At one time I used to buy a few calves. I’d get them from all over the place purchasing them off people I knew. I’d also buy them in Ulverston Auction Mart. The ‘calf ring’ was in a separate building and the buyers would stand round the ring and bid for the calf as the owner walked it into the ring. There wasn’t a lot of room because you’ve got a circular ring in a long narrow building. At one point you could have three or four rows of people watching the calves sold, but because people had to walk through that area as well, you could perhaps get three rows. People liked to stand there because you could get a good look at the calf as it walked into the ring.
Anyway I was standing there one day, I was in the ‘third’ row. There was the row hogging the ringside, a row of people behind them, a bit of a gap with people passing backwards and forwards, and then the third row, us, leaning on the wall. It wasn’t a problem, I’m tall enough and could see what I needed to see.
Anyway, one of the chaps walking through the gap between us was a dwarf. I sort of knew him, in fact he’s the only dwarf I’ve ever really met. He was part of a farming family and as far as I knew, he just earned his living farming.
Now in front of me was a young lady, a farmer’s daughter, who was watching the calves being sold. From memory they had a dairy herd and she was the one who brought the calves in for sale. As the dwarf made his way up between the rows, he pinched the young lady’s bottom.
Immediately she swung round and brought her hand round to slap the face of whoever had done this. Luckily working with livestock keeps your reflexes sharp, and I managed to get my left hand up to block her strike. Without saying a word I just pointed down with my right hand to the dwarf. She looked down, saw him, and burst out laughing. I think he was a neighbour, she certainly knew him. Anyway she apologised to me and we went back to watching the sale.
The problem with this tale is that it involves looking back on a world that no longer exists. In 2001 with foot and mouth, obviously the auction mart was closed. Then when the movement restrictions were lifted, the mart was still closed. I needed calves so had a brainwave. I would contact those farmers whose stock I’d purchased through the mart and buy calves off them direct. At least until the government opened the markets again.
Except that when I contacted the small dairy farmers who I’d traded with, they had, without exception, gone out of milk. There was a large demand for milk cows in the north of the county, and all the small farmers who farmed along the southern border of the Lake District had just taken the opportunity offered and had sold their dairy herds north. After all, economically they were marginal. Instead of the milk cows they kept some beef cattle and upped their sheep numbers. This meant that they could also get a day job as well, and finally get a bit of financial security.
And as we were talking about Gentlemen behaving badly
As a reviewer commented, “Another great set of stories as told by jobbing poet Tallis Steelyard. Fights abound and artists and poets are not the least amongst the fighters. I love these stories and sometimes think if someone were to drop me anywhere in Port Naain I could find my way, well, not home, but at least to Tallis and Shena’s barge. Jim Webster always gives us humour, wit and a wisdom he wears lightly. People like him should be running the country.”