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Woolly wonders take center stage at Jefferson Co. Fair

August 21, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

LEETOWN, W.Va. - Their small size made them stand out among the other breeds.

They stood on tiny, thin legs, and had horns that eventually will spiral as they grow, said owner Betty Henry.

And oh, that fine wool they make.

It is said that the wool from a Shetland sheep is so fine that if you make a shawl out of it, it can be pulled through a wedding band, said Henry as her Shetlands pulled gently at their leads Wednesday at the Jefferson County Fair.

"They're really friendly. They will wag their tail like a dog," Henry said.

Henry was among a group of adults and youths showing their sheep at the fair's annual "fiber show," the event held to see who has the best wool in town.

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The quality of the wool is judged on factors such as the amount of "crimp," which is a wavy characteristic of the wool. The crimp can be observed by pulling the wool back on the sheep.

It is also important to keep the wool free from dirt, hay, straw and grain.

Despite their popularity among owners, raising sheep for wool is not a large business in Jefferson County's agricultural community, said Ginny Harrison, who was showing sheep with her family at the fair.

"There isn't a lot of money in that," said Harrison, who has 13 sheep on a 24-acre farm in Rippon, W.Va.

What it lacks in money, it makes up for in fun.

Wool is big in areas, like Howard County, Md., where the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival is held, Henry said.

"That's when I really got into it," said Henry, who has a flock of 21 sheep at her Long Marsh Shetlands farm in Summit Point, W.Va.

Henry makes mittens, doilies, and other domestic products out of her wool, and enters them in contests.

Sheep owners say the animals are popular among youths because they are smaller than other livestock and are easier to handle.

And besides, what kid can resist a cute sheep?

Nell Berkeley, 10, a student at T.A. Lowery Elementary, and Amanda Stehr, 11, a student at Charles Town Middle School, were eager to talk about their Correidale cross sheep before the youth judging competition Wednesday.

The girls talked about how much fun it is to take care of the animals and run their fingers through the thick wool.

"Your hands get real soft from the lanolin," Nell said.

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