Of Yows and Cows
and People in White Coats
new way of life out here in the sticks is terrific! The grass is
green, the air is clean and most of the animals are charming.
I don't think the locals know much about farming. Imagine:
yesterday Conrad, the great big farmer who owns the fields around here, gave me a silly argument just
because I had removed
some dangerous looking spikes from one of his fences. It had
me the whole day - and he came and yanked the pliers from my
aching hands and yelled:
use is barbed wire without the barbs?"
explained patiently just how dangerous these
sharp and rusty
spikes could be and that they could hurt his cows when they
climbed the fences, but he just called me a raving lunatic and stomped
away. I was
so astonished, I forgot to ask for my pliers back!
As I listened to him disappear around the mountain, I
decided that I would definitely try to improve the lives of man and/or beast around here, whether they liked it or not.
house stands in the middle of a yow and cow
infested landscape - the perfect place for some advanced agricultural
experimentation. I read somewhere that milch cows produce more milk
when they are exposed to classical music. Apparently one Mozart
violin concerto can do the work of several bales of hay - and
contribution to modern agriculture has yet to be quantified.
decided that I could do even better. Our balcony overlooks a very large
the Roe Valley beyond the cliffs. Just then the field was
populated by dozens of pregnant ewes.
classical music really
improves milk production" I decided, "Conrad will soon have the fattest
lambs in the
very day I installed my giant 5000 Watt
hifi speakers on the
balcony - aiming them in the direction of the
unsuspecting animals. "If Mozart is good, Bruckner is
better" I reasoned, and selected Anton's eighth symphony, to be played
volume - six times.
overall sound effect was terrific and
surpassed my most optimistic expectations. A powerful echo bounced off
the mountain and when these reverberating sound waves combined
with the crescendos blasting from our balcony, the resultant
engulfed the field like the trumpets of doom - almost certain to
double milk production in seconds.
some peculiar reason, most of the birds
working the area decided to walk home rather than fly, which
suggested an entirely new area of audio-agricultural research!
all this stimulating noise about" I
"these sheep won't need any food at all". This theory was soon verified
because the yows stopped munching and just stood there with glazed eyes
mouths tightly shut - determinedly grinding their teeth.
the end of the fourth repeat of the last movement a certain
restlessness set in and when the grand finale echoed off the
noble heights of Benevenagh, quite a few of the yows actually
jumped the fence and disappeared down the
cliff. This could have been a coincidence of course - maybe
they were just in the mood for sudden leaps and stupidly took the wrong
turn. For all I know they lost their way, as sheep do. I turned the
music off anyway - just in case.
echo took ten minutes to
hour later Conrad drove by in his massive Ferguson
tractor. When he noticed the diminished flock he cursed and examined
the fence closely: there were no gaps. He never looked over
the cliff though
and simply gathered the shocked survivors and drove them into
neigbouring field. Still muttering and shaking his head, he left some
spent the next day mowing the luscious
grass which rather
spoiled the looks of the big field. It had grown to such an extent that
it was actually waving in the wind and poor Conrad doesn't seem to have
the time to look after his lawns properly.
laboured for hours, using the new lawn
mower I had borrowed
from B&Q. I aimed for as smooth a cut as possible and even
to produce a rather fancy striped effect. When I surveyed my work in
the late afternoon the lawn looked like Wembley stadium just before the
big match. I threw the cuttings over the cliff where they very
conveniently covered up most of the dead sheep.
just tidied away the mower when Conrad
driving a herd of his famous Texas Longhorns - prize-winning animals of
which he is enormously proud. When he noticed the result of my labours
he was gratifyingly gob smacked. So were the animals after they tried
to get some nourishment
from the closely cropped lawn. Hungry steers are very noisy animals!
some peculiar reason Conrad became very
agitated and asked:
happened to my grass?"
was so long and damp" I explained "that
were bound to get wet feet, catch the flu and die. So I trimmed it."
looked as if he didn't believe either
me nor the
evidence of his own eyes and asked in a strangely quiet voice:
have you done with the cuttings? "
dumped them over the cliff.
I know how to clean up after myself! "
glanced over the cliff at the
below and asked suspiciously:
those my animals
sticking out of the grass?"
said I. "Some of them must have jumped
over the edge
yesterday. They seem to be easily confused."
you daft or just stupid?" yelled Conrad.
you like that? You try to do your best
and all you
get is yelling and abuse.
didn't reply because he looked so angry that I
thought he might resort to violence. As he stumped away with to
drive his hungry longhorns into another field down
road he yelled:
talk to you later - and it will be the
you ever hear!"
confused man! Hopefully - given time -
he will calm
down and see that I really have his interests in mind. After all, only
because he has lived in the country all his life, doesn't mean that he
is right ALL the time.
- for some peculiar reason - the lambs
were panicking. They live
on the other lawn that I don't dare to mow now, because of Conrad's
strange reaction yesterday. For some reason they suddenly started to
gang up together and run up and down the field like maniacs.
