The Journal of Thaddeaus Shockpocket


Painting Sheep

Monday, March 14

I must confess that I have a tad bit of a problem when it comes to focusing on one thing at a time.  This occurs regularly when others are speaking to me and their conversation goes on and on, far beyond the point of being interesting. It seems such a waste of time to concentrate only on what someone is telling me when I can clearly accomplish more by pondering several additional topics at the same time. Normally this habit does not create a problem as I simply nod my head or say yes in agreement to whatever someone is saying whenever they pause and they believe that I am actually listening to them. However, not listening properly does cause the occasional sticky situation, typically involving a conversation with Kate. It is particularly embarrassing when I have just given my customary head nod to Kate and she responds excitedly, “Seriously? I never thought you would agree to that.” and I realize that I have no idea what she has been going on about for the past several minutes or what I have just agreed to. Not listening closely to Katherine played a key role in my search for the perfect paint for sheep.

The sheep paint project began when Kate told me of a newspaper article about the popularity of painting sheep. As she went on about the sheep painting phenomenon I began daydreaming but had heard enough of the story to conclude that painting sheep was quite in style and people were paying a lot of money for painted sheep. It occurred to me that I could use the knowledge I had gained from developing Thaddeaus Shockpocket’s All Organic Hair Coloring to formulate a paint specifically for sheep wool. It would not be a difficult task and, if the trend of painting sheep was as popular as it sounded, it would be worth a lot of money.

Truth be told, I was a bit puzzled at the whole ‘painted sheep’ craze and could only think of two reasons for anyone to want to paint their sheep. The first and most practical reason could be to tint the lamb’s wool before shearing. That would eliminate the need to dye it later when it was made into cloth. The second and less practical reason could be that people have developed a fondness for the sight of multicolored sheep grazing in their fields. While less practical, I had to admit that a field a colored sheep could be quite pleasing to the eye. Either way, the reason for the trend was not important. I had a new discovery to make and would set off forthwith to do so just that. 

As I endeavored to develop the new sheep paint I found that wool reacts to Shockpocket’s All Organic Hair Coloring solutions differently than human hair. Not only does the dye not color the lamb’s wool in a similar fashion but the sheep seem to love the flavor of the colored wool and chew off their coats. I tasted it myself and cannot imagine what the sheep find so appealing. I find it to be quite foul and it reminds me of when I was a youngster and would chew on the sleeve of my wool coat whenever I was nervous. I clearly remember that taste and it is not pleasant. But the sheep like it and that forced me to create a completely new formula that tasted differently. I also needed to invent a device to apply the paint quickly since the test sheep tended to get all up and about whenever I was painting them. The need to chase them around the lab as I brushed the paint onto their coats made for too much work and was simply not practical. Lastly, the paint needed to dry quickly as the fuzzy animals would rub against my laboratory walls immediately after being painted and wipe most of the color off. This left large streaks of bright paint that ran across the walls at a height of two to three feet above the floor. After several attempts, I successfully developed a broad range of paints that not only dried quickly but could be easily applied with the use of a spray-pump gun. The result was splendid. The paint looked brilliant on the sheep and no more paint ended up on my laboratory walls.

I did not want word of my new product to accidentally get out before I was ready to formally launch it, so Katherine, Sherlock and Tweak only knew that I was conducting research that involved watching paint dry. Finally, when I had completed the new paint formula and was certain I had a successful product, I called everyone into the family study for a special announcement. When they were all properly seated, I declared that I was about to show them what may very well be my best creation to date. The three fidgeted in their seats as I excused myself to retrieve some samples of my latest invention. A few moments later I returned, followed by three of what I say were the best looking sheep I have ever seen. One was painted bright red, one a deep shade of royal blue, and one, just to make an extra special presentation, was painted with the British flag on his side. 

To say the introduction made an impression would be an understatement. Tweak was excited to see the colored lambs and danced as she exclaimed that they were absolutely brilliant. Sherlock looked puzzled and asked exactly what my new invention was and, by the way, why did I paint three of our sheep? Katherine just stared at the sheep blankly, blinked rapidly, and said nothing.

I turned toward Katherine, “Kate. I would like to thank you for being the one who inspired me to develop our latest product to improve the world, Thaddeaus Shockpocket’s Sheep Paint”

Her face remained mostly blank but now showed some puzzlement. “Really? I don’t recollect ever saying that I wanted colored sheep.”

