I made a beckoning sign with my hands and the livestock truck reversed back a bit further, stopping just short of the barn doors. I couldn’t help but feel pleased with myself. As my husband had run out of the house in a hurry earlier, he had yelled something about me meeting the lorry, and that all the paperwork was on the hay bale. Presumably, all I needed now was a signature and the last of the lambs would leave the premises.
I noticed that the driver was one of the bosses at the butchers’. He pulled the ramp down from the back of the lorry and I stood between it and the open sheep barn door, preventing the lambs from escaping, and trying to look as though I did this sort of thing every day. He positioned the wooden barrier and tied it. Then he walked half way up the ramp and waited. I stopped congratulating myself. Was he expecting ME to herd them onto the lorry?
Staring at the dozen or so lambs in the pen before me, I suddenly had a doubt. They were big now; thigh high and they looked stronger than I remembered. They would need some physical manhandling and firm coaxing to get them up that ramp. Of course, I knew what I had to do: grab a back leg with one hand and hold the neck with the other, whilst giving them a good shove in the right direction with my knee. Unfortunately, I had never actually tried it. My experience in the sheep barn had never been very “hands on”.
I hesitated, looking at the butcher. Should I jump into their midst and prove my incompetence at first hand, or should I just let me him get on with it and risk being thought downright lazy; the ultimate insult in the farming world.
He must have sensed my indecision and threw me a surprised look. As if being foreign wasn’t bad enough, apparently I didn’t know the back end of a lamb from the front. He stamped back down the ramp in his white wellies, grabbed hold of the lambs by their tails and pushed them unceremoniously one by one into the lorry. Before he left, I handed over the paperwork and with a “bonne journée” he drove off.
I watched him go and turned back towards the sheep barn. Dust from straw and hay billowed out in a thick, hazy cloud setting my allergies off. As I closed the doors, my eyes started swelling and I began to sneeze.