the horse vet who tried to tell me my two year old polled Nigerian Dwarf Goat would grow horns any day and that there is no such thing as a hornless goat. "All goats have horns" he told me. He said that her polled bumps were the start of horns.

Two years later, she still has no horns!

I also it's funny when people think my polled goats are calves! They are clearly now calves!!

Thanks for the funny story!! People are crazy sometimes!


Michelle said...

I don't get frustrated with clueless people, but I most certainly do with ignorant people who THINK they aren't and refuse any attempt at education by those who have more knowledge and/or experience -- like the man you dealt with. GRRR. But there's nothing you can do for people like that, even though, unfortunately, they often pass on their attitudes to their children. And if that know-it-all ignorance encompasses beliefs about people -- like race and culture, the effect is passing on a heritage of bigotry....

Deborah said...

Thanks, everyone! I love your stories, especially the little boy who scolded you, Tammy, for not brushing your sheep daily. LOL And I agree, Michelle, that is really sad when people have that attitude towards people.


I am a hand spinner too, and my girlfriend raises Shetland Sheep (plus horses, mules, donkeys, dogs and chickens). I guess I've been lucky, most newbies I've run into are just thrilled to get to hear more about these critters that they've never seen before. It's so much fun to share with folks who want to learn.

Shula said...

Well I don't mind clueless. I do dislike rude though. I was at the Bolton fair last month and because I was sat with my sheep I had a lot of the general public come up and ask me why the other sheep were wearing their hood and coats, are they cold/hot/shy? LOL Fun times.

MaskedMan said...

Sometimes, you just have to shake your head and move on.

My favorite "invincibly ignorant" moment didn't involve animals, but my submarine. We were anchored of Lahina, in Hawaii, enjoying a bit of liberty after a long run, and I passed a couple standing on the beach looking out into the bay. "I think it's a garbage barge," the man said to his companion whilst looking out at the USS Russell. Mind you, the boat can really stink, but it's still a man-o-war, and NOT to be compared to a mobile marine trash heap, thankyouverymuch!

He wouldn't accept that the boat was a submarine, nor that I was a crewmember of said boat... He knew what he 'knew' and that was that.

Michelle said...

I LOVE the term "invincibly ignorant"! I have got to remember that one.

D. said...

I just about choked on my coffee reading this post. I am also a spinner and am learning to weave and you are right - it never ceases to amaze me the ignorance people possess. OH MY!!!!

Donna said...

Loved this post!!!


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