The call outs continued but the next four were uneventful as far as terrier work went, all the glory went to the guns but the killing culprits were accounted for and that’s what matters at such times.
Four lambs had been lost at the farm and hounds soon marked a notorious place. We have often spent hours there and had many hard digs and it’s no place for a novice but there were no terriers out that day – except for the huntsman’s little Russell in the back of the hound van. Needs must and, given a go, foxy was out and away after only a few minutes and soon dropped by a waiting gun; he didn’t get far. This is the second time Cliff’s little Russell has saved the day when nothing else was available so the terrier men had better watch their step! Two foxes were accounted for that day but it’s no guarantee that lambs and pheasants will now be safe for there is some wild old land about that area and we could well be called again for a visit. Guns and hounds accounted for the killer the following day at another call out and by the time of the next, a couple of days later, I was OK again. It turned out to be one I would have hated to miss and even rising at five thirty proved to be well worth it.
It was a damp and misty and drab old day – just the job as far as I was concerned for I was pretty confident that the conditions would bring us success. But as the day wore on the weather got progressively worse and as a hound showed interest and we made our way to check it out, a fox rose some distance away and the hound left us to get on with it. The hound had ripped away a root across the entrance so he must have been pretty keen and when the terriers arrived there they soon gave us their opinion by just about going berserk.
Lovely, a single hole place though, further along the hedge was a lengthy bury where four foxes once bolted as Jason is never slow to remind me. That place was much further along from our mark, too far to be connected – we hoped. My bitch Bones has still not had a start so this looked suitable, she was mad to go, and in she went. She didn’t go far and was soon out. By then the rain was steady and so we swapped the collar to Rags who wasted no time pushing in and there she stayed and we found her a few yards away, digging a bit before starting to bay well.
A week ago we were mob handed and if we had needed a dig we wouldn’t have had enough shovels to go around! Today it was just Pipey and me so we only needed one shovel! For Pipe! And after shifting some blackthorn which was directly above Rags, he marked the bitch at three feet and opened to a dead cub which Rags had left there, having moved on a bit. Fired up by then Pipe had to dig again and this time the vixen was there. While he was at it a call came over the CB. The second fox had gone into a land drain three fields away. We wouldn’t keep them waiting long. Rags was doing her job and it was soon over and it was just as well for by then the rain was heavy and we were getting pretty wet! I had bought a pair of trousers a few weeks earlier, this would be their first real test.
On then to the land drain and in with Pipey’s young Twiggy and as he watched her picking her way up the drain he told us that her legs were spread wide, at the edges of the flowing water as if she didn’t fancy getting her feet, or perhaps her stomach wet. Which was a bit odd as we had walked up through the bed of a stream to get there! Anyway, as I tried to keep track of her with the box she was soon forty metres away and Pipe heard the collision! The short scuffle was soon over and foxy came motoring out of the far end of the drain, quickly followed by Twiggy and quickly followed by a shot which dropped old Charlie for the bitch to have her reward.
The day was over then, my trousers had failed their test and I was glad to get home for the rain had gone through to the skin and I think for the first time ever, I had a hot bath at ten o’clock in the morning and threw all my clothes in the washing machine. Mrs H could see to that, I don’t know how to switch it on. And all I had done was stand about the place, Pipey did all the work. Though at one time I had taken my coat off so that at least I would look useful. And that soaking coat now weighed a fair bit more than at the start of the day, waterlogged and heavy.
I had seen these trousers advertised in a Saturday paper, to be on sale in Aldis the following day. Limited stock, when they are gone they are gone. And only seventeen quid, Fisherman’s trousers they called them. So I quickly nipped along on Sunday and bought a pair and when I got them home I wished I had bought two pairs. They looked as if they were waterproof, they were padded, and came up to the chest complete with braces. I told Mrs H to get me another pair when she was passing two days later but by then they were sold out. I had seen Steve Jones with the same sort of thing many years ago though his were probably better quality and I was well pleased. I thought the materiel might tear easily so I would be ultra careful on the barbed wire. And they were just great in the cold weather and the light rain but this was their first test in “real” rain. As in tipping down in sheets! I was disappointed but I suppose, at the price, they were all that could be expected and I will certainly keep using them.
It’s time to make a decision this summer, shall I lash out on some new decent gear or face facts and limit my days out? I think I know the answer now for without my days out I would have very little to interest me. It’s been my way of life for too long to wind down too much and I think I’ll just have to do as I do now; go as often as I can, when I can and make the most of it. Anything else is unthinkable really.
