Saturday, 21 September 2013


One January night the first snowfall of winter,in a blizzard-blitz unheralded,bombarded my farmhouse tree coating the courts and fields in its cold white mantle.In the morning we went to the corrugated iron roofed hayshed,tar-coated in July by summer visiting gipsies  encamped on moorland where villagers held commoner's grazing rights.
      Watching him kneel and with his iron hay-knife,the blade fifteen inches long,honed to a silver sharpness,slice out a wedge of summer with which to feed his five Red Ruby steers.Watching his shoulders heave and shudder with the strain,hands plunging the blade deep into the stack releasing the scent of sun filled summer days.In a blast the sweet intoxicating aroma awakening memories of tossing grass stalks high into the air,of turning cartwheels and rolling in the windrows raked ready for the sweep.
       And all through the harvest  his hobnails tramping forward,turn and back again.Turn,forward and back again.
         The summer bundle roped and carried on his back.Trudging through snow to the middle of the mead to stock haughty with a head toss of impatience.Half stumbling by his side,eager to keep up.Small impressions of my Wellington boots almost level with his prints.
        The cattle fed,we turn and head for home.Carrying me piggy- back.Almost losing his balance with the exertion and my weight.Dropping me into the stack,breathless.With a laugh his finger pointing at two sets of footprints outward bound,but only one set returning.
         For several weeks after his death the hobnails remained in a corner on the stone flag floor inside the door where he had cast them off that afternoon.When last we'd stepped out together,I covered and filled his prints in the mud,but I could never fill his boots.Always the follower,never the farmer.

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