Ominous steely-grey clouds scudded across the tors and fells before opening their bowels to hurl an icy sheet over the barren moor. Heather and gorse bushes twisted and flailed, their limbs shredded by tortuous gusts from a howling blizzard.
“Baah,” a dejected bleat rose from the other side of the wall trembling in the face of the tempest but standing firm, a testament to age-old skills.
Separated from the flock, the lone moorland ewe, tiny lamb huddled between her legs, was sheltering against the wall. Her grey fleece quivered; it provided little warmth as the biting wind cut through to her tender flesh. A halo of white sleet circled her black face. Occasionally she bent to nuzzle her lamb back between her legs as it stole a look at the bleak landscape.
“Away, Brandy,” the Kelpie sheepdog, nose pressed against the front passenger window, paws gripping the window ledge, leapt to the ground from the farmer’s battered Ute that had pulled up behind me.
Brandy crouched and crept on all fours through a wooden gate and slunk over to the wayward ewe. Too frozen stiff to take flight, the lamb too frightened to leave the sanctuary of its mother’s legs, the ewe could only stamp her foot in defence. Brandy smoothly mustered mother and baby out of the gate and back to the farmer who manhandled the ewe into the stock crate on the back of the vehicle, gently laying her lamb beside her.
“Well done, lad,” Brandy leapt up and down beside his master, in the mad frenzy of a Kelpie, begging more praise for a job well done, his panting breath dissipating into steam as it met the icy air.
“You alright?” protected by his thick woolen jumper under a sheepskin coat, the farmer strode over to my car. I opened the door, trying to stop it from being wrenched off its hinges by the shuddering gusts. The sub-zero temperature blasted my face.
“I’m fine, thanks.” I shivered out the words. “I’ll just wait until the worst is over then drive on into Mallam.” I looked at the ewe in the crate. “I’m glad you found her. She’s too big for me to have been able to do anything for her. I don’t think the pair of them would’ve have lasted much longer.” With a wave of his hand the farmer drove away.
“Baah,” a relieved bleat came from the stock crate on the back of the truck where the ewe sat on an old sack; the lamb nestled between her legs. Icy sleet melted and ran down her black woolly cheeks. Her lips curled as she licked away the moisture.
Or maybe it was tears of joy running down her black woolly face.