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Black Lamb


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The All-Animal Issue

Volume 14, Number 2 — May 2016

May 1st, 2016

This May issue of Black Lamb, slightly delayed in settling into its nest online, is called The All-Animal Issue. So naturally it includes essays about dogs and cats, the most popular pet animals. But there’s also a horse, some budgies, and a few goats.

Following these are our pantheon of Honorary Black Lambs, our Black Lamb recipe, and Millicent Marshall’s invaluable advice column.

As always, we are confident that you will find stimulation and mental nourishment in these pages. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Animal Issue, Month summaries, Special Issues | Link to this Entry

I miss Jimmy

Animals can be as dear to us as humans — even more dear

May 1st, 2016


I miss Jimmy, who died in July 2013, more than I miss my deceased brother, more than I miss my dead mother and father.

jimmyI suppose this makes me some sort of monster.

When I knew that poor little Jimmy was dead, I wept, I lost sleep, I wandered around stunned. I did none of these when my brother Ken died of AIDS, when my mother expired after a long illness, or when my father breathed his last in a hospital bed at ninety-three. But I still find myself on the verge of tears when I think about Jimmy. My cat, Jimmy.
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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Animal Issue, Ross | Link to this Entry

Avian individuals

Crows make me smile

May 1st, 2016


It’s come to this. I bought mealworms.

No, not live ones — dried ones. I blame the store; had I not seen them on the shelf next to bird food I never would have thought of mealworms. What did I know from mealworms? Crispy brown slender parenthesis-shaped things that might as well be husks, though the bag promised protein and other nutrients. The text assured me that “unusual” birds would be drawn to my property. Right, not your garden variety sparrows, wrens, chickadees and jays, but exotic atypical birds. Really desirable birds.

crow*The bag didn’t mention crows. Birdseed bags never do (though I suspect ammo boxes do). No one wants to lure crows. During World War II they were labeled “black bandits” and citizens used any possible method — shooting, trapping, poisoning, dynamite, voodoo — to dispatch them. King Henry VIII declared them “despicable predators” and urged Brits to decrow (well, more accurately “derook”) the whole island. For centuries crows have been maligned. A sampling of their sobriquets: trash birds, menaces, scourges, nemeses, grim reapers, marauders, filthy scavengers, flying rodents, pseudobuzzards, and dirty #!&*#@! (I won’t get started on Jim Crow, crow’s feet, eating crow, and other pejoratives associated with these birds.) Crowbusters.com celebrates seasonal “shoots” and “mass kills.”

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Animal Issue, Browning | Link to this Entry

Ménage à trois

Life with Warren

May 1st, 2016


One morning about three years ago, Susan gave me a sad, sad look and said, “It appears we may have lost our best friend.”

“We’ve been through this before,” I reminded her.

“That was years ago,” she reminded me. “Before he’d really settled in.”
Susan was referring to Warren, the third member of our household, the one who holds down the papers on my desk and who sits beside me on the couch while I write; the one who keeps Susan company in the garden and who occupies her lap during cocktail hour; the one who joins us at dinnertime, especially if we’re having chicken or fish; and the one who shares our bed at night.

It may sound sentimental to call an animal companion our best friend, but Susan meant what she said, and I shared her sentiment. Friendship and love between members of different species is a real phenomenon, a generous blessing, a warm source of amusement and shared routines, and, at this moment three years ago, a cause for grief and near-panic.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Animal Issue, Daniel | Link to this Entry

Peaceable kingdom

Got my goats & I wouldn't have it any other way

May 1st, 2016


Before my goat friends arrived I had prepared them a lovely deep straw bed, a bucket of water, and some goat fusion. On their first night they ate all of their bed, but that is life with a goat, and I soon solved the problem by providing them with as much hay as they could eat. And weed I could pull. And every scrap provided by my neighbors.

fourniergoatMy idea of a peaceable kingdom was coming true. Their purpose was to be environmental lawnmowers and land clearers, but they immediately became my fuzzy wuzzies. Goats can be pets, and great ones. They don’t hang out in the house due to the hot fecal balls they spew all over, and they don’t cuddle in my bed like our cattle dog, Minnie Pearl, but they are blissful and I view them as my personal herd.

