Jonathan: The planned swap of rams was completed today. Raghnall drove down from North Uist with High Bank Pioneer in his trailer, and together we put him (that’s the ram, not Raghnall) in with the girls. Back here at the Big Garden, An Garradh Mor Ram 20 (just Handsome to his friends – we never have found the time to think up names more imaginative than those given by the Registrar) came out of his temporary pen (actually the trailer) and into Raghnall’s, and then away to a completely new life in North Uist. Perhaps he’ll even start going to church; and certainly there’ll be none of that allowed on Sundays! Anyway, a new ram (well, four years old, but new to our ewes!) for nothing more than the cost of a bit of chase around the township on Sunday.
Yes about that. All’s well that ends well, they say. Ahem. Well, you see, Handsome came back from his desert island on Friday, and we had no choice but to keep him in the trailer for a few days until Raghnall could make it up south to us. Well the trailer is as big as a lambing pen and he had it all to himself, with plenty of bedding, food and water. He seemed content enough. Sunday morning our neighbour DJ came round to see us about something, and we said – Have you seen our handsome young ram! (You know, with intonation inviting favourable comment, rather than a serious question). Minutes later, DJ back at the door – The ram’s away; the back gate (of the trailer) is open. No, not a joke. Really.
We searched high, we searched low, we ran hither and then we ran thither. Black sheep there! Where? – Don’t you mean there? Would you believe it, of all days that day had to be bright and sunny, and every rock and boulder cast a shadow, deeply dark and sheep-shaped. Sheep everywhere, real ones, white ones: you’d think someone would have seen a black sheep trotting along the road! By now I was seeing sheep in my imagination, particularly little black lambs along with their white-fleeced mums, and the look of astonishment on the crofter’s face … and a long queue of unhappy neighbours coming to my door. Oh heavens no! We flung our net wider, and drove out west to Pollachar: as we went along, DJ called out – there he is over there (indicating a point about a half mile away on a rocky prominitory) … or is that just a rock? I strained my eyes … and then that rock-shadow moved ….
Back in the trailer, Handsome didn’t look at all contrite, and seemed all too aware of his right to remain silent. He had, it seems, absolutely nothing to offer in response to my questions. Not least: How come he made it nearly a full mile along the shore, without stopping even to politely enquire after the health and wellbeing of three flock of gorgeous young ewes, all ready for a romantic interlude? To be honest, though, I’m only to glad that, after his year alone on a small island, he had eyes only for GRASS!