by Black Sheep, 7th July 2021
Nose down, tail up. The hunt is on, whether we like it or not
And so, with the same crushing inevitability as last year, it was the start of the new hunting season at Chez Sheep earlier this month.
Yes, thank you. I'm well aware that the glorious 3rd of July isn’t a traditional date in the huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ calendar. But try telling that to the Mutt, who’s been limbering up in earnest for the annual squirrel olympics these past few weeks.
The starting gun was sounded by the sudden appearance of the first squirrel carcass of the year, which adorned our brand new lawn in the front garden like some opening ceremony art form. Personally I’d have preferred a piece of red ribbon and the president of the local WI with her pair of scissors, but at a guess I suppose she’d have been too busy tending her strawberries in readiness for a jam-making competition anyway.
It was Mrs Sheep who spotted the unfortunate victim. But then we should’ve known something was up earlier; the Mutt had been acting strange all day, strutting around like some Euros goalscorer, with tell-tale tufts of grey fur around her chops.
"Well do something then," she said. "You know what I'm like with dead animals." Like I positively revel in deceased critters... take great delight in the last look of horror written across their little faces.
I said something like "yes alright, but not right this minute," given Ukraine were in the middle of a similar mauling, albeit at the hands of England in Rome.
And then, of course, I forgot. Well, I was several bottles of Hobgoblin down by the end of the match.
Fast-forward to the following day, and the arrival of the Sainsbury's van. Ever the dutiful husband, I accompanied Mrs Sheep to assist with the lugging of the groceries (and to ensure they'd not substituted the replacement haul of Hobgoblin I'd ordered with something daft, like Heineken Zero).
As we opened the door, the driver stood there with a crate of shopping at his feet and a solemn look troubling his features.
"There's a dead squirrel on your lawn," he said, without so much as a "morning" or a "hello" or a "took me ages to find this place", which is the usual refrain.
Instantly I felt the searing heat of Mrs Sheep's glare. But rather than accept my fate, something came over me. A belligerence. A bloody-mindedness. An unstinting self-denial borne from all those "it's comin' 'ome" chants.
"He’s not dead," I said. "He’s resting."
"No, I'm afraid he's dead," came the reply.
"No he's not," I returned.
Slowly, the Sainsbury’s man took on the impatience of someone who had better things to do than argue over the lifelessness of a rodent, but who wasn't prepared to accept he was wrong all the same. "Look, matey, I know a dead squirrel when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now," he stared.
It was an open goal. "No no, he's not dead, he's resting. Remarkable creature, the grey squirrel, you know. Beautiful pelt."
"The fur don't enter into it," said our delivery assistant. "It's stone dead."
"Nononono, no, no! He's resting."
"All right then, if he's resting, I'll wake him up!" And with that, the driver turned to face the lawn and shouted. "Ello, Mister Squirrel! I've got a lovely fresh nut for you..."
"There, he moved!" I said.
"No he didn't, that was the wind in his fur."
"No it wasn’t."
"Yes, it was!"
"Nah. Not in weather like this," I assured him. "Very still today, don’t you think?"
"No I don’t think," he squinted, turning to the lawn again. "ELLO NUTKIN!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your five o'clock alarm call!"
He turned back to face us. "SEE? That's what I call a dead squirrel."
"No, no.....No, 'e's stunned!"
"Yeah! You stunned him, shouting at him like that! Grey Squirrels stun easily, you know."
"Now look, mate, I've 'ad enough of this. That squirrel is definitely deceased."
"Well, he's...he's… probably pining for the walnut tree."
"PININ' for the walnut tree?! What kind of talk is that?"
"Our walnut tree. It failed to produce any walnuts last year."
"Look. 'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! That squirrel is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet his maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life. He rests in peace! If you hadn't left 'im there, he'd be pushing up the daisies. His metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket. 'E's shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! THAT IS AN EX-SQUIRREL!!"
I stood there for a minute, catching sight of Mrs Sheep's hands on hips. Then I peered out of the door towards the orange vehicle parked on our drive before looking him in the eye.
"You got any spare walnuts in the back of that van?'
"Yeah, I have as a matter of fact," he said. "I could do you a multipack for a fiver..."
A mutton for punishment, Black Sheep welcomes all comments. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to air your points of view. You can also read Black Sheep in Welsh Border Life every issue. Download for free here. Or follow him on Twitter @onemanandhispen