2014-04-24 / Family
Famed Conejo photographer helps create kids’ book
Ed Lawrence co-writes ‘Lamb That Wanted To Be a Dog’
Sixties-era black-and-white photos by a renowned Conejo Valley photographer depict a strange sight: a lamb with a pack of dogs trailing behind a shepherd, the lamb’s kin a wide sea of white wool moving close together across grass and pavement in the Conejo Valley.
The rebellious lamb that shunned the herd is remembered in “The Lamb That Wanted To Be a Dog,” a children’s book co-authored by photographer Ed Lawrence and his friend Gerald Halweg.
Cordero, the lamb in the title (cordero is Spanish for lamb), narrates the story. The tale is brought to life by close to 40 photos taken by Lawrence in 1965, the year he focused his lens on the sheep that roamed the area’s green pastures.
The collection in the book includes his best-selling shot of a herd of sheep on Moorpark Road approaching Thousand Oaks Boulevard on a Sunday morning (see photo on page 30).
“This is a true story about a lamb that wanted to be a dog,” Lawrence said. “It was very unusual. He didn’t seem to want to go with the rest of the sheep.”
Halweg, now president and CEO of the Tile Institute of America, grew up on a farm in Iowa, where he was wakened many mornings by the sound of grazing sheep.
He said the docile animals were generally afraid of dogs.
“We never had a lamb that wanted to associate with our dogs,” he said. “(Cordero) was a little bit uncomfortable with the herd but very comfortable with dogs. The lamb took a liking to the dogs. It slept and ate with the dogs and not the herd.”
In several photos, the lamb and the dogs huddle around a bowl of food, their woolly and furry heads bowed as they partook of a friendly meal.
Some of the narrative takes a comedic turn, with a photo of the lamb, with two feet in the bowl, side by side with a dog sharing the food.
“We have to eat a lot because we pushed those sheep from south of the 101 to Lynn Ranch,” the shepherd says in the book. “‘Cordero, can you please keep your feet out of our bowl?’”
Another photo shows the lamb eating from the hands of a farmer, its front legs perched on the man’s knees, its hind legs on the ground. The caption: “I saw the sheep dogs begging for food, so why shouldn’t I try? And you know, it works!”
The bond between the sheep and the sheep dogs can be summed up by Halweg’s favorite line written for Cordero: “We were blessed, for we always had a shepherd and dogs to watch over and protect us from any harm.”
The shepherds recognized Cordero’s desire to leave the herd and treated the lamb like a pet, never shearing its wool and saving it from slaughter, Lawrence said.
“The dogs are so smart and wise, I want to be like them when I grow up—to lead instead of follow,”
Cordero says in the book.
The line is Lawrence’s favorite because it teaches a valuable lesson, he said.
“The lamb tells kids, I want to be something bigger and better,” said Lawrence, who forged his own unique path, snapping more than 17,000 photos of the Conejo Valley since the 1950s. His collection was purchased in 2011 by the city, the Thousand Oaks Library Foundation, the Conejo Recreation and Park District and California Lutheran University.
Lawrence and Halweg pored over the photo collection to find the best images to tell their story. Lawrence worked for Halweg as a photographer in the tile industry in the 1980s.
“It’s very, very unique to be able to capture the number of photos that Ed has captured with the lamb,” said Halweg, who sought input for the book from teachers and his seven grandchildren. “The fact that it is a true, historical story makes it a real delight. All of my children and grandchildren love this story because it’s real.”
The book took about a year to create, said the authors, and parents, grandparents and teachers have been buying multiple copies. It is dedicated to Lawrence’s late wife of 63 years, Marge, who was often by his side when he took photos.
“People are absolutely loving the book. We’ve had a phenomenal response,” Halweg said. “(The story evokes) an extremely warm, fuzzy feeling between man and animal and the relationship developed between the little lamb, shepherd and dog. They lived in harmony and peace. They just had a wonderful time.”
The cost of the book is $15, tax included. To purchase a copy, email Halweg at DoctorTile@aol.com. Copies are also sold at the Stagecoach Inn in Newbury Park, Frames By You in Thousand Oaks and Thousand Oaks Liquor Store and may eventually be sold on Amazon.