It was shearing day yesterday. For weeks I have been leaving pleading messages on the Gribbles’ ansphone to do the job, with no reaction. The Gribbles are the best local shearers, but much in demand as well as being tricky to get hold of. I was almost resigned to doing the job myself – anybody who’s read ‘Tales from a Stone Cottage’ will know that I don’t find shearing as easy as it looks when I see a proper shearer at a county show. Sheep I’ve sheared look like rejects from Crufts and won’t speak to me for months.
But to my joy the phone rang at crack of dawn yesterday and a gravel voice said (and I quote): “Oil’ll be over yurr place inna ar to do them ship o’yurn”.
Panic stations! If Mr Gribble was arriving in an hour festooned with shearing kit, I needed the sheep in the stable. And I could see them out of the window grazing in a distant field, as far from the stable as it was possible for them to be. It is essential, with my sheep, not to exhibit the slightest sign of tension, or they are gone. So despite myself I ambled out to the stable and pottered around there, pretending to be innocently enjoying the early morning sun. The sheep were intrigued, and came nearer. When they were close enough to see, I produced my trump card: a small feed, and placed it casually inside the stable. The sheep like feed. So they swarmed into the stable, I swung the door and huzzah! I had them and the day was going to be a success.
Sheep are funny things. Mine are more intelligent than many, for instance Foxie can climb into a tractor and Teazle can shake hands. But when they see feed, everything else goes out of their minds. You could see the woolly thought lodging beneath the ears: “FEED! Feed feed feed feed feed!” Then when they had finished it, they looked round and saw the shut stable door. “Ah!” Or I suppose more realistically, “Baa!” And then they just switched off and waited on events.
Mr Gribble does a quick and efficient job. He’s gentle with the girls and trims their toenails too, but I can’t say they enjoy the whole process. Later on, when they were back out in the sun again looking svelte and gazelle like (big change from the battered old slappers who had gone into the stable), I wandered down to have a chat. I thought they might see me, say “Eek, false turncoat! Betrayer of sheep!” and run. But they didn’t. They said “Here comes nice food lady!” and came galloping to greet me in case I had another feed for them. They even threw in a few dance steps because they were feeling light and airy.
All in all yesterday was one of the better shearing days.