Just when a hardworking farmer could do with some sympathy to help him through the busy spring, he gets the cold shoulder because he is smelling of milk replacer and other unmentionables, writes Denis Lehane
I am a leper at the moment.
Ostracised by the community. Shunned by my family. Castigated in every way you could possibly imagine.
To think I was once a much loved and cherished member of the parish and wider hinterland.
And my crime? What did I do that was so outrageous?
Did I murder the postman?
Did I have a mad passionate affair with the vicar’s wife?
No. Nothing of the kind.
Innocent of all charges, I assure you.
My only crime it would seem, is in rearing a handful of hungry calves.
My only crime is being up to my armpits in milk replacer and other kinds of unmentionable stuff for the past few weeks.
My only crime, dear friend, is in not quite smelling of roses, from morning till night.
As any fellow with half a clue will tell you, those of us involved in the business of rearing calves can become seriously stinky.
This, alas, is true, and unavoidable, unless you can dress yourself in protective gear, like the scientists did in Chernobyl.
Calf rearing is a smelly job, and the smell gets everywhere.
More frustrating, no matter how many types of soap you use, no matter how many times you visit the wash basin during the day, I have found, down through the years, that nothing can rid you of the smell.
So, when you return to the house after your adventures in the yard, you can never quite rid yourself of the yard.
“Oh, papa dear,” my children will cry, when I enter the house after a
day or wrestling with the calves, “you do stink quite profusely.”
“And what can I do about it?” I will reply, in sweat and frustration.
For at such times, I can be worn out from bathing and general hosing down.
Worse again, whereas you could once happily walk into a bank, public house, or tearoom, without an eyelid being batted, or a nose cocked if the smell emanating from you was anything less than delightful, it’s a different story these days.
Oh yes, ’tis all about sniffing out the poor man smelling of calf business nowadays.
As soon as you enter the premises, you get the impression that most would prefer you left it again.
Noses start to twitch to the point of going out of joint.
People have gone mighty sensitive to smells, and unfortunately not every farmer can go around smelling like Yves Saint-Laurent in the middle of a busy spring.
Worst of all, and most tragic, is when this trouble hits the family home, or more pertinently, your bed.
All I’m saying is this, at the very time of the year when a fellow could do with a kiss and a cuddle, after a hard day in the yard, ’tis the direct opposite we might receive.
It can be the cold shoulder on the cold night, for the man smelling of milk replacer.
I’m telling you, the months of February and March can be nights of great lonesomeness and isolation for the farmer.
There is plenty of action in the yard, but damn all happening in the bed.
To put it bluntly, what I’m calling for today is a bit of compassion and understanding for the hard working farmer who isn’t quite smelling his best at the moment.
It isn’t criminal activity we are involved in, ’tis only the rearing of a handful of calves.