Lamb by Shaun Garrod

I used to live in a village called Long Marston. It was a small place; one little post office, one local pub. That sort of thing.

When I was 15 I got chatting to a regularly drunk farmer called Michael in the pub, which like most rural pubs in England at the time seemed to actively encourage underage drinking, and he explained that he had to go about 9-ish because of his sheep. It was lambing season and the pregnant sheep out in the field had to be brought into the barn to stop any foxes snatching any newly-born lambs.

I started enquiring about this and actually found it quite interesting, so much so in fact that Michael offered me some work that night:

“You can come along if you want? I can’t pay you any cash but I’ll pay you in scotch. One scotch per lamb!”

I realised that if I had cash it would only go on booze anyway so it sounded like a workable deal to my teenaged mind. Off we walked to the nearby farm.

It was weird, the whole lambing process. I won’t bore you with the details but all the disgusting aspects that I would’ve normally shunned just disappeared once Michael showed me the ropes. It truly was a remarkable and beautiful thing to be involved with so I had no trouble getting my hands stuck in, so to speak. Each lamb that was delivered, whether by Michael or myself, meant going to the washroom, washing our hands with washing powder (“I lost the soap,” Michael explained) and water then downing a couple of fingers of scotch. This was the life.

By sunrise my job was done and I was a master of delivering lambs. Twins? No problem. Breach birth? Piece of cake. Lamb not breathing? Clean its nose with straw and blow up its nose.

“Up for it tomorrow evening? Same deal?” Michael cheerily enquired once we’d finished.

“Sure!” I said. Working AND getting pissed at the same time seemed a fairly blissful state to me at that time.

I met Michael the next day in the Mason’s Arms, had a quick pint of Heineken, then off to the farm. It all carried on just as in the previous night. Lamb…scotch. Lamb…scotch. Lamb…scotch.

Then it happened.

“Fucking hell! Mich…Michael! Look at this!” I said with real fear, pointing at the lamb I’d just help deliver – what I had just seen was like something out of an horror film.

It was a cyclops lamb. Not just a deformed lamb with one eye on the side of its head but an eye dead in the centre of its forehead.

It emitted a pathetic bleat. “Blaaarh,” it said.

“Just kill it” said Michael, without even bothering to look at it again. Obviously his fifty-plus years in the farming game had made him bear witness to similar horrors along the way.

“How?” I said like a coward, feeling that perhaps a bleat from me would’ve been more appropriate.

“With this”, he said, handing me a shovel.

Now, not wanting to look soft or an idiot or what have you, especially not in front of Michael, and especially not now that I was a real farmer, I held the shovel aloft in both hands with the handle almost draping down my back as I steadied myself ready to deliver the fatal blow.

“No! Not like that!” said Michael as he snatched the shovel from me, placed the blade over the poor wretch’s neck and stamped on the blade, decapitating Cyclops Lamb and ending its short and sorry life.

I looked on in horror at the lifeless head for what seemed like an eternity. I didn’t like this job anymore and told Michael so.

“Fair enough, it’s not for everyone,” he said somewhat understandingly. I walked off for my scotch and for my last hand wash.

Just before I left I looked back briefly at the lamb; its mother was still trying to clean it.

©Copyright 2009, Shaun Garrod.

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One Response

  1. Life’s never better in the countryside.

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