September 18, 2008

Denys McCracken: Daft Laddie Days – Dressin the yowes

By Denys McCracken

Dressin the yowes

The bosses of these hill farms were two tow perfectionists. When it came near to the half-bred draft yowe sales at Hawick, I as the Daft Laddie from the hill farm had to go and help the lowland shepherd get them ready. First of all they were dipped in an ancient recipe mix that the boss had used for years.

This involved building a fire and boiling some secret component and mixing it with "bloom" dip and liquid soap. The end result was a flock of light cream ewes – all identical in their pristine splendour with the potential to top the mart, which would bring the bosses great prestige and profit. Divn't forget the profit!

The lowland shepherd had been dressin these special yowes for weeks and on arrival I was appointed as the "holder" of them for the final dressing. Next day we whitened their faces and legs with shoe whiting and oiled their hooves with dark oil. Then a little black circle was put on each cheek in a very precise spot by the shepherd. I never found out what this mystical mark portrayed, and of course dared not ask.

The next day before the sale the bosses came with an old wooden spade handle cut down to make a D, and a tin of red post office paint was put into an old baking tin. While I held the yowe, the boss would put a red bar from hip bone to hip bone. They had finished one old tin of paint on the first dozen or so sheep, and I was told to get the new tin off the post at the entrance to the fads (pens).

I pushed my way through about 120 excited yowes and picked it off the post and waded back again. Half way across the pen I tripped and down I went. The tin flew out of my hand and of course some idiot had loosened the lid. The paint flew across the sheep and they in terror, seeing me floundering on the ground, rubbed it against each other well and truly.

I got to my feet and explained that I was terribly sorry but I thought the lid was on. The boss was speechless for a while and then screamed - "Your're always bloody well thinking and never use your brains"! Remember the first law of physics which says that Daft Laddies cannot win.

As a result the boss could only sell 35 instead of the 150 top yowes he had planned and the man from Kent who always paid top price for them on the day bought somebody else's sheep.

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