Story shows blind lamb's tenacity to overcome obstacles
Jim Thompson knew within minutes after the lamb was born that something was different about her.
Her ears rotated from side to side as she tried to understand the world by listening.
And unlike the other lambs, she stayed close to her mother at all times.
Thompson quickly determined the newborn could not see.
The vet confirmed his suspicions and added: “It's hard to imagine how she will be able to survive.”
Without hesitating, Thompson and his wife, Laura, decided the chocolate brown lamb with a curly halo of white on her head deserved every chance at life.
“She just captured our hearts,” Thompson said. “There was no reason to put her down, other than our own inconvenience, which was not an adequate reason.”
The Thompsons helped the Shetland lamb thrive by teaching her how to find food, water and her mother in the pasture.
In the weeks and years to come, the Jefferson County couple saw firsthand how the animal met challenges head-on, including a bully sheep who made a sport of head-butting.
Always, the blind lamb named Peanut found ways to overcome hardship.
“When I watch her navigate her world, I marvel at it,” Thompson said.
Eventually, he penned a story about Peanut and teamed up with illustrator Rebecca Gavney Driscoll of Janesville.
Together, they produced a new book, “Peanut of Blind Faith Farm,” published by Little Creek Press of Mineral Point. The American Library Association has given it an outstanding review in its class.
Thompson dedicated the inspiring story “to all those, both animal and human, who struggle through adversity to live productive, fulfilling lives. And, in doing so, reward us all.”
“Peanut of Blind Faith Farm” is a children's book, but Thompson said teens and adults alike are smitten with its message of tenacity.
So was Driscoll.
“I thought the story was great,” she said. “It's about an animal that doesn't give up. We should all feel like that. It struck a chord. An artist can't give up, either. You have to keep pursuing things, like Peanut did.”
Driscoll created more than 20 playful watercolor paintings for Thompson's book.
“I think I caught Peanut's character well,” she said. “Lots of people paint animals, but I want to make sure the animal has a life in the painting. You have to get the eyes right. They have to look alive. Instead of us just looking at a painting, the painting should be looking back at us.”
Driscoll believes readers should engage in the artwork as much as the story of an illustrated book.
She worked from photos of Peanut and finished the book's paintings in only two months.
“I worked on them seven days a week,” Driscoll said.
The artist has illustrated three children's books, including "Peanut of Blind Faith Farm."
She also enjoys creating her own greeting cards.
Driscoll took college art classes, but she describes herself as mostly self-taught.
Thompson called her work “just stunning.”
“I looked high and low for an illustrator,” he said. “I knew Becky was the person I wanted.”
An Air Force veteran, Thompson worked with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for 20 years. He semi-retired in 2007 and took up hobby farming.
Thompson never intended to have a flock of sheep.
He allowed his rams and ewes to mix together when he thought the breeding season ended.
Turned out he was wrong, and his small flock grew to 17.
“We are keeping all of them,” Thompson said. “But Peanut's blindness is genetic, so it would be imprudent for us to breed more.”
Peanut, now 7, will live out her life on the farm named after her.
“Right now, you could call her a bratty adolescent,” Thompson said. “Ewes like Peanut can reach 20 years old. She will be here forever.”
Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.