A single sheep haes made her wey doon tae the hollow at the foot o the brae, daean her best tae avoid the sinister birds – the great black-backs and the corbies. We tak a haad o her gently, an stert tae dae whit we can tae help. Lamban a two year auld gimmer is rarely easy, an this the day will be no exception.
I kin get a haad o wan foot – cheust – an I can see a broad peedie chaa, an the tip o a purplan peedie tongue. I don’t think we hiv long tae dae this. Hid’s fairly tight, an slippy. I grip wan delicate fetlock, an haeve doon wi aal the strength I can muster. The gimmer brays in distress. I haeve again, feart that I might brak the leg o the peedie lamb. The hoof o a second feet appears, shiny like it haes been newly varnished. I tak wan fetlock in each hand, and heave, and heave, and heave. The gimmer – that wis born here in this sam field cheust twa year ago – is strugglan, an sufferan.
Hid must happen noo. An, miraculously, sheu sterts tae loosen off. The broad heid o a texel cross lamb – the first fae the new ram we browt home in November – appears in the April sunlight. Then, immediately, the body. The gimmer wheechs roond in wan fluid movement, draain off the birth sac, an gently severan the umbilical cord, afore stertan immediately tae lick her new lamb clean. Glegly in an oot goes her tongue. Hid’s a muckle lamb, an haads hid’s heid high. I cast awey some o the cleaneens, an dry me hands on the gress.
In the dryan wind an sunshine, sheu murmurs tae her lamb in that sweet mither’s language, the ovine music that is only ivver heard in the first few oors eftir birth. Likkan off the yolk-yellow birth fluid, sheu reassures her lamb wi a gentle, staccato mu-uh-uh-uh, mu-uh-uh-uh, tae which the lamb replies wi a plaintive, high me-ee-eh! April, as the poet said, is invariably cruel. I won’t pretend otherwise, and this April will be no different fae any ither. But fur the day at least, hid’s been gentle and benevolent.
When sheu haes feeneshed cleanan her lamb, I pick it up by the forefeet, an sheu follows me tae the shelter o the owld sheep shed. There, I lay the lamb on a square o fresh, clean strae in the sunlight cheust inside the door. First lamb o the year! An the first texel cross at Kirkpretty! I realise noo that me haands and wrists are achan – but I must spare a thowt fur this brave peedie gimmer. Her eye, close up in the sunshine, is like a walnut in golden oil. An sheu’s no a gimmer any more, but a yowe noo, and deservan o real respect.
* * *
Later, in the grimleens, I come doon tae the shed again tae check on them. Venus shines green an bright in the west. The rest o the flock are inside for the night, safe fae the weekid birds an the vagaries o the Spring waathir. They are settled doon, an ruminate contentedly. But there, in the corner stall, is the baby lamb, standan in the golden strae, sookan the rich, creamy colostrum fae hids mither. The two are completely absorbed in wan anither, oblivious tae the wind that’s stertan tae rummle owre the slates above. This, I think, is the peace that passeth aal understandeen.
April 12th, 2015