Sunday, 10 July 2011

Sheep. Boy. Love.



During one of the long, lazy summers of my youth, while the schools were on their extended break, I worked for a fortnight – along with my older brother - on my godmother’s farm. I think I would have been ten-years-old at the time, and, thinking about it now, I’m not sure that was entirely legal…  or at all safe… but I was young and I needed the money… for sweets.

On hindsight, it was a mostly ghastly job. If I wasn’t scooping up cow poo from the cattle sheds, or choking on the dust from lugging around hay bales, I was putting rubber rings around baby baa-lamb’s scrotums or chopping off their tails with a very sharp knife… at the time reassured that it didn’t hurt them at all, though that seems like complete twaddle as I write this.

There was a lot of death on that farm, but not a lot of care. I remember finding drowned kittens in a water trough, watching crows vaporise from the blast of a shotgun… It didn’t do much for my appreciation of farmers. Ronnie, who ran the place, was the sort of guy who would shoot your dog and not bat an eyelid. Farming was in his blood, though… that’s the life he’d lived, all his life, and as the farm had been passed down through the generations, he knew no different.

One day, Ronnie had us all – my brother and I, and two of my godmother’s boys who we were the best of mates with – jump in the tractor trailer, and he drove us up to one of the fields, telling us there was a lame sheep that he had to take to the vet… which was quite a surprise, because I would have assumed that he’d have preferred to have shot it, while laughing.

When we found her, we could see she was in a state. She must have caught her leg in a barbed wire fence, as the flesh had been ripped quite badly… and while struggling, she’d used her forehead to try to break free, leaving a nasty wound.

Ronnie tied her legs – so she couldn’t leap away, not that she looked as though she was in the condition to do so – and we loaded her into the trailer. Obviously, she was in a lot of pain and agitated, but my brother and I sat beside her and stroked her, giving her as much reassurance as we could offer. Before long, as we drove the few miles to the vet, she had calmed down… her breathing had slowed and she seemed very relaxed when we reached our destination.

We took her down from the trailer and into the vet’s, and – since Ronnie was obviously a very busy man and had things to shoot – headed back to the farm.

A year later…

… I was fishing in a stream in one of the farm’s fields, in a beautiful, mossy glade, far away from roads. It was just the countryside, a few grazing sheep, the sound of birds and me… never any fish. I was a completely rubbish fisherman.

I was just sitting on the bank, whiling the day away, when I was nudged in the back, nearly knocking me into the water.

I turned around and saw a sheep standing there, just looking at me…

… and she had a bald patch on her forehead, where there was a large, healed scar.

She’d remembered me. Those brief moments of care and attention the year previous must never have left her, and when she recognised me, she came over to say hello.

Maybe my brother and I were the first (and perhaps only) human beings who had ever treated her with love, rather than as a cash-crop?

She sat down beside me for a while as I continued not catching fish, then went back to the flock when Ronnie appeared in his tractor on the far side of the field at feeding time.

I never saw her again… but I smile when she crosses  my mind, though that’s tempered with a tinge of sadness, as I’ve never been vegetarian for more than a few months. She was no dumb animal. I saw her in pain, she responded to love, and she remembered me. It seems so callous that I’d still eat her kind, when I know how intelligent they are. It’s time to make another life-change.

76 comments:

  1. Change is never easy...and I truly admire you for continuing to do it.

    xoxox
    eden

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  2. Thanks, Eden. It seems so many things are changing. :-)

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  3. oh i got a bit of a tear in my eye when i read this! Kudos for the strength to make change, any change in life particularly when your older is often most difficult to accomplish, i am rooting for you!

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  4. That is an amazing story. =)

    For several years I was an on-again/off-again vegetarian...it has now been 3 years and counting since I became one full-time! ;o)

    Change is hard and sometimes slow to happen...but it is definitely possible! =)

    Thank you for the beautiful post!
    xox, Shannon

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  5. Incredible, see now why you appreciated Stone Henge pics I heart sheep bigtime! I caught 3 magpies attacking a dove recently it was pretty far away as soon as I saw it happening I started running towards them stamping my feet as hard as I could and generally making huge amounts of noise. The let her go and there were feathers everywhere. She flew up onto a far away roof and I could just see that she was pruning what was left of her feathers back into place. My bro was stuck in traffic (fetching me to collect my new car) and I sat there for ages watching her. Eventually she flies down sits 3m away from me on the wall cooing softly. I took it as thanks for saving her that day~

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  6. It gives me hope when I read stories such as these, not for the animals - sadly there are too many of us who think of them as dumb beasts - but for us - that maybe one day we will realise our need to understand, to accept, and to share with these amazing beings who have the right to live beside us, not under us. Thank you for sharing this moment. :*)

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  7. Nice post, great story.

