Follow

Friday, January 24, 2014

THE SHRINKING SHEEP




Miles McGregor couldn’t believe what he saw.  He and his brothers, Maxwell and Monroe, were tending their sheep.  They owned the largest sheep farm on Scotland’s Shetland Islands.  It was starting to rain, but rain was common there.  What was definitely not common was that, as they got wet, their sheep and horses were starting to shrink.  Usually, wool shrinks (you know you’re not supposed to wash woolen things in water, but you should have them dry cleaned instead) but never the sheep themselves!  The horses seemed to stop shrinking when they got down to pony size, but not the sheep.  Some of the lambs were now so small he could carry them in his pocket.  People everywhere loved warm Shetland wool sweaters.  How would they ever be able to shear enough wool from these tiny creatures to make a decent living?

Miles phoned his neighbors, whom he discovered were having the same problem.  Something had to be done, and right away!  This had never happened before to their knowledge and nobody had a solution.  They decided to search the internet for an answer.  Miles typed in “My sheep are shrinking” on his computer and, strangely enough, there were no responses.  They were on their own.

Maxwell suggested that they bring them inside their house so they wouldn’t get any wetter.  Bad idea!  A small house doesn’t comfortably hold several hundred sheep, even small ones.  Every room was packed full so there was no privacy at all and the noise and the smell of all their wet coats was horrible.  There was no way to sleep with sheep in their beds because they tossed and turned all night and tried to hog the covers.  They couldn’t have a hot meal since a couple of sheep decided to take up residence in the oven.  They couldn’t even bathe because there were sheep in the tub, too.  And worst of all, living outside, none of them were potty trained.

In the morning the three brothers woke up all cramped because they had slept on the floor, curled up between the sheep.  They stretched their arms and legs and felt a little better.  Monroe said, “Maybe if we stretch the sheep, they’ll get back to their original size.  It’s worth a try.”  They each grabbed a sheep and began gently pulling and kneading their muscles.  The sheep, who had never had a massage before, loved it and several kept butting back in line for more until some fights started.  The brothers finally stretched all the sheep and fell asleep exhausted.  It seemed to work, but unfortunately, when they woke up the next morning, the sheep were all small again.

Miles had always been interested in science and chemistry and kept a small laboratory in the house.  After herding the sheep out of there, he started working on something to make them full sized again.  He tried many experiments and had many failures.  He was about to give up when he had a flash of genius!  What if he could keep the sheep dry even if they were out in the rain?  Back to the beakers and bell jars he went.  He mixed several solutions until he came up with what he hoped would be the answer to their problem.  Of course, there were a couple of explosions en route to the final concoction, but fortunately they were minor.

He asked Maxwell and Monroe to bring one wet sheep into his laboratory.  He sprayed it thoroughly with his solution and—nothing happened!  What a disappointment, but a true scientist never gives up.  He asked his brothers to find a sheep that hadn’t yet gotten wet and shrunk and to bring it to him.  He sprayed it thoroughly and let it dry.  He then asked them to soak it with water.  They did and again, nothing happened, but this time that was a good thing.  The sheep didn’t shrink.  It stayed the same size!    He had made the sheep waterproof.

Miles’ formula became the hottest thing that had happened on the Shetland Islands for years.  It wouldn’t bring animals that had already shrunk back to their old size, but if you sprayed it on a newborn lamb it would never shrink.  It probably would have worked on the horses, too, but people had already fallen in love with the little horses which they called Shetland ponies.  They were especially popular at children’s birthday parties. 

The formula became so popular and sold so well that they gave up sheep farming completely.  They started a company and built a factory to manufacture the  waterproofing.  The company was called 3M after the brothers (Miles, Maxwell and Monroe) and because they were extremely patriotic and loved their homeland, they called the formula Scotchgard (because they couldn't spell very well).  They have now expanded their business and also manufacture Scotch Tape, another one of Miles’ discoveries, among other things.












The best thing about being old is there's very little peer pressure----fishducky