Jonathan: If sheep, too, can be Venus and Mars, then there’s no doubt at all that Tolsta Faolan , aka The Beast of Tolsta Moor lived up to that particular ideal of ram masculinity. It’s certainly true that he was always ready to put up a good fight! Not the easiest of animals to work with, when he arrived in early November; but he was, little by little, getting used to me ; and above all to trust me. Just a few days ago, I was moved with joy that he had let me kneel beside him, my arms around his shoulders and neck, stroking the sides of his face and under his chin: I felt his breathing ease, felt him let go the strain and tension, his heart beat more gently. Even when I let go of him, he just stood still for a while, then slowy turned his head up to me as if to ask: Well … are we done now?
This morning, I held him again in my arms, holding his head up as the vet injected a massive dose of barbiturates into a jugular vein. Just three or four seconds later, and Foalan had let go, once and for all, the stresses of life, all the sadness and pity of the past few days, all the humiliation of his diminshed self. Yet even as his earthly life ebbed away, his spirit lifted free – Mars ascending the southern skies above Eriskay.
Here on Earth, there are forms to fill, tests to run. I’ll have more to report early next week – whether indeed it was Scrapie he had. But at least I already know that the rest of the flock is safe – as I’d only acquired him two months ago, and I decided not to use him for tupping this year.
[Photo of Mars above Eriskay, right, taken this morning as I waited for the vet].
Jonathan: Just off the phone to ‘Animal Health’ in Inverness to report suspicion of notifiable disease. Duty vet agrees that it is likely that Tolsta Faolan has Scrapie. A specialist vet is being despatched, who’ll be on the ferry this evening and will arrive in Eriskay tomorrow morning. In the meantime, the croft is in Lockdown – no animals on or off the croft until further notice. More about this when the vet has given his diagnosis. Poor Faolan! – he did look pitiful this morning! And to think just four days ago there was nothing obvious amiss.
Tolsta Foalan at The Big Garden Croft, Isle of Eriskay
Jonathan: How does the saying go? Blood Will Out ? We exchanged our two sweet little darlings of ewe lambs for Tolsta Foalan – The Beast of Tolsta Moor, we call him! He was bred, born and raised in Tolsta, becoming ram-in-chief, lord of all he surveyed, which apparently was quite a lot. And then he got put in wee field in Eriskay, shared with the sheep equivalent of one spotty teenage boy and six others still in their shorts, dozens of pecky hens – not to mention a mob of cockerels forever at each others throats and who have the temerity to steal – from under his very nose – his morning ration – food being his one remaining pleasure in life. Those ewes he was promised? Each morning he’s been allowed to look at them, smell them, through the bars of the gate, but …
Well, a couple of days ago he was at last let out, swapping places with our home-bred Baghasdal. He was like an old-fashioned clockwork toy car: wind him up, and let him go! And go he did – with all the charm and grace of a the proverbial male bovine in a shop dedicated to the purveying of fine porcelain. Poor Baghasdal was distraught! But he’d get over it! Woudn’t he?