September 18, 2008

Denys McCracken: Daft Laddie Days – First job - dipping

By Denys McCracken

First job - dipping

I started working as a Daft Laddie at two farms in north Northumberland, working for a farmer and his son. They were supposed to teach me farming in return for my labour. Basically I was really "cheap labour" with little right to complain.

My first experience of any note was dipping. They had a tick-infested farm requiring a spring dipping to kill the brutes before they spread from ewe to lamb taking the virus disease "loupen ill" with them. So this meant that all the sheep on the farm all with a full heavy fleece had to be manhandled backwards into the dipper, and pushed fully under by Tom the shepherd standing in a hole beside the long bath.

The wool especially on the older pregnant yowes was not incredibly strong after the winter, so to pull them out of dip they sometimes needed Tom's help to climb the ramp and stand in the draining pen for while.

We were dipping the Blacface tups two of which were twins and they had very wide sets of horns. One of them got very worked up when in a small pen with only a few sheep and he saw man as his enemy. So he tended to charge, which could be quite uncomfortable if he caught you in some vulnerable part.

I thought I had grabbed the mad tup with the more sensible one left in the pen. I had just hauled him backwards by his loins waiting while Tom down in the hole was turning the previous one over ready to walk out.

Then I heard the unmistakable sound of a tup charging, and instinctively grabbed for his horns. He hit me behind the knees and over I went on top of the tup I had just pushed into the dip, and he landed right on top of me.

What a tidal wave followed in the battle to git oot of the foul dung-stained chemical brew before drowning with the tup! The smell clung to me for days no matter how many baths I had to try to get rid of it. I noticed that I didn't attract servant lassies or blue bottles for weeks!

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