Denis Lehane: Testing times on the farm

It's not easy taking a break from the farm when so much can go wrong, writes Farming columnist Denis Lehane.
Denis Lehane: Testing times on the farm

I had a very testing day on Wednesday. With a herd test due, you can imagine my anxiety.

I had a very testing day on Wednesday.

With a herd test due, you can imagine my anxiety.

Would I be able to round up the wild beasts? Or better again, would I be able to find the wild beasts? They could be anywhere. Would the crush hold itself together? Would I hold myself together?

All these questions and more ran through my head as I lay in bed with my duvet twisted up to my ears.

I was fearful of the day ahead; it could be a calamity. And complicating matters was my plan to go to Clonakilty later that evening.

For one of Cork's finest writers, Conal Creedon, was giving a talk on writing stories, and such like. And I felt it would be good for me to hear from an expert in the field, so to speak.

My writing at present, I was recently informed, is like "a shed full of mouldy hay".

"It's edible for the most part, but God it could be so much better."

And the woman who delivered this critical analysis, as I left mass on Sunday morning added: "You should go up a notch; you are always labouring on about half-castrated old bulls. You need a bit of culture."

Anyhow, I decided to go to Clon and hear Conal in the hope that I could pick up a trick or two.

Like a junior B hurler anxious to see Jimmy Barry Murphy, I was looking forward to the event.

Anyhow between the jigs and the reels, between bullocks leaping over half-standing gates and shouts of "He'll kill you! Get out of his way!" the testing unfolded.

As day turned to evening, the testing battle continued. With dusk fast approaching, the vet announced that I should go to Clonakilty.

"I can finish up here," says he. "There are only a few strays left to test."

"Are you sure? says I, warming to his idea.

"Of course," says he, "Get your bit of culture."

As he seemed happy enough, I changed my boots, left the farm and headed for the bright lights of Clonakilty.

I left the farm in the capable hands of the vet, confident that all would be Ok.

Wisha, by the time I arrived in Clonakilty and De Barra's bar, an uneasy feeling had come over me.

For whatever reason, I began to believe that the vet wouldn't manage at all.

As Conal Creedon began to talk about the city and the beauty of urban life, all I could think about was my farm back home and the possibility that the vet was being trampled on by rambunctious cattle.

The comfortable seat, the cool dunk, and the fine words being spoken did little to ease my troubled mind. I became convinced calamity was unfolding back at the ranch.

I was like the fellow in the song long ago, with my feet in LA but my mind on Tennessee.

"The bull with the one ball would trample the vet for sure," I lamented as Conal spoke so elegantly about his life by the Lee.

As Conal spoke of majestic Church steeples, my thoughts were on furze, nettles and my poor vet as he struggled with the needle.

Proof he made it: Irish Examiner Farming columnist Denis Lehane pictured (right) with writer Conal Creedon
Proof he made it: Irish Examiner Farming columnist Denis Lehane pictured (right) with writer Conal Creedon

On a night filled with culture, all I could think about were bullocks filled with taspey and my poor vet possibly suspended up on a gate someplace having being hoisted there by a mad article with horns like antlers.

As the audience laughed, I cried. As the crowd shouted for more, I was running for the door.

Up to my ears in culture, I had to see my cattle; I had to get home. I did get home eventually, after a tearful journey, only to discover all was well.

The vet had completed his task with ease and not only that, but he had closed every gate in the place before his departure.

The farm was as secure as Spike Island. Nothing was out of place.

There had been little to fear. My night away from the farm absorbing culture had been a right success.

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