So I may get up to north Wales for a day out this summer. I promised myself I would walk up Snowdon but that’s not possible now, (Mrs H could never keep up with me!!) I’ll have to go up on the mountain railway; and while I’m in the area, perhaps at a terrier show, I’ll call in at one of the stores selling good boots and clothing and treat myself so that I can start next season looking like something from the pages of an outdoor country wear catalogue!
Out again for lamb/pheasant killing at a place where we had accounted for one a week earlier. It was the first call out after the clocks went forward for Spring so a seven a.m. start was six a.m. for foxy for he lives by the hours of darkness and light and not manufactured summertime. There were plenty of foxes about and two had been shot before the hounds marked a bury high on the bank at 9a.m. I had just poured myself a cup of coffee and Pipey was about to leave (late) for work when the huntsman told us he had hounds marking and Soldier was certain and so I threw away my coffee, asked Pipe what he was going to do and he said “oh bugger work, let’s go.” (I hope he doesn’t leave this mag’ lying about where his boss can find it!)
I like that attitude! I, and most of my digging mates, have always had the same outlook and that was probably why we were always “financially challenged” but it doesn’t apply to Pipe working for the state! and so, having to drive up some steep and rough forest tracks through the clear fell, we wasted no more time. I would have liked to use Dixie to try to calm her down a bit for she is so pumped up she can be a bit of a nuisance but as we had no time to waste and wanted the terrier to confirm a certain mark without any doubt, it was Rags who was again entered, and immediately up to foxy and baying well. Ten minutes later, after all of two and a half feet, the job was done and Pipe was on his way to work. Though he would need to get home and lose the stink of fox first! A fiery customer this one, very lively and aggressive. Rags again avoided any damage though she felt the fury once or twice. Either she’s very lucky or very clever or perhaps it’s a bit of both. I’m not complaining, as long as she keeps getting the job done it will suit me.
I hadn’t realised we were so high up overlooking the road. It was a bright clear morning and we could see for miles over the fields and distant hills. I should have taken a photo really but never thought of it at the time. Anyway, a photo never gives the same impression and will never be able to capture the majestic beauty of the take-your-breath-away Welsh or British countryside. Fortunately we hadn’t far to walk from the truck and Pipey helped pull me up the steepest bit for a long haul on a steep bank would take my breath away.
And the next day I decided to bath Rags to try to make her look a bit presentable and as I had her in the water the usual scent of a wound reached me, a wound that had not been treated; regular diggers will know the smell for it’s easy to sometimes overlook a bite on a dog with a rough coat. Or even a smooth coat for that matter. Anyway, with the water over the bedraggled Rags I took a closer look and saw where yesterday’s fox had caught Rags above the eyes in the middle of the head, no wonder she had at one time let us know things were hotting up. No lasting damage, I clipped away the hair, cleaned the wound, treated her with antibiotic and Metacam and dried her off with Mrs H’s new hairdryer, which sounds like a turbo jet taking off but dries hair in no time. Rags didn’t fancy it at first but once she settled seemed to enjoy it.
No more killing for a few days, the next call came on the Easter weekend and hounds soon had a fox to ground in a decent bury which has been kind to us over the many years but not recently. Pipey used his young bitch Twiggy who has had a very good first season and she worked her way through the tight, rooty tubes for some time but eventually backed Charlie into a stop end where it was soon settled. A bury with plenty of roots can be very hard work for a terrier, it’s not just a matter of thick roots, a mesh of thinner stuff across the tube can be almost impossible to get through and this young bitch, enjoying her first season of work, did very well.
Leaving the hounds and guns to draw on we drove to a bury which a local farmer had told us might be worth trying and he was proved right. As we walked down to the place I thought it would be fruitless for an ewe lay along the fence with a very young lamb beside her, right next to one of the entrances. We stopped for a while, not wanting to disturb them but the ewe got up and walked away and the lamb struggled to its feet and followed her on very unsteady legs. It could not have been very old and any fox would have made short work of it unless the mother defended it strongly.
As we drew close to the bury the old lurcher bitch Gem started to quicken her pace and to my great surprise my young bitch Dixie suddenly flew past me, dived into the bury and immediately opened with a furious baying. No locator collar, I thought I had her secure on my lead but the collar must have been too slack for she had pulled through it. The fox must have been just inside the entrance, possibly even just about to bolt having heard our approach.
A mad scramble then to block the bolt holes as the lurcher Gem ran from one to another and the sound of Dixie came less loudly as she worked through the bury. Our coats blocked two holes, our kit bags another two, one had the shovel across it another was quickly filled with branches and another with rusty wire mesh, the remains of an old sheep fence and then as Dixie passed one entrance Pipey managed to reach in and grab her so we could get a locator collar on her. Panic over.
