You know what it is, one of those occasions when you’re not sure whether you want to laugh or just disappear quietly and hope everybody else is too embarrassed by their part in the events ever to mention them again.
But it was really just one of those things. I’d be about fifteen and like pretty well every farmer’s son (or at least livestock farmer’s son) when not at school I tended to help out a fair bit. Indeed there were various jobs which were planned around school holidays.
But one job everybody ends up doing is standing in junctions making sure that livestock turn in the right direction. So it was no surprise that at about 4pm one Saturday afternoon I was standing in the lane at the top of our drive turning dairy cows into the yard as they walked down the road.
What was a surprise was that at this point, the headmaster of the school I attended should walk down the lane with his wife and daughter. Now Fred Robinson might not have been the best headmaster in the world. I genuinely wouldn’t know, I never worked for him. But one thing he did was he made sure he knew every boy in his school. In the first year (we had 90 boys a year come into the school and they were divided into three classes) he taught one class Biology, one class Chemistry (because they’re what he taught before his elevation to the pinnacle of absolute power) and the third class he taught Religious Education. So at the end of the year he knew every boy in that year.
All this meant for me on this occasion was that there was no way I could fain ignorance of who he was. Also in spite of my jeans, torn shirt and battered baseball cap (the perfect accessories for dirty wellies) he was going to recognise me.
So he said ‘Good Afternoon’ and I explained why it wasn’t wise to proceed, due to a herd of dairy cows somnambulantly meandering down to road towards us and he and his two companions stood next to me to watch the spectacle.
Now cows are inherently curious. They will walk up to people who appear non-threatening. They will sniff them, they will even try and curl their tongue round the edge of a garment and pull it into their mouth whilst they chew it, meditatively. Anyway half a dozen stopped to look at these people I had with me and one walked that step further, stuck its neck out and lowered its head to sniff the headmaster.
Now there’s no point sniffing something if your nose is blocked is it. So it snorted out what seemed like a pint of the stuff all over his coat.
I kept my eyes firmly forward and made sure I didn’t see it. The rest of the cows came along as did my father, accompanied, for the purpose of training, by young Lassie, our young Border Collie. She wasn’t really old enough to work, but was a bit more than a pup. But she could learn her trade walking behind dairy cows. Now Border Collies can be a bit standoffish, I’ve been told it’s because they have a small natural ‘pack’ size, and anyone not in the ‘pack’ (which is basically just the family they live with) is to be regarded as hostile or at least a damned nuisance.
But when they’re young, especially when they’re on farms and don’t see many people anyway, strange people are an exciting novelty. So Lassie bounded over towards this group of strange people. Now it has to be admitted that I was probably too traumatised by what had happened previously to realise what was going to happen next. Young Border Collies like their ears tickling, they like to talk to you, to look you in the eyes and be friends. But they’re not what you’d call a big dog. So they achieve this by jumping up and placing their front feet on an appropriate part of your anatomy. The fact that Lassie hadn’t wiped her feet after following sixty milk cows down a muddy lane explains the state of her feet, and the muddy footprints she left on the trouser suit of the Headmaster’s daughter.
My Father restored order with the words “Siddown ya bluidy dog,” and she trotted back to look after the cows. I made my excuses and left.
Obviously I am on the road to recovery from this experience, however I’m self-funding the counselling by selling books at a reasonable price. If your conscience has been troubled by this story then you can help by purchasing one of these books.
Perhaps you’d like to look at
(Available in paperback or on Kindle) or any of the other fine works that are mentioned on my author page