I responded, “No silly. Don’t you recall when you told me about the newspaper article? The one telling of the latest trend of painting sheep? I thought about it and decided it was only logical to use the Shockpocket Organic Hair Colors as a basis for a whole new line of sheep paints.”

It is difficult to describe the look my dearest Kate gave me as I completed my explanation. I guess you could call it an expression of amusement. Combined with a little disbelief. Topped off with a bit of profound sympathy. She placed her hand over her mouth to stifle a laugh and then said. “Oh, my dearest Thaddeaus. I think your invention is absolutely brilliant, but I hesitate to tell you something that may dampen your spirits a tich.”

What could dampen my spirits? Over two years of watching paint dry was more than worth it to create paints for all those people painting sheep.

She continued, “Thaddeaus, I did indeed tell you that the latest trend is painting sheep. And it continues to be a very popular. However, I think you missed one minor detail.”

What could I have missed?

“Do you recall, in all of our recent travels, ever seeing any sheep in any field in any color other than natural white or perhaps brown or black.

Come to think of it, I had not.

“And as you spent time developing your fabulous sheep paint didn’t you ever wonder, if sheep painting is so popular, why you have never seen a painted sheep?”

Again, I had not.

“I am afraid you may not have been listening very well when I told you about the popularity of painted sheep. The latest craze can be seen in all of the modern art shops. Artists are adding sheep to their paintings of landscapes. Now, everyone wants to own a watercolor or oil painting of sheep grazing in fields. In fact, we have one in the entryway of our home. I bought it last time I visited London.

This news was quite unsettling and I needed a few moments to myself so I herded the three colored sheep back out of the house and down the front steps to graze on the lawn while I sat and gathered my thoughts. Upon some reflection, I decided if painting sheep wasn’t the latest trend, it certainly should be. My three colored sheep looked quite splendid as they wandered about the yard that day. However, success of the paint was not to be. Nobody was interested in painting their sheep and I was left with several unsold gallons of paint in the laboratory. I have not let these go to waste and believe the Shockpocket estate may be the only location in England where the sheep are regularly painted. I still think they make a fine sight.
            At first blush, one might jump to the conclusion that I had wasted much time and effort in my experiments to create a line of paints for sheep, not only developing the paint formulas, but spending endless hours watching the tints dry. But, like many inventions, the real success of the paint research turned out to be a product of completely different nature and altogether accidental.  During the sheep paint experiments, I learned that lamb’s wool is highly effective at spreading paint. Those areas in my laboratory where the freshly painted sheep had rubbed up against the walls actually looked quite nice. The application of paint was far smoother than that from a brush. And from that discovery, I created a new way to apply paint to walls. I would take a square pad of lamb’s wool, dip it in paint, and slide it back and forth on the wall. The paint went on smoothly and the square pads held more paint than a brush. That discovery resulted in Shockpocket’s Miraculous Sheep Wool Paint Applicators. Painters love them and they have sold brilliantly. With the money we have earned selling wool paint applicators, Katherine and I have bought a fine collection of landscape paintings that feature sheep grazing in the fields.

Nobody outside of our family knew that the invention of the paint applicators was actually an accident and the result of not listening properly but Tweak was not so lucky when she also did not listen well and made quite an embarrassing situation for herself. It seems she overheard a gathering of people in the village talking about a group in London making all sorts of ruckus about saving the crustaceans. She thought they must be protesting the popular food Escargot and that the protestors wanted to save the snails. It just so happens that snails are one of Sherlock’s favorite snacks and this resulted in several arguments within our house. Tweak painted signs that read, Save the Snails and marched through the village in support of the movement to save the crustaceans. Word of Tweak’s protest spread and eventually reached France with the unfortunate consequence that our family was asked not to visit their country as long as Tweak protested the Escargot industry.

One day a newspaper reporter visited the Shockpocket estate to interview Tweak about her protest. Tweak related the story about a group in London that was trying to save the crustaceans and the newspaper said they would look further into it, even though they had not heard anything of the kind. Only when the reporter returned were we to learn the embarrassing truth. There is indeed a group in London protesting the killing of animals, but they are trying to save the cetaceans, not the crustaceans. Cetaceans are whales, and this group did not believe they should be killed. Tweak’s signs should have read, Save the Whales, not Save the Snails.  To make things worse, snails are mollusks, not crustaceans. While Tweak may be brilliant in chemistry and physics, she seems to know very little about biology.

If there is a lesson to be learned by both of these events, it may be that mistakes can lead to new discoveries. On the other hand it may be that one should listen closer and pay better attention to what they hear.