Saturday, November 11, 2006


Because Potdoll demanded it – here’s the story about the day I spent getting sprayed with hot cow shit, straight from the horse’s mouth.

There are times when I get a little jaded about the industry, but I soon snap out of it. It’s the self-aggrandizement that gets me. This may be an unpopular thing to say, and may have me chased through the North London streets by angry writers wielding flaming torches and pitchforks, but the entertainment industry isn’t really vital.

It doesn’t clothe us, feed us, or keep us warm. But that said, entertaining and informing people is a good thing. It keeps a good proportion of people off the street and out of mischief. I mean, since the invention of television, the east coast of England hasn’t seen angry Vikings steaming ashore to rape and pillage the locals. So it must be doing something right.

While I have a very low threshold for dealing with the bullshit that sneaks up, working indoors at a computer or out with a camera is still far better than real back-breaking manual labour. Which is something I certainly don’t have especially fond memories of.

Amongst my folks numerous businesses when I was growing up were two farms, about five years apart, on the eastern edge of Dartmoor. Both at a time when I was old enough to be useful, which meant I didn’t have a particularly happy face when school term ended because it meant months of hard work, rather than just the weekends.

The first was purely raising livestock for slaughter, the second arable and livestock. The thing with cattle is they’re inquisitive buggers. And they love a good bonfire, lining up to breath in the sparks and the smoke.

Left to graze, they have to be counted twice a day, morning and evening. Pretty soon I discovered that cattle fall into one of three categories:

Category one cattle want nothing to do with humans and ignore them.

Category two cattle are inquisitive enough to sidle over but don’t have the guts to come right up to humans.

Category three cattle are pleased to see you and come right over, acting almost like a pet. A great big meat and muscle pet.

Category three cattle would stroll over when I had to do the head count. They’d come for a scratch behind their ears, lick my hand with their thick sandpapery tongue and follow me around the field, seriously messing up the count. They’d jostle each other and bump against me to get close while I skipped about, trying to keep them from standing on my feet.

Category three cattle would also stare me straight in the eye come the morning they were being herded up the ramp and into the truck for the last journey they would ever take.

Boisterous great lunks who didn’t know their own strength, the trick I was taught to partially incapacitate a bullock was, put your thumb and forefinger into the nostrils and squeeze them together. Which is what I had to do if they ever came down with a malady and needed them to stand still while the vet gave them a shot. Full-grown bullocks have nostrils like egg cups for ostrich eggs. And when they’re sick, the nostrils fill right up with hot snot. Nice. But at least it’s the front end.

On the second farm, the day came when the small, younger bullocks needed their inoculations. Which isn’t easy to administer, because it needs a strong needle and the bullock standing still. Getting the needle through their hide is relatively easy. Trying to keep the animal stationary is another matter.

Fingers in the nostrils of a bullock is okay in isolated cases, but inoculating seventy-odd head of young cattle posed a different problem. Especially when they can only have one shot apiece.

To stop them mingling and getting mixed up: two pens. The cattle start in one, go through a race one and a time, where they get their jab, and end up in the other. Because the race was temporarily erected there was no gate to close behind. So once a bullock was herded in and held there, some poor mook had to stand right behind it, link their arms around the bars either side and grip hard, stopping the animal from backing back. Guess who was volunteered for that detail?

As a plan it worked pretty well. The only part they neglected to tell me was how a bullock reacts to getting stuck with a needle. Specifically, they shit themselves. It’s brief, but it comes out like a high-pressure hose.

So standing right behind one when it gets inoculated is not a good idea. Standing behind seventy-odd? Luckily they were only youngsters, so it only hit me in the stomach. The first blast came as a shock. Pretty soon I was resigned to it: grab the bars, squeeze tight, take a deep breath and close my eyes.

By the time we were done, and walking back to the house for lunch, it was running down my legs, spattered up my chest and arms, on my face and in my hair. I can’t rightly remember, but I’m sure I didn’t have much of an appetite that day.

I guess I’ve got a low threshold for bullshit because I’ve had my fill.


At 1:09 am, Blogger wcdixon said...

Hee hee ... you stinker...that was sweet. And you're right, for all our griping, we're lucky to do what we do.

At 5:34 pm, Blogger potdoll said...

LOL LOL LOL LOL Was it hot?

Aw, you're just like that Heidi aren't you.

At 5:37 pm, Blogger potdoll said...

Which category cattle would you be?

I fancy myself as a category one cattle (love that phrase). But I suspect I'm a combo category two cattle and category three cattle.


Hot snot - i love it.

At 6:11 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

PD, depending on my mood I flit across all categories. But normally I'm either a two or a three.

Yes, it was hot, but over the hours it cools nicely.

As for the bullock snot, I was reminded of it the first time I ate fried conch on my first visit to Key West. Hot. Chewy. Nasty.

Oh, and when I had to stick my fingers in their nostrils there were never any gloves around.

At 7:12 pm, Blogger potdoll said...

thanks for that beautiful image

At 8:59 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

All part of the service my little lovely.


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