Moving to a new home in a nice rural location for a complete change from the hustle of populated areas didn't turn out as one might have expected. It wasn't the cows mooing all night, and shops some distance from the cottage, it was lonely, with no friends. Lost I was, until I met the best friend I have ever had. A Sheep Dog. I became a bit nervous because her eyes just stared straight through me. She was telling me something. Now I shall tell you.
Luck, rather than fame or fortune, brought me to a small cottage in Wales, near the sea. Idyllic as it was, the truth is, life was lonely, until rescue came in the guise of Fly, a Sheep Dog, herself rescued from a farmer, one of those begrudgers who cursed the living world. By his reckoning, the world was in debt to him.
Fly, because she was fast; but she had other qualities, like a nervous temperament, lovely looks, and a taste for freedom that, to her surprise, pleased me. One day she cleverly legged it from the field behind the cottage where we walked. I found her wandering by a neighbour’s house, and returned. When I went to put on her collar, she bit me, and expected to be punished. When no reprisal came, understanding resulted, and from it a friendship that grew gently with each day.
Car- rides were an early delight, short runs at first, gradually opening out through the spidery lanes of west Carmarthenshire, where, on winter days we would stop at inviting side –turns and venture the unknown together. Down muddy brambled tunnels we would try to find just where they led, to see what was at the end. Sometimes nothing, just a gradual disappearance of some way into a field, marsh or moorland. An old sheep- way, perhaps, a Roman or medieval road. Someone s long ago walk to work, and journey home, a route to school, to church, to a shop or a neighbour. Paths where ancient feet trod: pilgrims, bleeding feet bound for St David’s shrine on the sea s edge, remorseful; children with hoops, cattle drovers knitting stockings, lovers, lusty for white skin, stumbling by moonlight to tap an expectant widow.
Those were my imaginings. Fly, with her nose, read messages; and posted her own. On tufts of grass, at tree boles and near gate- posts. Some she read signalled the status and movements of residents and passers-by, local field –mice, rabbits, fox and badger. Other dogs perhaps and, who knows, strange other- world goings –on, discernible only through canine sensibility. Fair exchange for our imponderable human doings. On such mutual trust and unquestioning, the best dog-walks depend.
On one of our expeditions into the unknown, the idyll was disrupted, and trust almost fractured. We met, that day in the car, one of the forces of evil, a peril to the country lane traverser of modern times that has become pervasive. It is an ill- attuned being, one out of its element and a danger to all, including itself. I refer to the hazard of man in white van. If you are a practising lane-explorer, mwv governs your approach not only to each blind corner and intersection, but to life itself, its preservation and continuance. When low intellect combined with short attention span, accustomed to progressing cocooned, lulled and unimpeded at 80mph for long hours, finds itself in a spider s web of winding lanes, doom rides shotgun.
So it was on that January day, when Fly and I, proceeding at our usual considerate pace, viewing the majestic scene between Llanboidy and Trelech, suddenly met the menace almost head –on, sending a cold shiver through me realizing my dreaded fears with the truth now a reality. White van man racing towards me, and oblivious that I also use the roads, I virtually had to dive in to the hedge growth, and slid to a halt with the car now lying a strange angle in the ditch. Robot man’s van flashed past as if I was just an inconvenience to him, gone, leaving showers of dead leaves from the hedge cutting he seemed to be practicing for his next job.
Fly, now scrambling on to the back seat from where she had been unexpectedly flung, and I was now trying to calm her.
I glanced through the rear windscreen, and noticed something white further down the lane. I felt rather nervous when I realized that it was the van man rounding the bend and heading full steam back towards us.
‘Maybe he’s come back to apologise,’ was my first thoughts, but there was no such luck, when he drove passed swerving and blasting his horn in protest that he had to slow down, momentarily negotiating the gap between me and the opposite bank. With the weather deteriorating, I made some desperate attempts to get the car back on the road, but without much success. Then I heard the sound of a tractor not far off, and hopefully coming our way ‘What a relief,’ I thought, ‘As I don’t know where we are and could be stuck in this lonely lane all night, freezing cold, not to mention poor Fly wondering about her dinner, and a drink of water. But help is at hand the farmer will surely help us!’
So standing by the car, eagerly waiting for the tractor to draw near. Fly was inquisitively sniffing at the hot paraffin smell wafting through the cold, winters air. She seemed to recognize it, maybe from past times, and she started to growl.
Realising this was some kind of warning that Fly was now transmitting, doing what a trusted friend would do in times of danger, I saw that in front of this funnel of smoke emitting from the tractor, was a rampaging herd of cows, brutally bashing into one another, probably petrified at this noisy tractor edging them on, as if it was trying to run them down.
Sensing the immediate danger, I did the worst thing I could have done, by screaming at Fly in a loud tone, to get back in the car. She immediately must have remembered being bullied on her previous farm days, so she made her way up the lane in panic. It was too late for me to do anything, but scramble back into the car, out of the way of the mad rush of cows, trampling down all before them.
To my complete amazement, not even one of them touched the car, unbelievable to say the least but true. So, quickly recovering from the ordeal, I climbed out of the listing car just in time to signal the farmer to stop. I soon panicked again, for although I stood directly in front of this approaching tractor he did not attempt to stop.