Starbucks

by Irene MacLeod

Image provided by Sophie Gartshore


On still days in Skerray you'll know if there is sheep work on for the voices drift up... the air is blue!

'Sheep from the minute they're born they just think of ways to die', 'where there's livestock, there's dead-stock' and many other things we crofters say to console ourselves when we lose an animal. Sheep probably don't know it but they bring out the worst in us. Even the most mild mannered families turn into raging maniacs, swearing and cursing. On still days in Skerray you'll know if there is sheep work on for the voices drift up with the poor dog getting the worst of it, the air is blue!

One day coming home from lifting the peats we met Alasdair heading out the peat road on the quad. I could hear him whistling to the dog and shouting 'Come by' as he tried to round up a few recalcitrant yowes. When we drew closer of course we stopped for a yarn about the weather the peats the sheep, I said, 'I'm not seeing your dog Alasdair.'

'I don't have a dog,' he says, 'I'm pretending I do; the sheep make a fool of you if they think you don't have a dog.'

We called Geordie our sheep consultant for we'd little idea when we got our first flock what was before us. Mind you we should have known for the very first day Brian brought them home, he was sorting them out and one took a great leap trying to escape. He stuck his hand out and the sheep took that with it, banging against the metal gate and breaking Brian's pinkie.

One day I went for a look over the croft to see they were all ok and I saw a young one with its head stuck in the fence or so I thought. Brian was away working so I went to get Geordie who was still pretty 'swalk' then. So we both went down and he just lifted the sheep back. 'They don't know they can come back so they just keep pushing forwards.' But at least I knew now they had no reverse gear.

Some folk in Skerray were well known for their sheep husbandry. Kay for birthing yowes, Pat for training hers to perfection, Bella for looking to the caddie lambs beside the Raeburn, and Willie Robert for serious things most of us couldn't tackle. He'd really wanted to be a vet but didn't manage to get away for the studying but he was the nearest thing we had to a vet if you didn't want to call out our Thurso ones. In fact he was awarded the MBE for services to agriculture.

Graeme had a yowe that was poorly and he had tried everything we all usually try “a good dose; injections of penicillin etc" but to no avail. So he called on Willie Robert who surprised him by saying 'Give her a coffee'.

And when Graeme had his morning coffee he gave a cup to the yowe and it did the trick. That's the story of how Graeme came to have a yowe called Starbucks.


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