Having probably upset alpaca/llama farmers the length and breadth of the Borders a few weeks ago by revealing these animals will never, ever have a place on my Fantasy Farm, due to my finding them pretty pointless overall, I am now – probably – about to upset sheep fanciers.
Sheep fanciers? Is that the correct term for those who farm/own sheep? I am sure that I will be corrected. Several times.
I know this because my ever-so-slight dig at sheep in that very same week – how do lovely, lively lambs turn into stupid grown-up sheep? – drew immediate texts on publication. Most had a ‘waggy finger’ tone, but one or two were quite malevolent. OK, relax. I might write a wee column for a paper, but I’m not Woodward and Bernstein at the Washington Post, about to bring down Nixon, Watergate-stylee.
I still have to say, the more I see of sheep, the less convinced I am that I should keep them. I remember 10 years or so ago when I drove tours Oop North that every (faux) woollen mill sported sheep products alongside their piper-in-a-tube souvenirs. Sheep T-towels, woolly toy sheep, sheep T-shirts and that perennial favourite – you must have seen it – the postcard with a sheep on it, bearing the legend: ‘Missing ewe’. Yawn.
Realising early on that people from foreign lands (with the exception, of course, of Aussies and Kiwis) ‘ooh-ed’ and ‘aah-ed’ over Scotland’s ubiquitous sheep, I boned up on sheepy facts. I learned early on in my driver/guide career that if you told people interesting stuff about what they were interested in, the tips were bigger. Points means prizes.
My favourite sheepy fact was that there are 3.1 sheep to every person. It was, however, a fact that made me feel slightly nervous if I thought about it late at night. What if sheep could all communicate telepathically and decided they had had enough of being docile, fluffy blobs decorating the landscape? What if they suddenly became bloodthirsty killing machines, like some kind of woolly Midwich Cuckoos?
Anyhoo, back to the bus tours. I always felt sorry for the Aussies and Kiwis – they had travelled halfway round the world to find their roots.
Instead of following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they were stepping in the poop left behind by the sheep that had replaced their ancestors who had been ‘cleared’ and forced to leave the Highlands. Ironic.
One of my corrective texts was from a pal, who is the owner of a rescued sheep. Yes, that’s right, a rescued sheep. I have revealed in previous witterings that I have a pal who rescued a chicken which had narrowly escaped being made into a pie, scooping it up from the hedgerow and taking it home.
But this is the first ‘rescue sheep’ I have ever heard of (cue a deluge of bizarre rescue stories) and, oddly, it too was found all alone in a hedgerow.
However, a word of caution. Before anyone decides to ‘rescue’ a herd of cows, that’s not rescuing. That’s stealing, that is.