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Dairy Diary #5

February 9, 2013

I hope I’ve been able to furnish the reader with a fairly comprehensive introduction to most characters at work on the farm – they’re a curious bunch. One of the characters I haven’t yet mentioned, however, is Baz.

On general appearance he doesn’t offer much to be taken with. His hair is highly unkempt and often clogged with dirt. He has little control over his own saliva and his breath smells like a rubbish tip in August. But while I find it peculiar how excitable he gets at the site of a moving vehicle, most of these characteristics can be forgiven by and large, as Baz is a dog.

To degrade Baz in any way would be an injustice as he is no different from any other full spirited quadruped and, quite often, a well-meaning, conscientious worker under proper instruction.

He is, generally speaking, of a pleasing and likeable nature, when all is well and good, but, can occasionally be the object of certain people’s distress, when it isn’t. I found myself relating to Baz quite closely.

When Brian asked me to use him as help to get the small herd to Barry’s milking shed the next morning, I was glad for the prospect of working alongside him.

At the end of a very trying day Brian gave me detailed instructions on getting the cows on to the track, as apparently there was a sheer sloping bank they would need to avoid. If you’re not familiar with Brian, you should be made aware that his instructions are both unique and useless, in measures favouring the latter.

“You’ve got to follow the herd at the front so that you can lead from behind them.”

“Umm…OK…”

“There will be a small hill. Walk up it till you’re at the bottom.”

“How do I…?”

“If you look down above you, you’ll see the fence that’s not there anymore.”

“Wha..”

“Near it is another hill. DO NOT WALK UP THIS HILL!!”

“Yes. OK. No problem.”

“So, once you’ve walked up that hill…”

“Jesus.”

“…quickly, push them as slowly as you can, and they should walk through the front gate at the back. Easy.”

“……..”

“You’ll be back to where you finished in no time. OK?….Andy?”

“….Yyyyeeesss. Goodnight.”

My alarm sounded at some rude hour and I woke with my morning routine in pitch darkness. This invariably meant either, stepping on a plug, upending a footstool with my shin, marrying a table corner with my crotch, or, all three consecutively.

Outside, I collected an unusually calm Baz from his kennel and we both set off down the track on my scrambler. He was in quite good shape, considering the hour. Which is more than can be said for my crotch.

Hopping off as we pulled up, Baz sauntered over to the paddock with the self-assurance associated with someone very aware of their responsibilities, and sat upright with a lordly air waiting to be presented with an open gate. This buoyed me somewhat as Brian’s instructions only served as means for a piercing headache and I now grew confident that Baz might just have it covered.

The cows seemed quite happy before we went into the paddock. (This isn't my photograph)

The cows seemed quite happy before we went into the paddock. (This isn’t my photograph)

Still half asleep I lazily pushed the bike to the side of the track as Baz coolly trotted back towards me. Not a word was spoken, but I gathered from his facial expression he might have said “I’m sorry Andy, but we haven’t all day. Time and tide wait for no man and all that. What say we get this show on the road?” And at that he turned and went back to take up his position at the gate. “Thank, God” I thought, “Baz has definitely got this.”

Opening the gate I was taken by an insuppressibly deep yawn that for a moment suspended most of my bodily functions and caused me to briefly blackout. On recovering my senses evidence of this blackout formed before me as Baz was now some distance away, tearing across the horizon at a rate not too far south of 30 miles an hour, terrorizing the entire herd. Startled into action I gave chase.

The very second I raised a shaking fist and motioned to issue a verbal protest I realised I hadn’t the first clue of what to say. Baz had been trained to respond to a particular set of commands, of which, it now dawned on me, I knew none. The next three or four minutes I devoted to screaming his name only seemed to act as encouragement.

"What is this dog's problem?" (Again, not my photograph)

“What is this dog’s problem?” (Again, not my photograph)

Baz’s running had started to look a lot more like frolicking now and his face was beset with boundless joy. Gambolling about, prancing from one terrified cow to the next he’d completely lost any sense of the composure I had been banking on to help me.

My temper began rising, by steady and sure degrees. And as control was getting away from me I fell to muttering some vicious comments under my breath, and then exclaiming some more above it; quite far above it.

Finally, with a venomous access of irritation, I made an attempt to put a rein on this hysterical mutt and bound with a brisk stride down the steep slope after him. At some point shortly before my third step I was forced to submit to the severity of the slope’s angle and navigated the rest of it on my face.

At the bottom, fairly humiliated, I picked the grass from my teeth, and began on one of those ridiculous foot races around a paddock I have, by now, become so very used to, but no less exasperated by.

How you might imagine Baz's mood. (Not actually Baz)

How you might imagine Baz’s mood. (Not actually Baz)

For some reason, probably founded in delirium, I hoped that at some point in the dog’s short life he might have developed a human understanding for sympathy, to which I was now obsequiously trying to appeal. Anyone who knows canine nature needn’t be told that by this time Baz was thoroughly enthralled in this exercise and no amount of my pleading would persuade him of another employment.

Standing at the slope’s peak, wheezing like an asthmatic pit donkey, I watched Baz and about 150 cows act out a scene of perfect pandemonium. I slumped onto my rear and hung my head defeated. The sound of Baz’s barks echoed through the valley as the morning’s silvery light began to tint a soft amber.

The herd had scattered across all parts of the field I could see, and across many others I couldn’t. A small group were stranded halfway up the slope, with an impossible climb above and insufferable dog below. Outside on the track one slightly addled cow looked back over her shoulder and seemed to be thinking “Err…is this not the right way? I suppose I’ll just wait until you’re ready.”

"F*** this..." (I can't confirm she actually said this)

“F*** this…” (I can’t confirm she actually said this)

Even at this hopeless stage I was actually thankful of the fact that I was completely alone. For one reason: I had no option but to get up and try again, and for another: no one witnessed me nearly brought to tears by a Border Collie.

Despite the proceeding exertions being every bit as gruelling, I’d managed to turn things around and return some semblance of order. With the sun now up and the best part of an hour gone I was following the last cow through the gate.

On the track, grinning like a Cheshire cat was Danny casually spectating from a reclined position across his bike. He was obviously quite tickled by the whole episode and made no attempt at concealing it. This was an understandable reaction, as my plaintive demeanour was worthy of none besides that one. Understandable: but only in hindsight.

Arriving at Barry’s milking shed later than any one had ever arrived before, I should have expected to be on the wrong end of a fairly sharp ticking-off. Yet, when presented with Barry, I just blamed Baz, and I got off scot free. Ha. This turned out to be a gambit I would exploit on more than just this occasion.

Sorry, Baz.

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From → New Zealand

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