In looking for a culture that treats goats as pets, I found out that the Greeks take excellent care of their goats and allow them to wander around villages nibbling here and there. Children play with the young kids, sometimes even dressing them as they would a doll. And then, Easter comes around and they eat the goat. The same seems to hold true in Africa, where people love their goats and then eat them.

At first, this eating of pets horrified me, but I then came to the conclusion that the modern American view towards what animals are okay to eat is perhaps more horrific. But I don’t plan to eat my cuddly baby dolls. They have names, I brush them daily, and I kiss them. Their lips are velvet soft.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Animal Issue, Fournier | Link to this Entry

The lessons of Cleo

All I want for my birthday is a horse

May 1st, 2016

Is it true that every girl wants a horse? The ongoing popularity of National Velvet, My Friend Flicka, and a myriad of other books, movies, and television programs would certainly indicate so. Psychologists and parents like to speculate on the deeper meanings of this attraction. “Horses give young girls a feeling of freedom; the ability to control a large animal gives girls feelings of power.” “Give a girl a horse, and she will stay away from boys.”

womanoncircushorse*Whatever the profound significance, like many of my gender, as a child I always wanted a horse, but I knew better than to actually ask my parents for one. Our family pets consisted of an occasional goldfish if we were lucky at the school carnival; my father didn’t like cats, and my mother considered a dog too much trouble. With the exception of the three-year-old me posed on a pony for a photo, I never rode a horse. I had to satisfy my childhood fascination by checking out every horse book in my public library.

The closest I ever got to owning a loyal steed was when I purchased with my birthday money, at age ten, a turquoise and chrome Huffy bicycle. I named him Fury after the horse in the library book I was currently reading. Fury and I kept the secret of his identity from even my best friends. But I spent the next two years careening around my neighborhood on Fury until I reached junior high school and Fury went the way of Puff the Magic Dragon and other childhood fantasies.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Animal Issue, Bennett | Link to this Entry

Small wonders

The pleasures of owning budgerigars

May 1st, 2016


Just don’t call him “Tweety,” the pet store’s bird keeper teased as she handed off my charge, who was scrambling timorously inside his cardboard carrier. I hesitated to tell her this was precisely the name given both parakeets I’d had as a girl. Sequentially, that is, since Tweety the First had an untimely demise when one of my siblings charged through the heavy swinging door that divided kitchen from dining area in our circa 1864 house, slamming the poor guy against a wall.

karlawithbirdTweety and I had known better days in that old kitchen. We had a ritual where he’d hop about my head and shoulders while I washed the dishes. Truth be told, I’ve blocked details of his death from my memory, not to mention the also distressing end to which his successor succumbed. My mother and I inadvertently roasted Tweety II by following the vet’s instructions to put a heating pad by his cage to treat a respiratory ailment. I do recall that morning vividly. Mom and I anxiously removed his cage cover, hoping for an overnight recovery. The lifeless parakeet we found instead left us so defeated we never attempted another.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Animal Issue, Powell | Link to this Entry

My epiphany

Sometimes I could take hatchet to myself

May 1st, 2016


When my brother died unexpectedly from a stroke, I was living in a cottage on a farm in the Trossachs. It was famous for several things in the neighborhood and for one thing in the wider world, which was that a nineteenth-century classic novel had been written there in an ancient barn. I don’t believe that myth for a moment, but what I do believe, because I saw them, was the thick ropes of ancient spiders’ webs which festooned the inside of the barn. The farm was locally famous for the farmer’s wife: for her beauty, for riding around the lanes on her stallion, for her abduction from boarding school at the age of fourteen, and for her scandalous adultery. She bred rare and heritage sheep and goats and used to sing arias to their offspring at seven o’clock in the morning right outside my windows, where the nursery pen was. She had a beautiful voice.

