When the farmer pops his head in the door and yells “As quick as you can,” I know he needs help – and fast.
The expression was coined by his old friend and stock agent Goldie Rossiter. It’s best used when you want the other person to do something A) you don’t want to do, B) which is unappealing, C) you need help with or D) they won’t want to do but you know you can coerce them to do.
In this case A, B, C and D applied. Our objective, said the farmer, was to catch a sheep with fly strike. Fly strike is horrible. Blow flies lay eggs on sheep, the maggots burrow into the skin and the animal’s physical health and nervous system fail. . .
When we found the sheep snuggled beside a bank, the farmer slammed on the brakes, dived out of the ute and rushed at it. In short, he demonstrated the sorry lack of communication skills I’ve found common to many farmers.
It was, therefore, no surprise that neither the dogs nor I were positioned to dive tackle the creature which took off like a rocket; sheep can run surprisingly fast.
After ignoring my unflattering comments, the farmer and I zoomed up the hill in the ute and watched the sheep disappear into some bush with the bewildered dogs in pursuit. It was lively for a sheep with fly strike.
We thought we’d lost it until I spotted it and the race was on again. The sheep plunged down a bank, under a fence and along a riverbed with the farmer on foot far behind it.
Ten minutes later, after heading towards his faint shout, I found him grinning sheepishly (sorry . . .) and in an embrace with the sheep. There is, I hasten to point out, no truth in all those grubby sheep jokes, however the sheep proved there is truth in jokes about their stupidity.
Rex had cornered it on a miniscule promontory on a river bank beside a fence. The only way out was across a stream where Kate the dog was cooling off by swimming in circles.
The farmer removed his gumboots and socks (a one-handed job done while he lay beside the sheep), tossed them to me then crossed the stream holding the sheep aloft.
Somehow it was my job to stop it escaping while the farmer got the ute and did a spot of cross-country driving.
I kneeled beside the sheep and grabbed its legs while attempting to swat away a multitude of blow flies having the time of their life.
“Quick as you can,” I muttered grumpily, having found yet another opportunity to use Goldie’s invaluable expression.
(RIP: Goldie died a few years back)