Jennifer, Molly and Jolly
Jennifer is a pure bred Maremma, a sheep guard dog from the Italian Alps, bred to live with the flocks. As pups they are put out with the sheep, bond with them and serve to keep foxes and other predators away, attend lamb births, solve sheep problems and alert the farmer to any trouble with warning woofs.
Sober and dignified by nature, they can be fierce as guadians but as companions they are affectionate but not dependant.
Molly is a Merino-Leicestershire cross breed sheep who, having lived with Jennifer for over three years, is totally bonded to her. She bleats anxiously when she didn't have Jennifer in direct line of sight.
The pair were the much-loved pets of Stanley Graham Dunstan, father of Graeme Dunstan, during the last years of his life in the country town of Stawell, Victoria. He asked that they not be separated and, when he died on 12 November 2000, Graeme inherited the eccentricity and added it to a life already ripe with eccentricities.
In the care of the aging Stanley Graham, Jennifer and Molly were backyard items and Jennifer was rarely exercised. While Graeme was caring for his aged father, he took to walking the dog and soon was as much bonded to Jennifer's smart and gentle ways as Molly.
Excluded from these walks, Molly would bleat plaintively the whole time Graeme and Jennifer were away. One day Molly saw the opportunity of an open back and an open front door, and bolted through the house to follow Jennifer who anticipating a walk time had gone running ahead down the street.
When Jenny returned, Molly was trotting close behind, her eyes wide and fearful, her nose kept millimetres from Jennifer's tail.
Children of the Stawell St Patrick's Primary School witnessed this great liberation and within seconds fifty of them were hanging over the school fence smiling and curious. In fact everyone watching, kids, teachers and the neighbours who had come out onto the street to watch the spectacle, was smiling.
In that moment Graeme realised from his years of experience with street performance and public place protest that Jennifer and Molly together in public place were natural born smile makers.
Graeme fitted out a covered box trailer to carry Molly and Jennifer learned to travel in Happy Wheels with Graeme. So it was that Jennifer and Molly became part of the Peacebus road show as it traveled he about the Easter coast on Australia during 2001 and 2002. Camping in parks and back country roads, and walking through towns and shopping precincts, with Jennifer and Molly at heel were constant companions.
Together they travelled to Brisbane for the Peace Rally that took place after the cancellation of CHOGM in October 2001, to Coolum CHOGM in March 2002 and to Lake Cowal and to Melbourne protesting cyanide gold mining in April 2002.
And so it was that Graeme discovered the quiet joys of being a shepherd and gained deeper understanding of the kindness of his late father.
Whenever they would lay down together, Molly chewing her cud and Jennifer stretched out and at ease, a palpable peace pervaded all. The wolf lays down with the lamb: the quintessential image of peace.
Then Molly had a little ram.
At 7.30 pm Thursday 7 February 2002 in West Wyalong, NSW.
When Graeme went to Dubbo to assist preaprations for the wedding of his daughter, Softly Sigh in March 2001, for fear of transmitting disease, his former brother in law forbade Molly to set hoof on the family property.
Graeme found temporary accomodation for Molly and he did this at vetinary clinic in Dubbo that had some animal pens attached. Also attached was an artifical insemination stud, the biggest semen collector and distributor in the west of NSW.
Graeme realised that this was a unique opportunity to get Molly serviced and that seemed a timely and symbolic invocation of fertility appropriate to a wedding celebration of a daughter and his wish for grandchilden.
Molly, the virgin ewe, was in residence in the stud for 10 days and in that time she was artifically brought into season and used as the tease for the rams. Hundreds of them!
The rams, magnificent beasts of many different breeds, were trucked in and held in pens. When I came to collect Molly, she trotted down the aisle in between the pens, head up and longing neither left nor right, on heat her vagina pink and moist. The rams surged as one body towards her. Oh to be so popular.
But Molly ignored the rams. Without looking back she went to her trailer and jumped in.
