BY GABE LICHT
FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, MN “Is anyone in Delano missing a goat?” a member of the Delano MN Community Posts Facebook group asked June 18.
The comments poured in: some pointing out that the “goat” was, in fact, a sheep; some cracking jokes; and some offering suggestions of who owned it.
A day earlier, Milo Durben’s Soay sheep, named Caspian a nod to Prince Caspian from the “Chronicles of Narnia” series had gone missing.
He reached out to his neighbors, one of them showed him the post, and he was able to contact the poster, who shared his phone number with potential sheep spotters.
His number was also included in an entry in the Delano Herald Journal under the heading “A sheep on the lam,” which is how Durben had described the situation.
“People were laughing and saying, ‘I saw it in the paper that he was on the lam,’’ Durben said.
Durben said he received eight phone calls detailing at least 10 sightings over the next 18 days, confirming that Caspian had not left the area near the intersection of Wright County Road 30 and Calder Avenue.
“He was there, and we tried chasing him with seven people and a dog,” Durben said.
Despite running away from those trying to catch him, Caspian essentially stayed put.
“He stayed in that area the whole time. The water funneled him that way. I knew he had to go that way,” Durben said. “It was crazy that he literally stayed in that area. I thought for sure he would keep going.”
The farthest Caspian got from leaving the area was crossing County Road 30 to a nearby farm, as evidenced by hoof prints on that property.
“He kept coming back. He must’ve felt safe by the horses,” Durben said, noting that Caspian had gotten accustomed to being near horses since Durben brought him from Smoky Buttes Ranch in north central Kansas to his Seven Oaks farm in October 2017.
As the days ticked by, Durben worried about him being a nuisance, or worse, being eaten by a coyote or hit by a vehicle.
“I wanted to be home with him and have him back where he’s supposed to be, and not just running around,” Durben said.
That finally happened July 5.
Durben spotted Caspian while driving to Delano from his Franklin Township hobby farm, taking a route that went by where the ram had been spotted.
“He was in the bean field on the south side of the property,” Durben said. “I called (my son) Zach, and he ran over with the ATV.”
In the meantime, Durben continued toward Delano to purchase a muskie net that he thought could be used to help catch Caspian.
“By the time I got there, Zach was crouched down, trying to coax him to him, and he almost caught him,” Durben said. “Then, he ran into the woods.”
With the help of neighbor Josh Gabrelcik, Durben went toward the front of the property.
“He came up the hill. I said, ‘There he is, Josh,’” Durben said. “I was going to go to the right because, the last time, he went in front of their house. I was going to go that way, and Josh said, ‘He ran into the round pen!’”
With that exclamation, Gabrelcik leapt over a fence and slammed the gate shut.
That didn’t keep Caspian from sticking his head through the gate, causing Durben to worry about him escaping again, but his chest was too big to get through the opening, and Zach was able to grab him.
“We got lucky he went into that round pen,” Durben said.
The capture didn’t materialize quite the way Durben thought it might.
“I wish it would’ve been more dramatic, with him lassoing from the ATV,” he said.
Durben was surprised that Caspian stayed away as long as he did.
“I thought he would’ve come back home because of the five females,” Durben said.
He was relieved to have him home, despite the amount of time he was gone.
“I can’t believe he survived that long,” Durben said.
He smirks at the irony of how friendly Caspian can be, despite escaping and being skittish for so long when he was evading those trying to catch him.
“The other day, he was letting me pet him,” Durben said. “Where was this when we were trying to catch him?”