    Have you thought of going vegan? It's easier than most people think and it's best for animals, the planet and our bodies. I changed a year and a half ago in response to a emerging conviction and it has been profound, fun and exciting so far. I'd be happy to answer any questions :-)

    Enjoying your blog, keep up the good work.

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  8. Very nice story. Animals are smarter than we think. Your care was not forgotten. And someday you may become a vegetarian again.

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  9. I enjoy your stories..I hope you have a Wonderful night -Linda

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  10. I am so impressed dear.. that was so great and touching.. wish you would take your talents to the book publishing people.i know they would grab you in a minute..i would call you a rich..published friend lolol LNovak

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  11. This is quite an amazingly little story. Just found your blog. Glad I did. And you fish like I do. :)

    shayruldawn

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  12. Great story, Les, I grew up on a farm for a while.
    I have a different view on animals. Though I think they feel, think and remember, I believe every creature on the Earth has a purpose and destiny. I believe our unique human design was created with the idea of eating meat. That does include my buddies in the chicken coop, the pig my mother named Wilbur (Wil for short) B Bacon and your friend the sheep.
    Though, I do commend vegetarians for their self-control. I can't stop drooling when I smell my friend Wil cooking next to my eggs in the morning.
    ;) AL

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  13. Thank you, DeMarie! But hey, I'm not THAT old! ;-)

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  14. Good on you, Shannon, and thank you for the encouragement! :-)

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  15. That's a wonderful story, MissC - who knows how this world would be if all animals instinctively saw us as friends, rather than enemies? :-)

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  16. Indeed, Jo... though an end to the 'mass produce market' would mean far less of these creatures ever being born, the ones that were would live a much happier life.

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  17. I think going from omnivore to vegan in one step may be difficult, Seymour, in that I have leather walking boots and no money - but it's something I would consider in future. :-)

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  18. Diane - I'm vegetarian already. I was when I wrote the last sentence of that story. :-)

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  19. I'm sure the time will come, Laura, but I need a manuscript, rather than bits and pieces of ideas. By the Autumn, I think. :-)

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  20. Hehe, thanks shayruldawn - I gave up fishing because when I did actually catch fish, I really didn't like the fact I was hurting them. Sometimes I could just unhook and return to the water, but if they'd swallowed the hook deep, it would kill them removing it. I'd rather not fish at all.

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  21. I understand where you're coming from, AL, and your background is obviously conducive to that thinking, but we have some very tasty protein alternatives available that involve no death. Bacon is the bane of every fallen vegetarian... ;-)

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  22. Another wonderful read. What a great message.

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  23. Thank you so much, Gina! :-)

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  24. Gatha for Sheep. Boy. Love.

    Fresh, clear, crisp air
    Life comes and goes with ease
    We were young, naive but learning
    Today a sheep fell lame
    Tomorrow a memory to last a lifetime

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  25. That's wonderful. Thank you! :-)

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  26. Wow - Les! You took the time to reply to every comment. It's appreciated and I am sure it is one of the keys to the success of this blog :-)

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  27. I think it's only polite, Seymour! :-)

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  28. That's such a beautiful story Les, aww, so heartwarming! Two living beings sharing moments of love and understanding and in real life too, it doesn't just happen in Disney! Thank you so much for sharing that, so glad you got to experience it! Lotsa love Mel XXX

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  29. Whoa, Mel... you do understanding that it never went beyond heavy petting, yeah? ;-) x

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  30. :D Don't spoil my heartwarming moment!XXX

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  31. Hehe. Really pleased you enjoyed it, Mel! :-) x

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  32. Les,
    Great Story of compassion and human/animal bonding! Delighted that you took the time to share it with those of us who enjoy following your interesting blog!

    Cheers my friend!
    Derrick

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  33. Thanks for taking the time to read, Derrick! :-)

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  34. As an ex 6th generation grazier/farmer - I can relate to this - so much so I have turned my life around to being a vegetarian and walking the shamanic path as a practitioner and teacher of earth wisdom. I pray for forgiveness for not knowing more about the soul and spirit of all creatures as a child and young adult on the land - though I am also aware of the divinity of my path. I was fortunate to have an innate connections with nature and creatures that helped me to eventually over ride what was unconsciously taught to me from my hardy ancestors who often treated farm animals with disrespect - again through ignorance and tradition. Let's hope those times are passing - this blog helps that to happen.

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  35. Thank you, Heather - that's a wonderful story in itself and a beautiful thing to add, here. I can't really criticise farmers, because - apart from those relatively brief periods - I've bought their 'meat crops' and lived on them... even after my experience detailed in this post... but, yes, I hope we can change.

