You have to admit that Sheep are not perhaps the brightest of God’s creatures. Now this isn’t blind prejudice, this is bitter experience talking. I willingly admit that by preference I’m a cattle man. Indeed in my world the term ‘cowboy’ is a professional designation, not a term of abuse hurled at a builder.
But still even sheep have their moments. Somewhere in that complex morass of instincts, pre-programmed subroutines and overriding urges to die, there appear to be occasional flashes of thought.
Last night it was pretty grim, storm Barbara came through with constant strong winds and occasional rain. Admittedly the rain wasn’t constant, but at one point it was a wall of water blasting across the yard. Still we’ve got small fields and pretty well anybody left outside can get decent shelter.
But this morning when I went to check sheep the last bunch I looked at was a bunch of old ewes down on our bottom ground. It doesn’t flood, but it can stand water, and it can be pretty squelchy under foot.
So as I squelched my way across it, accompanied by Sal who is a Border Collie bitch who doesn’t particularly like walking through water. Anyway we finally found the ewes, they’d obviously taken one look at the weather, decided that the other four horsemen of the Apocalypse would be along any minute and had headed for higher ground. Now to be fair it wasn’t all that much higher, but it is sandy and is firmer under foot. So it’s probably more comfortable for them.
So there they stood, glaring at Sal. She wandered closer to them, following one scent or another and one ewe had the temerity to stamp a front foot at her. Now you do have to worry about the survival abilities of a species where the first line of defence is to emulate the toddler tantrum and stamp your foot at somebody. Mind you their second line of defence is to lower their head and charge things.
A neighbour had a couple of Shetland ponies, and in winter we’d let them into a field of ours. It gave his paddock a rest and it wasn’t as if two Shetlands are going to do any damage to seven acres of grass.
But this particular winter we had a cow who’d fallen and done the splits. She was now out on grass recovering, with a couple of calves on her to drink the milk. Each day I’d walk across the field to give her some feed. Each day, old Boz, our dog at the time would accompany me, and each day one of the ponies would attack Boz.
Now the pony was a little thug (Shetlands suffer from this) and would just put his head down and charge the dog. Unfortunately from the pony’s point of view, a charging Shetland appears to have the turning circle of an oil tanker. Boz didn’t actually condescend to notice his attack. The old dog would just speed up very slightly, or slow down very slightly, and the pony would miss and would go thundering past and would take fifty yards to slow down, turn round, and aim for the next attack.
Mind you it isn’t just the lesser breeds without the law who use this form of attack; I’ve had cattle charge me. On one occasion we were getting twenty-two dairy heifers out of a field. Lassie, my dog at the time, fetched them down the field to the gate, and twenty-one went through the gate and one turned in the gateway and ran back up the hill. This heifer was, to use a technical term, ‘radged’. It was a certifiable nutcase, and its bad attitude ensured that it was destined for burgers not breeding. Lassie ran across the front of it to turn it. It ran over her. Lassie ran back across the front of it and grabbed its nose. Heifer shook its head and Lassie flew across the field, back feet first.
The dog had had enough. She hurled herself at the heifer’s back feet and dogged it all the way up the field, turned it against a big hedge, and dogged it all the way back down the hill to the gate. In the gateway the heifer turned on her heels and charged over the dog and back up the hill. Lassie set off after her again.
In this process I’d been running up and down the hill, trying to keep up with the action and if possible help the dog. Finally I caught up with them and it was like the start of the Shootout at the OK Corral. The dog and the heifer were staring each other out, neither wanting to make the first move, but both determined they weren’t going to back down. Then when I appeared the heifer saw me and decided I was the easier target. So she put her head down and charged me. As she came at me I could see she was so tired she was swaying so I just sidestepped and pushed her over. She went down in a snotty heap and I knelt on her head to hold her down until somebody fetched a rope and we led her out of the field on the rope.
Anyway, I hope you all have a good Christmas and hope that any problems that crop up are soluble in sherry and good company.
Rather than a card I thought I’d send you a Christmas Present. If you click on the link below you should download one of my shorter short stories as a free pdf
All the best.