|Details have been changed to preserve anonymity.|
“Grockle” a derogatory term for an inconsiderate holiday maker commonly used in Devon and Cornwall.
As I have said before, calls to go to farms can be difficult. It is invariably the farmers wife that makes the appointment and I am never sure if the wife has told the husband and whether I will meet hostility.
Mrs Tressilian was a typical Cornish farmers wife, a short, stocky lady and very hospitable and as we sat and drank coffee she told me why I was here.
Mr Tressilian was a sheepdog trainer of note and highly respected in the farming community and I must admit watching a shepherd working his dog is for me poetry in motion.
Before I continue maybe a little snippet of information, just in case you are unaware, a sheepdog is not taught to go left or right he goes clockwise and anticlockwise. In fact if you watch carefully the dog very rarely moves in a straight line, he almost always travels in an arc untill he is very close to the sheep.
Sorry I digress, back to the job in hand.
It appeared that Mr Tressellians latest dog called Jem was misbehaving, he had developed the habit of nipping the lambs; in fact on some occasions it wasn’t far off biting. According to Mrs T Gem was only being aggressive to the lambs not the fully grown sheep. Despite the best efforts of Mr T the situation was deteriorating and to make matters worse Mr T took the farmers view that sheep worrying was a cardinal sin and such animals were shot. He wouldn’t play favourites even with a dog of his own so Gem had a limited life span and in fact was only alive because Mr T had not acquired another dog.
It may not be understood that whilst the law states that a farmer must inform the police if he has shot a dog worrying his sheep, in practice the dog is sometimes just shot and buried and as one old farmer put it “Bloody grockles should leave their bloody poofy dogs behind; can’t be buggering about filling out bloody forms!”
In fairness he had a point, going to the police station can cost a farmer half a day and can involve court appearances, no wonder then he takes a pragmatic view.
So the question was, why was a Gem being rough with the lambs?
To be honest I didn’t have a clue, but was helped by the fact it was unlikely to be a problem with the training so the reason had to closer to home. After numerous questions I was able to ascertain that untill recently Gem had slept in the barn nearest to the house but the building was required for the early lambs and Gem was moved further away to accommodate the newborns. Can a sheepdog be jealous? I had no idea. I’d never heard of anything like it but in the absence of anything else…….
At this point I should point out that Cornish ladies whilst committed and loyal to their husbands can be formidable when what they view as injustice rears its ugly head. They have an innate sense of right and wrong, and Mrs T was decidedly unhappy with the situation.
The dreaded moment then arrived, Mr T came in and from the look on his face he was not happy, however, courtesy demanded good manners and we discussed the weather, the price of animal feed and EU legislation, none of which had any interest to me but gave me time to think.
Finally I took the bull by the horns, I told Mr T that the only explanation that seemed likely was that Gem was annoyed that his place next to the house had been usurped by the lambs and as a young dog growing up his machismo had been threatened. I suggested that Gem be moved back to quarters closer to the house, and his status would be raised. This met with muted enthusiasm from Mr T and a look that left me in no doubt. He thought I was potty!! I countered this by pointing out that he had nothing to lose by putting my theory to the test and as my fee was payable anyway why not give it a try.
Now most people know that our Scottish cousins can be careful with their finance but I can assure you that the Cornishman isn’t far behind!! So the idea of having to pay for something that he had declined to try was too awful to bear.
Mrs T was on my side and before I left she was busy making space in the porch for Gem to sleep; it was one of those small spaces attached over the back door where you hung wet clothes and wellington boots. In order to make Gem comfortable she found a cardboard box in which she placed a thick layer of hay.
I departed and arranged to visit in a week’s time to check progress.
A week later I returned, more in hope than anything, I really wasn’t confident, it was just that if I was wrong then by now Gem may well have met his fate.
I was met at the door by Mrs T, not a word was said but I knew all was well, she gave me a smile and a wink
Mr T was seated at the kitchen table a pint mug of tea in front of him, he looked up and gave a thin smile He wasn’t an effusive man and I knew that any praise would be minimal and to the point. “The wife will settle with you, I was wrong, you was right. Got to get back to work. Proper job young man!!”
The dog represents all that is best in man.