She was half middle-class farmer’s wife and half crazy gypsy, with a pack of dogs as her familiars. At the time I lived there, she had eight sheepdogs, who followed her everywhere. (The last I heard, she had twenty-three, which doesn’t surprise me one bit.) At that time only two of the eight were “rescue” dogs; she hadn’t become as famous (or notorious) as she is now. One of these couldn’t inhibit his barking due to some trauma in his previous existence. She warned me (after I moved in) not to worry if I heard the dogs barking in the middle of the night, that the one with no inhibitions set the others off, and as she suffered from insomnia, she used to walk about the farm in the middle of the night. The other rescue dog had an even nastier habit. He liked to swing on the horses’ tails, and this idiotic woman used to stand and watch him doing it, driving her favorite horse demented, and complain all the while that he was pulling the hair out in clumps and the poor horse hated it. “Why don’t you stop him then?” I asked. “Oh, I couldn’t do that,” she replied. “He’s had too much telling off in his life.”

kittenb&wIn the cottage next door to me lived a woman whom I always thought of as Catwoman. She had a spooky affinity with cats and even looked as if she were turning into one, with thick hair like fur on her legs and torso. She lived with the farmer’s wife’s son, who was almost twenty years younger than she was. (I haven’t got room to unfold that tale, dramatic and unbelievable as it was.) One day several months before my epiphany, Catwoman told me she had discovered that the feral cat who lived in one of the newer barns had had more kittens. Unfortunately, she couldn’t take any more in herself, because her tiny two-room cottage was already heaving with two dogs and three cats, and Bunny (the boyfriend). So I agreed that I would take the kittens, as long as she and Bunny caught them.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Animal Issue, McLeish | Link to this Entry

The look

Denial in old age

May 1st, 2016


Susan’s mother, Barbara, was in Santa Barbara visiting us in late June 1990 when all hell broke loose up in the pass northeast of us, and what became known as the Painted Cave Fire roared down the mountainside, incinerating homes in its path and threatening to consume part or perhaps most of our city. Our neighborhood, Hidden Valley, was expected to take a direct hit, which I learned on our car radio out in the driveway, because all power was shut off and so were our phones. The radio ordered all residents of Hidden Valley to evacuate immediately.

I brought the news into the house and told Susan and Barbara by candlelight that we had to leave right away. We didn’t even have time to gather together the things we could not bear to lose. I filled a gallon plastic jug with drinking water, put two flashlights in the glove compartment, and urged Susan and Barbara to grab their toothbrushes, a change of underwear, and whatever else they needed for an overnight in whatever motel still had room for us.

Barbara didn’t move. She sat on the couch, petting Jessie, her yellow lab.
“Barbara, let’s go," I said. "We’ll take Jessie with us. She may have to spend the night in the car, or maybe we’ll find a motel that will let us take Jessie into the room, but we have to get going. Right now.”

Barbara looked up at me and gave me a look I’ve never forgotten, even though I saw it only by candlelight. It was the first time I’d seen that look of hers. That kill-the-messenger look. That was the first time, but I came to know that look well over the next decade.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Animal Issue, Daniel | Link to this Entry


Rearranging your life

May 1st, 2016


In the internet, rivaling heart-warming pictures of puppies, kittens, and ponies, are videos of young goats leaping in the air, tumbling down hillsides, and gamboling across fields of wild flowers. These kids’s antics can bring smiles to the most cynical of Facebook trollers. However, viewers usually overlook that these enthusiastic acrobats are most likely destined for someone’s grill.

Such was the case of Moonbeam, nicknamed Beamer, who was born on a ranch in the Napa Valley that was also home to a herd of Black Angus, a few wool sheep, a handful of milk goats, several ranch horses, and an array of barn cats, chickens, and dogs. Every creature on the ranch had a purpose — and young male goats were sold as food. Rarely were baby animals named; it’s much harder to send “Buddy” to the slaughterhouse.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Animal Issue, Bennett | Link to this Entry

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