I haven’t of late written anything specifically for posting here on the blog, so I will now.
But it won’t be about education or politics. No creative writing ideas either. Not another poem.
It is about showing a heifer.
In the late ‘70s I worked on a very large farm in Suffolk for three years. In this time I became a highly skilled tractor driver and fork-lift aficionado as well as a professional irrigater from laying basic moveable sprinkler system pipes to using the latest [at that time] equipment like a self-propelled ‘Dolphin’ system and a ‘whirligig’ – not a brand name – huge helicopter-arm irrigation machine driven onto the fields to spray great gushing circles of water. I also did so many more rustic jobs from winter potato riddling – including bagging, threading and stacking 112lb hessian sacks of spuds – to winter man-harvesting of sugar beet with a special handheld puller and knife.
Then there was feeding the animals, especially early morning tractor-filling troughs for the cows with maize silage [the glorious sweet-rot of it]; mucking out the animals – tractor with front loader in the large sheds and by hand in the smaller; chainsaw felling of trees for making into fencing posts; farm fencing, including putting in our own posts [no concrete used] and bracing corners with natural, hand-axed wood wedging; making a horse lunging ring by hand and sight…
…and there I am lyrically waxing, which isn’t genuinely what I meant to do, but it is fun to recall and I am proud of the range of experiences and skills I acquired, but rather than continue with accounts of more, I should mention a few jobs I didn’t do, like
milking cows; showing heifers.
That is until The Suffolk County Show one summer of seventy something. I have no recall how I was persuaded to or why, but I was asked if I would show one of the farm’s Frisians at the Suffolk County Show and I agreed, probably because it was a day off from the routine. Something new. Something simple.
I also have no other memory of events leading up to the showing or anything else to do with the Show other than that showing, which I will recount in a minute as I remember this very well, but I do have these pictures of me at the tent and then with my heifer, number 979, right at the beginning of my showing her in the Show ring in front of quite a few people, maybe in the hundreds around the entire four sides of the arena:
Not in either of these two pictures, but I think at the same time, a young boy between I would guess and remember 10-12 years old, was leading and showing a bull. A full-grown massive bull, being led by the boy holding on to the bull’s nose ring with a rope, a rope similar to the one I am using to lead my heifer.
Events like these have their traditions and protocols and one of these is for those doing the leading/showing to wear a clean white coat, and I am wearing mine. You can see the judges in their smart suits and bowler hats in the background. All very prim and precise.
The rest is history and that is all I remember. Nothing between the second picture and the only subsequent event I vividly recall and which, thankfully, was not photographed – or perhaps it was and I just don’t have a copy. My heifer decided to go independent. Remember – in all the time I had worked on the farm and of all the highly skilled and often quite complex, demanding jobs I had perfected, showing a heifer was not one of them. I had never walked a heifer. I didn’t this time either, not very far.
The heifer took off. My one and only mistake – I don’t believe I made any error whatsoever to prompt the heifer to run – was to hold on to the rope. Hold on with the strength the many demanding jobs on the farm had nurtured me physically to do. So I was running with the heifer. Do you know how fast a heifer can run? It was certainly much faster than me. But I held on. I even held on when I tripped and fell and was dragged to the ground.
Can you imagine how much shit is lying on a showground where animals are being paraded all day? That khaki, liquid green primarily of cows? And do you remember the white show coat I was wearing?