The vets had let at least one ram jump her but Graeme never did meet the father. "Sam the Ram", an African meat merino, was all they would say. So much for the choice offered in the stud books.
Molly was soon bulging but it was only when her water broke that she lay down and attended to herself, her lack of interest in walking with Jennifer and Graeme to first sure sign of her imminent labor. This took place in West Wyalong.
Graeme assisted at the birth holding the little hooves till the head came clear and Jennifer, whose evening walk had been interrupted, lay near somewhat disgruntled. Later she did assist tugging out the placenta and disposed of it by eating it.
For over an hour after the birth, Molly licked her son all the while making lovingly tender, guttural grunts and bleats. Within 20 minutes the babe, Son of Sam the Ram, was up and swaying on his leggy legs.
Email fans were consulted on the name of the lamb. Many suggestions were forthcoming.
In a small ceremony in the tiny back yard of Graeme's daughter's Paddington pad, with son Silas, daughter Softly and son-in-law Darren as witnesses, the lamb's head was dabbed with champagne and we toasted to the health and happiness of Jolly Jesus.
Jolly as in a hybrid of Jennifer and Molly and also as in Jolly Jumbuck; Jesus because of the alliteration and because Silas, soon off to Mexico, said it is a popular name there. And also Jesus as in The Lamb.
May Jolly Jesus evoke many smiles.
What a miracle life is.
"The great Tao flows everywhere.
All things are born of it,
yet it doesn't create them.
It pours itself into its work,
yet makes no claim.
It nourishes infinite worlds,
yet doesn't hold onto them.
Since it is merged in all things
and hidden in their hearts,
it can be called humble.
Since all things vanish into it
and it alone endures,
it can be called great.
It isn't aware of its greatness;
thus it is truly great."
During 2003 Graeme went to visit his daughter in Laos and had to find care for his flock. It was a time of severe drought and the only place Graeme could find agistment was Nmbgee, a multiple occupancy community in the hills nort of Nimbin. But it had a no dog rule.
So it was that Jennifer was separated for Molly and Jolly. Molly always seemed to know that such a separation would be her doom and so it was. After Graeme had returned to Australia but not yet back to Nmbngee, he learned that Molly had been found drowned and partly eaten in a dam on the property.
Seems it was a dingo. Graeme was later to come across a dingo walking on the property. The chewed corpses of wallabies and potaroos confirmed the persistent presence of the predator.
The death of Molly meant Jolly was without a sheep companion and Graeme was without a trailer (it had been crushed during the wreck of the Peacebus 2 September 2002) to carry Jolly with him.
Graeme put Jolly in with a flock of 20 sheep owned by the former Nimbin police sargeant, Neville Plush, and gazed on his property by Mulgum Creek on the Lismore side of Nimbin. Neville had been a shearer in Brewarinna before joining the NSW Police force and he had kept an abiding affection for sheep. He had built himself a shearing stand and did his own shearing even though his back ached from the effort.
Graeme fitted out his Mitsubishi van as his replacement Peacebus and he and Jennifer hit the road with their crusading again. Jennifer showed no signs of missing Molly and Jolly. She had done her duty by them but in truth they seemed to bore her. She much preferred the company and the guarding of Graeme.
It was over 12 months before Graeme returned to Nimbin and caught up with Neville Plush. He was down cast when relaying the news that all his flock including Jolly were dead, drowned after being driven into Mulgum creek one night a month before by a pack of dogs.
So sad. Molly had been an affectionate through cautious companion and she had opened Graeme's understanding to the intelligence and prescience of sheep.
Jolly had been delight as a gamboling lamb and he much more affectionate to humans than his mother. Too affectionate for comfort in fact, for he had learned to take food from table and want to climb in laps. Castrated and de-tailed, Jolly grew big and quick.
They were happy days and no regrets. Travelling became easier for Graeme without sheep.