Marilyn Bay and Mildred Bay

Marilyn Bay Wentz and Mildred Bay

Mildred and Marilyn Bay

Marilyn Bay graduated with a BA in Journalism and a minor in Spanish from the University of Northern Colorado. She edits two national agriculture publications, Bison World and Open Pastures. Prior to settling down in her native Colorado, she was general manager of the Taiwan public relations branch of Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising, then the world’s largest advertising agency, and also spent six months in rural Costa Rica. She is fluent in Spanish and speaks conversational Mandarin Chinese. She now operates Prairie Natural Lamb. She also enjoys training horses, is a certified Colorado 4-H horse show judge, and is active as an AWANA leader. Marilyn has authored a novel, Prairie Grace (Koehler). She enjoys her two daughters—Kelly, who is grown and married, and Shannon, who is in high school.

Mildred (Millie) Bay is Marilyn’s mother. She has lived in Colorado all her life except for two years in Fairbanks, Alaska. Millie has served as an AWANA leader, Sunday School teacher, member of Gideons International, and a 4-H leader. Millie has raised sheep for forty years, including lambing-out as many as 100 ewes per year. As a writer, she has had numerous articles published in local newspapers and several in the State Gideon Lamp. Millie is married to Marvin, and they have three grown daughters: Shelly, Marla, and Marilyn; and ten grandchildren.

Marilyn and Millie have co-authored ALL WE LIKE SHEEP.


Interview with Marilyn

Marilyn, what do you wish people understood about sheep?

Sheep are complex creatures with great individuality. Many of the behaviors that earn sheep the title “stupid” by the uninformed, such as flocking (grouping together tightly) and always desiring to enter and exit from the same gate or opening, are God-given instincts that help keep them safe. Sheep, like people, have distinct personalities.

How have you grown as a person through raising sheep?

They teach me patience. Anyone who works with animals will tell you things get accomplished on their timeline, not yours. It takes time to teach sheep new routines. Rushing them ultimately costs more or takes more time than taking the time to teach them within the parameters of their natural instincts. I also find that God uses my sheep flock to remind me of my limitations. Just when I think I have it all figured out, I get a lamb I can’t pull (deliver) or encounter an illness or injury I’ve never seen before.

Will you share a funny experience with sheep?

For my first year of showing sheep at the Weld County Fair in Greeley, Colorado, as a little girl, my mom had outfitted me in Wrangler jeans and a pink Western shirt with lots of pink lace ruffles. By the time I got into the show ring for the last time, it was late at night, so I wasn’t paying attention when the lamb I was showing started to nibble at those ruffles. By the time, I realized what he was doing, the ruffles were nearly dragging on the ground.

How did you choose which stories to include in All We Like Sheep?

My criteria were: 1) stories that would interest non-sheep people, and 2) what the experience taught me about God, myself, or my relationships with other people.

What do you look forward to most when you wake up in the morning?

I enjoy a steaming cup of coffee, time in Scripture communing with the Lord, and seeing my expectant woollies waiting—not always so patiently—for me to feed them. During lambing time, the young lambs are cute and playful, and each time I go out to the barn there is the possibility of finding just-born lambs. Lambing season is also hard, due to the increased workload, which includes checking the ewes several times during the night for new or difficult births.

What surprising thing did you learn from writing a book?

I was reminded about the power and appeal of a good story. Our first draft of the book was written in a more traditional devotional format. It was at first demoralizing, then lots of work, then very satisfying to re-write the manuscript so that each chapter was a story. Thanks to our editor Catherine Lawton’s insistence on our telling a good story, All We Like Sheep first entertains, then teaches and inspires the reader.

Most writers are also readers. From which writers do you personally find the most inspiration?

My all-time favorite novelist is Lynn Austin. I also like Sandra Dallas. C.J. Box is an amazing adventure writer. I appreciate the wholesome, emotion-evoking fiction of Charles Martin and Nicolas Sparks.

Do you have a favorite quote from one of those authors?

In one of C.J. Box’s novels a killer has infiltrated the state’s game warden structure by posing as a new hire. When Joe Pickett realizes this, he says something like, “I should have been suspicious of him when he came to that barbecue at my house and asked for his steak well done and thanked me for the ‘soda’.” Those of us who grew up rural in Colorado totally get what he means. We eat steak medium rare and drink ‘pop’. This line endeared me to C.J. Box’s writing, and it also taught me the importance of understanding down to the core what I write about.

What is your favorite way to relax?