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  36. ClearlyMeLuise12 July 2011 07:37

    It's so nice to read this touching story. It feels magical and blessed when an animal/bird, etc. feels safe enough to honor us with their trust and affection. I love how your wooly friend knew you were special and stopped by for a thank ewe. : )
    -Luise

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  37. Yeah, it does feel a little extra-special, especially as it's so unexpected. Thanks, Luise! :-)

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  38. Such a wonderful memory to have that also reminded you of a lesson you knew already. Wonder if your less than compassionate farmer ever learned that lesson? I so enjoy your blog. I am new to this and hope to have a blog up and going by fall. You are quite the inspiration!
    Bonnie Augustine

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  39. Gosh, what a lovely thing to say. it's a pleasure to inspire you, Bonnie. :-)

    Back to vegetarian, now, and feeling rather good on it, body and soul. :-)

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  40. That is very sweet.
    I've tried & failed also with many versions of abstaining from meats &/or animal products.. I've had the greatest success with pescatarianism (Sorry I most likely misspeled that) it's where you only take fish as meat & nothing else. I pair it with eating/buying only organic & stumble the least.. Although chicken sems to be a weaknes of mine... I find it dificult to resist BBQ chicken...

    I wish you the greatest success in your venture.

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  41. It's going really well. I'm not going to give up eggs or milk, since they're both great for protein - which I need for the gym work/muscle building - but I'm buying free-range eggs and... well... cows around here always seem quite happy in the fields.

    Thanks for the encouragement! :-)

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  42. That was a really nice post. I personally don't think eating meat is immoral. Having said that, after reading what happened to you, I can see why you wouldn't want to eat any more sheep. Beautiful writing. All the best.

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  43. Thanks, Ben! I wouldn't accuse anyone of being immoral in eating meat, and you're right - it's a personal choice from personal experience. :-)

    Thanks for the kind words. I hope you're enjoying your visits here! :-)

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  44. Once again, you have moved me beyond words. I have stopped eating meat, but I'm not a vegetarian yet. But, I feel like a hypocrite because I love all animals so much.

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  45. It's an individual choice and you shouldn't hold on to any sense of guilt - your compassion is already being displayed by not eating meat, and I suspect you'll meet the further goal before too long. :-)

    Thank you for your kind words. :-)

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  46. That's quite remarkable! And all in all, very comforting. Thanks for a great blog post to end my day with.

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  47. Very touching, Glad I found your blog. I have a hard time visiting the zoo. I can hardly look the animals in the eye because I can sometimes sense their sadness. You verbally crafted a visual story that I thoroughly enjoyed. I wish you well with the upcoming change you are making in your life.

    Blessings,
    Cat

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  48. Your story touched me to the point to where my heart hurt and tears were in my eyes. Oh, I have no doubt that animals have memories, thoughts, feelings and the need to have and feel love. I became vegan 3 1/2 years after I woke up to the cruelity we commit against non-human animals and have never looked back. I feel at peace with my decision to not add to the pain and suffering of animals. It's one of the best and most important decisions I ever made. All the best to you on your journey!
    Laura

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  49. I truly love this post. I'm a sheep and arable farmer and yes, sheep are much more intelligent than people think. It's not the nicest job in the world when one has to castrate the lambs, but it only hurts for half an hour and the lambs really don't bother. Well, they never say anything anyway. Apart from "maaaaa".

    Ronnie sounds a little like my late father in law. Farming has to be in the blood in order to make it work and it's all my husband has ever known. He's not quite as callous as Ronnie but he doesn't like dogs roaming in the fields, unless they're ours of course!

    I'd like to include this post on my Blog Promotions page if you don't mind. Please object if you do and I'll remove it.

    CJ xx

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  50. the one meat i wont eat is from a sheep i dont know why i suppose i have a sence of heart for them more than any other cant come to terms with eating one for some reason i used to help the local farmer round his sheep up and feed the lambs with bottles so that could be it . nice story of your childhood memories its amazing what we remember and why

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  51. My father raised sheep when I was young. We never put those rubber bands around their scrotums, but we did put them on their tails. Better than using a knife on them!
    My sisters and I looked forward to the spring when the lambs would be born. We named all of them, and even took little ones into the house to feed them if their mother had twins and picked the other one to nurse. I fondly remember the black one we named "George Jefferson", the white one with pinkish ears we named "Pinky", and the two born on Valentine's Day, aptly named: Valentino and Valentina.
    I recall the old barn, the new one when we built it, driving the truck at ten years of age when my dad enlisted our help to get the hay bales from the field to feed them in the winter. I also remember the males being loaded up in the fall to be taken to the stock yards because we could only keep one male for the flock. :( Such is life on the farm.
    I tried being a vegetarian, but sadly, I love meat too much. So every time I eat an animal, I thank the universe for it's sacrifice, so I could eat.

