Working with livestock keeps your reflexes sharp.


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.”



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22 thoughts on “Working with livestock keeps your reflexes sharp.

  1. rugby843 December 21, 2019 at 4:33 pm Reply

    I needed this story today, thank you!

    • jwebster2 December 21, 2019 at 4:45 pm Reply

      all part of the service 🙂

  2. Jacquie Biggar December 21, 2019 at 7:17 pm Reply

    Lol, good thing your dwarf friend hadn’t disappeared into the crowd before you could point out the culprit!

    • jwebster2 December 21, 2019 at 7:36 pm Reply

      luckily I don’t think he had any thoughts of disappearing. He was grinning too much 🙂

  3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt December 21, 2019 at 9:29 pm Reply

    I don’t get it. Because he was a dwarf, he shouldn’t be slapped for assault? And she’s supposed to laugh it off? It wasn’t okay when I was younger.

    • jwebster2 December 21, 2019 at 9:33 pm Reply

      I was a bystander who didn’t know the relationship. So I cannot comment on that. All I knew is that when she saw who did it she genuinely burst out laughing.

  4. Stevie Turner December 22, 2019 at 10:07 am Reply

    In Bury St. Edmunds they used to have a cattle market for years. It eventually went about 10 years’ ago and is now a car park with the apt name of the ‘Cattle Market Car Park’. I could never understand what the auctioneer was saying as he spoke very fast. Did you have that trouble? I’ll re-blog this entertaining story. Thanks Jim.

    • jwebster2 December 22, 2019 at 1:59 pm Reply

      I know a lady who was auctioneer’s secretary in several marts down the east side, I don’t know if she was ever at Bury St. Edmunds.
      She used to lead cattle through the town to the mart, controlling both cattle and drovers with deft flicks of a handkerchief.
      When it comes to understanding the auctioneer, you do ‘have to get your ear in’
      But once you’ve got it, it’s easier to get back to.
      Selling livestock is always done far faster than other things, just so stuff isn’t in the ring too long and you can move them through. Hearing the same auctioneer selling land instead of cattle, he slows down a lot 🙂

      • Stevie Turner December 22, 2019 at 4:25 pm

        I remember standing there with the farmers, and everyone knew what was going on except me. There was a lovely old roundhouse too, where the farmers paid their bills. Don’t know what happened to that. It’s all been concreted over.

      • jwebster2 December 22, 2019 at 5:10 pm

        I suspect it would just have been demolished, no developer would have wanted it

  5. Stevie Turner December 22, 2019 at 10:09 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Stevie Turner and commented:
    Thanks Jim for the laugh on a wet Sunday morning. Are you sure it was the dwarf though (ha ha)?

    • jwebster2 December 22, 2019 at 1:56 pm Reply

      I am, after a fashion, a gentleman 🙂

      • Stevie Turner December 22, 2019 at 4:25 pm

        I’m sure you are, Jim.

      • jwebster2 December 22, 2019 at 5:09 pm


  6. Darlene December 22, 2019 at 10:58 am Reply

    A cute story. My father certainly spent a lot at the livestock auctions, either buying, selling or just hanging with his farmer buddies. They still have them in Canada. I think the dwarf and the woman knew each other and both had a good sense of humour. xo

    • jwebster2 December 22, 2019 at 1:55 pm Reply

      They were a very important past of the social scene for a lot of people. FMD meant that the society which supported them grew smaller
      Economically it’s tough but I think they’re surviving, socially, they’ve taken a big hit

  7. jenanita01 December 22, 2019 at 11:23 am Reply

    You sure have some oddly amusing memories, Jim…

    • jwebster2 December 22, 2019 at 1:54 pm Reply

      It has to be confessed that I do indeed 😉

      • jenanita01 December 22, 2019 at 6:08 pm

        And they make such interesting reading…

      • jwebster2 December 22, 2019 at 6:16 pm

        some of them I have to pass on to Tallis 😉

  8. parkermccoy December 23, 2019 at 12:16 am Reply

    Haha. Very good story! Made me laugh and that’s the mark of a good story in my opinion. Thanks for posting!

    • jwebster2 December 23, 2019 at 7:02 am Reply

      yes, it’s a big plus 🙂

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