I’m not a sit-on-the-couch type of gal. I read some at night but mostly listen to audio books on Play-Aways while I clean stalls, repair the barn or fences, or tend the garden. I love to ride and work with horses. My go-to horse is a 14-year-old Quarter-horse mare that is the great-great granddaughter of a horse I got at age nine. Though it’s physically demanding, I find training and riding horses relaxing.

Besides raising sheep, you’re a trained and active journalist regularly meeting deadlines. What made you decide to start writing a full-length book?

I write newsletters, news releases, brochures, magazine articles, etc., as part of my business, so when I am done with that, I feel like getting up and doing something more active. However, I have dozens of book-length ideas in my imagination. At one point, I felt the Lord said, “Just get on with it, Marilyn.” I did, and within a year, someone suggested I attend the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. There I met my publisher Cathy Lawton of Cladach Publishing. She was unable to take on my first book, a historical novel. Not long after I went under contract with another publisher, she contacted me about All We Like Sheep, a second book idea I had pitched to her. A good thing about my journalist training and work is that I don’t wait so much for inspiration or being in the mood to write. I’m more practical. I know I have a deadline, and I know what I need to do to meet it.

Do you have plans to write more books?

I’m about a third of the way through a sequel to my frontier novel. As far as writing more non-fiction, who knows? Maybe more sheep stories—or “lessons from the horse-training pen”!

Interview with Mildred

Millie, tell us about how you came to raise sheep in Colorado.

My love of sheep began when I was 12 and joined 4-H. Since my family lived in a small town, my brothers and I were limited to the number of sheep we could have. Our awesome neighbors never complained about the noise, the smell, or the flies. When I left home as a young adult, there followed several sheepless years. I became lonely for my lambs after 4 years in college, 2 years in Alaska, and 6 years in various small towns where my husband was the Ag (Agriculture) teacher. After I got married and we had 3 daughters I convinced my husband that we needed some sheep for our daughters’ 4-H projects. So we purchased 5 Southdown ewes as a starter, and our flock grew slowly from there to over 100 ewes. After 40 years my back began deteriorating and the doctor was adamant that I needed to quit the “ heavy lifting, etc.” So I slowly decreased my flock. Finally, I reached the point that I could “let them go” and the remnants moved down to my daughter’s farm. Now, each summer and fall, we pasture a few of Marilyn’s lambs that need to be “grass-fattened” for her business. Our farm is located within 1/2 mile of the farms where my grandfather farmed, and another where my mom’s uncle farmed. My husband, Marvin, currently farms nearly 800 acres in Eaton, Colorado. He retired from teaching aviation at Aims Community College for 33 years, and has always been supportive of my love of sheep. Our whole family has worked together in raising sheep.

What is the most difficult part of working with sheep?

Having to get up out of a nice warm bed in the middle of the night every 3 – 4 hours during lambing season to check for newborn lambs and ewes in the process of birthing lambs. Since we always lambed in the winter, it sometimes was very cold and windy. … Brrrrr. … Vaccinating time and shearing time were challenging, too. But we always had plenty of help!

What do you wish more people understood about sheep?

It aggravates me to hear someone say “sheep are stupid.” They are just like people … some are quite bright, and others, not so much.

Will you share a funny experience with sheep?

I always think of the ewe named Scotch (her story on pg. 41 of All We Like Sheep) who ran away from home one day, taking her favorite lamb with her.

What do you look forward to most each morning?

First of all, I need a cup of coffee; then I have Bible reading and time of prayer; then I watch a little news to find out what’s going on in the world. Nowadays, the few sheep I have are mostly on pasture. I do look forward to seeing their anticipation as I enter the barn later in the day and throw leafy green chunks of hay into their feeder. In the evening, the lambs will be out grazing far down in the pasture, so I call them, “Here babies!“ and whistle. It really boosts my spirits when I hear the rustling grass and excited baaas as they come racing in excitedly from the pasture.

How did you choose which stories to include in All We Like Sheep?

I chose the most memorable events and escapades of my various sheep. I had many favorite sheep over the years.

What is your favorite way to relax?

Go out to the barn and talk to my animals. (Currently I have sheep, chickens, and cats.)

How did you get started writing?

I’ve written a lot of articles about family reunions, etc., for the local newspapers, inspirational articles for the “Gideon Lamp,” and wrote feature articles for the college newspaper when I was a student. I took a course through the Institute of Children’s Literature and wrote children’s stories. But this is the first book I’ve been involved in.

Do you have plans to write more books?

At this point, I have no plans; but who knows? I have thoughts of writing more children’s stories; perhaps a children’s devotional book?

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