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  52. I heard a quote once that pretty much sums up my take on eating meat. "I hope that they only have the one bad day on my farm." which of course is butcher day.

    It was a very nice story and very well written :) And can I just commend everyone on such a wonderfully peaceful conversation on this touchy subject?

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  53. Didn't know sheep were that intelligent. Glad to hear it.

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  54. One bad day but a life of being cared for would be good and reasonable. It's what I would hope for myself.
    I'm not a vegetarian but I hope that I respect the animals I consume.
    Les, I don't think a rethink is necessary, just remind yourself to appreciate completely what you eat. Make the life worth the one bad day.

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  55. I'm a bit late on this, but great story! :)

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  56. Change makes the soul stronger :)

    LK Watts

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  57. Well Les it looks as though I have a bit of an addiction to your stories. I can't tear my eyes from them. I am not a big reader, but your blogs are such a breath of fresh air. I say that through a few tears, but appreciate the lesson or growth each seem to have brought to you. Thank you for sharing & allowing your experiences to bring others lessons as well. I tried as a teen to become a vegitarian, after befriending a cow, (who ran to the fence each time I pulled into the driveway), but was unsuccessful. I haven't thought much about it since. Defiantly something to think about now :) -Mindy

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  58. Thanks for this great story. Four-legged animals make this earth a much better place for those who have just two.

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  59. I have been a vegetarian since I was a very young girl..The decision to become one came from just seeing and knowing the truth of what goes on .. Eating animals is not an addiction that you have to give up like a drug .. how deep do you feel what is right..to you !. Still I admire your matter of fact story, The truth..

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  60. Bah..ram..yew to your clan, to your sheep, to your fleece be true sheep be true bah ram yew. My family had goats when I was a child so I totally believe your story to be true. They aren't very bright animals but they are the sweetest. Sadly, I'm Greek so not eating them is not an option, but that doesn't mean one can't treat them right while they are still alive. Thanks, I really enjoyed your story.

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  61. As well as being Vegetarian.stated earlier...not vegan....I do not wear any leather as this defeats the object !! and I also have non leather strong !! walking boots !! ....

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  62. What a wonderful story! I am mostly vegetarian and if it helps, meat is often hard to digest so not the best thing to eat. Animals are very aware and intelligent. Sometimes I think they are more intelligent than we humans are. I am glad that you are taking the step of reducing and possibly eliminating meat consumption.

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  63. I like this story a lot! =)

    Ulrika*

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  64. Lovely post. Brings a tear to my eye. I've been veggie for 30 years, and could never go back. As a kid, it didn't tally; we call ourselves "animal lovers", yet we have no real care or respect for them, on the whole. They're just "livestock", a product, a thing... Well, I have never looked upon the rest of the animal kingdom as lower, less feeling, less sentient, less valid, than myself (let's never forget we are animals too, and part of a whole - not separate or better). So, it made sense for me to choose, at a very early age, to stop eating animals. In fact, over time, I'm moving towards veganism. It's my goal, and I'll be a better person for it. Shame so many other humans can't see it. They're all blinded, half asleep, doped up on meat products! Shame, for them, in every sense. Much admiration for trying to be better than that. Keep at it. Everyone has blips - but every day you don't participate in eating meat and being part of the horrendous system of factory farming and destroying land to rear yet more animals destined for misery and slaughter, you do a good thing. :-)

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  65. I love this story - it made me cry, because I'm there with you - how can we know what we know about animals and still eat them. I do though, it's very difficult - but I need to make the change too.

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  66. I enjoyed reading your story. I suppose, in fairness, farmers can't afford to be too sentimental. I have been vegetarian for more then 30 years and never regret a moment of it. I have a 20 year old daughter who has never ever eaten meat and she is very healthy, much healthier than her meat eating friends. I don't preach to those who wish to eat meat, we have to make up our own minds. This story proves that sheep are not so dopey as might think they are. I certainly couldn't be a farmer, I'd get far too attached. Thanks for sharing Les.

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  67. Great blog, very inspiring to hear your story. I turned veggie several years ago and have never regretted it.

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  68. how did u know it was the same sheep? so lovely... ty.

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  69. So wonderful, Les. Animals have keen memories and do not readily forget those who show kindness and compassion.

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  70. I don't eat anything that has a mother or a soul!! ❤

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  71. It is important that we love animals and don't treat them like they are unfeeling. Nice reflection and story. Thanks for sharing.

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  72. Sentient beings deserve to be treated with care and gentleness.
    Thank you for the post.

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