It didn’t take long for the bitch to bay steadily in one spot and we opened to her expecting to find foxy either safely held or tucked up in a stop end but the fox was nowhere to be seen. Pipey then found a small side tube which had been blocked and opening it a bit Dixie was soon back on the job close to the quarry and the job was done. A good morning’s work but I don’t know if the killing will stop for it’s a vast area and a couple of years back we made about seven or eight visits before the killing stopped at last. While we there I heard from one farmer who was also having a good deal of trouble from Ravens who will peck out the eyes and tongues of live lambs. If you have ever been close up to these birds you will have noticed the lethal beak on the buggers. Nature, red raw in tooth and claw – and beak!
A word here about the Lurcher Gem, bred and worked for many years by Jason, one of his “pocket rockets” and now plying her trade with Pipey. What a bitch she has been over the years, a true terrierman’s lurcher, she has proven herself many times over. Her temperament, like that of all sensible lurchers, is absolutely faultless and she knows her job backwards. She’s getting on a bit now but still a valued member of the team and as befits an old warrior with her attitude, she now spends her life not in the kennels but in Pipey’s house where she enjoys being totally spoiled by his partner. She deserves it. I hope she will be around for many seasons yet because she is still invaluable. At both these digs we were quite sure that foxy was in there for Gem, as lurchers which know their job do, spread herself between every possible bolt hole. Though a different colour she reminds me in many ways of Rob Eynon’s old Staff cross Tess. Two great terrierman’s lurchers.
I have been watching a TV programme about women pest controllers and as usual, the media continues to try to brain wash inferiority into men by trying to tell us that we are stupid and that anything men can do women can do better. What bull shine! Certainly as far as pest control goes. But fair play, the girls were doing OK, just please, give up trying to prove themselves superior! When the screaming obsessed “feminists” have to keep telling us how superior they are it only shows their insecurity, shows that really, deep down they know that the reverse is true and they are actually inferior! Stand by for loads of letters from angry girls now!! Men are men and women are women – at least that’s how it used to be. Not so sure these days! One sort of small animal place, you know, a “farm” where children are welcome to stroke, hug and kiss sheep, rabbits and chickens etc., had a rat problem. But the owners, being bunny huggers, didn’t want the rats killed, oh no, move them on please. When it was explained to them that rats are disease carrying vermin who piss on everything and spread such horrible things as Weils disease through contact with urine contaminated items then they agreed, yes, kill them please.
Another call was to a castle where pigeons were a problem fouling the place with their droppings, or “Guano” as they termed it for the cameras, rather than the more likely pigeon shit! Anyway, it was too putrid for builders, sensitive souls, to work there but again, the pigeons were to be shooed away if possible, not killed. Patient explaining convinced the owners that the solution would be to seal off all likely entrances where the birds gained access and then, whisper it, kill them. Once again our animal lovers, faced with the brutal reality of real life, gave the go ahead and the birds were killed. One of the women, a hot shot at night with an air gun!
Now could someone explain to me why such people could see and agree eventually to the need to kill pests which were proving a nuisance to them but are opposed to keeping foxes and, more particularly, badgers, under proper control. Foxes and badgers do far more harm to farmers and the nation than the trouble these rats and pigeons were causing but the suffering cattle farmer is expected to stand aside and watch badgers contaminate his animals and put his children at risk with TB. And foxes, which have been known to carry meningitis and are often infected with mange (scabies in humans) kill his lambs. Forgive the language but it’s just total bloody hypocrisy and if we had not been banned from digging badgers about forty years ago you would not now have the plague which has cost the farmer heartache and the country millions of pounds. And decimated the poor old hedgehog! And proved detrimental to ground nesting birds!! But that’s just common sense and you can’t expect our politically correct lefty/labour/ commy traitors to have much of that.
We were well into March by then and the calls were slowing down as the lambs grew stronger and we went until almost the end of April before the next and this proved a bit of hard work without a result for though we covered a wide area we had nothing to show for it, and once again it quickly became too hot to carry on. But we were high on the hill with clear skies and great views for miles around and it was a pleasure just to be there with the Red Kite sometimes above us and sometimes below us in the valley where we could look down at him as he soared beneath us. And on that day, April 20th, I heard the first Cuckoo which surprised me for where I live the first cuckoo doesn’t arrive for another month when she makes herself busy across the fields behind my house. This one was loud and clear and letting everyone and everything know he was about. I know they are skiving immigrants who, like most of their human counterparts, displace our native birds and live off their efforts but I always look forward to the sound and at least, unlike the human variety, they stay only a few months and then bugger off back to where they came from. There is an old adage in this area – hear the cuckoo, live another year – so I should be right until at least April 2016 and all I have to do is make sure I listen out for the cuckoo every year. And hope I don’t go stone deaf in the mean time!