I put my coat on over my little flowery dress, and slipped my feet into my shiny, new, red Wellington boots; it was time to feed the sheep. I was six years old, and eager to help.
My grandfather was waiting by the gate to their field. He gently lowered the sack onto my shoulders, told me to hold it still, and to make sure that I put all the feed into the troughs at the far end of the field. The gate was opened, and in I went…. they had already seen me.
The whole flock ran towards me, in a variety of gaits, but all with focus and intent. The trough seemed so very far away. I tried not to hurry, to walk calmly, and to keep the bag still.
Then, they were on me, pushing, shoving, butting, I fell to the ground, under a mountainous heap of hooves, mud and sheep. I reached for the bag, and picked it up as best I could, climbing to my feet as I did so. A few more steps and there I was again, down.
The bag split and sheep nuts went everywhere.
They pushed even harder now, and scrabbled for food, their mouths bulging, faces distorted, and their warm breath in my face.
I got up, mud oozing from my boots; grabbing the half empty bag I made a run for it, spilling more nuts as I did so... this gave me a little time, but they were gaining on me fast. I was almost there. No good fighting or pushing back, I was moving around them, between them...the trough was almost in reach.
Then suddenly I heard him... the ram, the distinctive thundering of his hooves filled me with dread. He lowered his head, and as always, hit me behind my knees, and down I went again. The bag was empty but still in my hand as I turned back.
My Grandfather was still leaning on the gate, his cap pushed back and a smile on his round tanned face.
“Nearly ´gal”, a gentle hand rested on my head “keep that up, and you’ll get there next time.”