26 December 1997

The fight to get Stacey on to her feet

More of the best of the rest – two more of the excellent runner up entries

in the 1997 Veronica Frater memorial competition.

The winner will be announced next week

"How much longer have we got to stay here holding this cow up Dad? I promised Laura I would phone her at six."

"Look Richard! We are always putting ourselves out for you. Cant you just give us an hour when we are struggling?" his Dad replied, trying not to lose his rag but only just succeeding.

No, Fred is usually a patient man but hes been taken to the limits this last week with recurrent fly-strike on perfectly clean sheep, a fallen-down maize barn, tractor head gaskets gone (goodness knows where) and now a spate of difficult calvings.

The latest was Stacey, the smallest cow in the herd and not the best example of a "dairy animal displaying the three recognised wedges", a term reminiscent of our Young Farmers stock judging days.

Bless her, the notion that she could give birth to a live Simmental bull calf, big enough to be mistaken for a 6-week old, and then get up and walk afterwards was quite an incredible one.

So there we were, in the cubicle building with the loader tractor, our four younger children, a wool bag, and Richard, who is 17 and absolutely certain that we are all daft to want to farm at all. "I have only just had a bath and Ill need another one – I blinkin stink!" he moaned.

Stacey had been a "downer" for 10 days and her choice was to stand now or become an OTMS statistic.

Comments abound like "You wont do it," and "Send her off now," from the pessimistic spectators didnt deter their father who performed a miracle with the wool bag and got the cow on her feet.

"To me… to you…" was the catchphrase for the next two hours while our patient wobbled between the three of us.

I couldnt help sympathising with our lovesick teenage son about the consumption of valuable time – I didnt like to mention to his father the script for the village variety show, or the minutes of the governors meeting, nor the overdue VAT return or even the rapidly shrinking joint of meat in the oven.

Meanwhile, I smiled to myself reflecting on the phone call two days before from Messrs Addleshaw, Booth and Co who invited us to destroy their county court summons as the Ministry of Agriculture had received our cheque the day before the summons was issued, and, as the cow steadied, I forgave the 82-year-old gent who preached for one-and-a-half hours that morning at the local church where I am warden.

Nine oclock, and miraculously, the cow was tottering around unassisted, consuming hay and determinedly heading for the drinking trough.

Unaffected by the achievement, Richard had only one thought in mind. "Laura will have gone to bed by now," he complained.

As he responded to a telephone call from our neighbour about nomadic sheep Fred managed to retort to his son "Thats how it is with farming, son… and you can tell Laura that!"

Mrs Rose Chanin