This looked highly dangerous and would most likely end with broken legs
or necks or worse. I didn't think that Conrad was ready to cope with
the loss of yet another herd and wondered what I could do
to help. Later on the lambs started to jump up into the air with funny
little jerks and decided that enough was
enough. I raced into the field and tried toI calm them
down but they just made a lot of noise and ran away even faster.
when I had my brilliant idea.
one I caught the young trouble makers
and by shoving
their little heads through the wire fence I managed to immobilize them.
Some of them struggled a bit, but most of them
seemed to appreciate my concerns and stopped struggling after
told it took me five hours to catch the
critters, but by sunset I could look proudly across a field
bordered by sixty-five little heads trapped in the wire fence and
safely at rest and quiet as lambs. I have to admit that their mothers
looked rather puzzled and set up such a racket, it nearly rivalled the
Bruckner performance of the other day. It was this that must have
in a hedge because I remembered how
had been yesterday. From there I watched him carefully in case he
signs of that fragile temper of his. Conrad spent the next
two hours undoing all
my hard work, head by little woolly head - all the while looking
furiously in the direction of our house.
my efforts hadn't been entirely
because the surviving lambs just staggered to their mothers for an
evening meal. No more dangerous running and jumping - they had
learned their lesson.
I felt that this just goes to show what
can be achieved when you really understand all about farm animals and
are not afraid to take corrective action!
Conrad walked off I heard him mutter:
or two, fair enough. But ALL of them?
In ONE afternoon????"
of his question marks were bigger than
was even more exciting.
way to town I drove past the field
populated by the
other day's longhorns. The splendid
beasts seemed to be very unhappy, didn't eat much and were all crowded
against the fence looking longingly at the field across the road.
grass yonder must be greener" I deduced
and there and
then decided to end their misery and set them free to look for some
decent food. I felt sure that this was what Conrad would have wanted me
to do. The grass across the road was probably of a superior quality and
have forgotten about this because of all the excitement of the
opened the gate and it was wonderful to
reaction! The animals raced to the opening and within seconds the road
was filled with grateful longhorns investigating what the rest of the
mountain had to offer. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to open the
gate into the other field because I slipped on something smelly and
fell flat on my face. By the time I was up and could breathe again,
half the animals were stampeding up the mountain while the rest
galloped down to the valley below.
was half stunned and the smell was sickening. Some of the
steers were eyeing me in a calculating way and one of them aimed his
horns in my
direction. As I turned to escape I glanced up the road. Half the herd
was tearing around the bend when they met a sudden obstacle. Several
large and expensive looking limousines accompanied by policemen on
motorbikes came racing down the mountain. A helicopter swooped above.
There was a sudden screeching of brakes as the unexpected tourists
spotted Conrad's prize-winning herd - but the road was very slippery by
now and the hill is very steep.
motor cyclists were the first to go down.
They were flung
off their mounts one by one but luckily most of them landed
softly because of all the cow shit. One of the limousines skidded
across the road - doors flying open - and came to rest against the gate
I had just opened. The others just drove on until they were stopped by
the enraged longhorns. Most of the animals survived the impact -
not a single car did.
explained what had happened to a smelly
policeman who had
limped over but he could hardly hear me
because of the sirens, the shouting, the cursing - and above all the
bellowing of the furious Texan bovines. Just as I finished my
explanation and the policeman had answered "I don't believe it", Conrad
came stalking up the road. He seemed to have developed a very fine
sense for abnormal sound effects.
going on?" he yelled.
policeman looked at Conrad, he looked at
me, he looked
at the steers.
"Are these your beasts, Sir?" said he.
answered Conrad. "How did they get out?
That is a
brand new double fence."
looked around and pointed at me:
that daft ejit doing here?"
smelly policeman's reply was interrupted by a loud and painful
scream. I looked around and noticed a rather well-dressed gentleman who
- whilst failing to escape from an enraged longhorn - was in the
process of having a most strategic part of his expensive suit pierced
by some very long horns. I
experienced a sudden wave of deep sympathy.
gave the policeman a questioning look.
the officer explained with a sigh, "is the
Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries for Northern Ireland. He is on
an inspection tour of the mountain!"
was short and amused silence as this
bit of local
news sank in. There are but a few sad fish on Mount Benevenagh, but the
sharp ends of agriculture can be found everywhere.
a mess" said the stinking officer.
gave us a hopeful look:
should really go and rescue that
was no reaction - in this particular
and I were in complete agreement. A steer is a steer but a minister is
just a politician, after all.
better try and rescue him then"
appealed the smelly officer. He knew
that he could
expect no help from his harassed colleagues because all around us his
friends from the ministerial detail were either giving each other first
aid or were clearing a small area of the field so that the helicopter
could land without manufacturing more hamburgers.
a carve-up!" groaned the officer as he ambled off.
However, the minister was luckier than he deserved, because Conrad
joined his reluctant rescuer and they bravely protected the ministerial
from any further bovine inflictions.
was all over and the helicopter with the emergency
surgeon treating the ministerial seat was thundering towards Gransha
Hospital - Conrad had a long talk with the noxious policeman. I think
finally starting to appreciate my help because he gave me, what I
thought was an encouraging look, before starting to round up what was
left of his longhorns.
thought about all that had happened I
but think that maybe I had been responsible for just a tiny fraction of
all that damage. I decided not to let that slow me down; after all,
practice makes perfect. I am already looking forward to tomorrow.