It shouldnt happen to a.., p.5
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       It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet, p.5

           James Herriot
 
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Back to the tray again. "Just a touch of powder before I stitch the

  skin," he said lightly and seized a two pound carton. He poised for a

  moment over the wound then began to dispense the powder with extravagant

  jerks of the wrist. A considerable amount did go into the wound but much

  more floated over other parts of the horse, over me, over the

  buttercups, and a particularly wayward flick obscured the sweating face

  of the man on the foot rope. When he had finished coughing he looked

  very like Coco the clown.

  Siegfried completed the closure of the skin, using several yards of

  silk, and when he stood back and surveyed the tidy result I could see he

  was in excellent humour.

  "Well now, that's fine. A young horse like that will heal in no time.

  Shouldn't be surprised if it doesn't even leave a mark."

  He came over and addressed me as I washed the instruments in the bucket.

  "Sorry I pushed you out like that, James, but honestly I couldn't think

  what had come over you - you were like an old hen. You know it looks bad

  trying to work with piddling little amounts of materials. One has to

  operate with a certain ... well ... panache, if I can put it that way,

  and you just can't do that if you stint yourself."

  I finished washing the instruments) dried them off and laid them on the

  enamel tray. Then I lifted the tray and set off for the gate at the end

  of the field. Siegfried, walking alongside me, laid his hand on my

  shoulder. "Mind you, don't think I'm blaming you, James. It's probably

  your Scottish upbringing. And don't misunderstand me, this same

  upbringing has inculcated in you so many of the qualities I admire

  integrity, industry, loyalty. But I'm sure you will be the first to

  admit," and here he stopped and wagged a finger at me 'that you Scots

  sometimes overdo the thrift." He gave a light laugh. "So remember,

  James, don't be too - er - canny when you are operating."

  I measured him up. If I dropped the tray quickly I felt sure I could

  fell him with a right hook.

  Siegfried went on. "But I know I don't have to ramble on at you, James.

  You always pay attention to what I say, don't you."

  I tucked the tray under my arm and set off again. "Yes," I replied. "I

  do. Every single time."

  Chapter Seven.

  1

  "I can see you like pigs," said Mr. Worley as I edged my way into the

  pen.

  "You can."

  "Oh yes, I can always tell. As soon as you went in there nice and quiet

  and scratched Queenie's back and spoke to her I said "There's a young

  man as likes pigs"."

  "Oh good. Well, as a matter of fact you're absolutely right. I do like

  pigs." I had, in truth, been creeping very cautiously past Queenie,

  wondering just how she was going to react. She was a huge animal and

  sows with litters can be very hostile to strangers. When I had come into

  the building she had got up from where she was suckling her piglets and

  eyed me with a non-committal grunt, reminding me of the number of times

  I had left a pig pen a lot quicker than I had gone in. A big, barking,

  gaping-mouthed sow has always been able to make me move very smartly.

  Now that I was right inside the narrow pen, Queenie seemed to have

  accepted me. She grunted again, but peaceably, then carefully collapsed

  on the straw and |

  exposed her udder to the eager little mouths. When she was in this

  position I was able to examine her foot. I "Aye, that's the one," Mr.

  Worley said anxiously. "She could hardly hobble ~ when she got up this

  morning." I There didn't seem to be much wrong. A flap of the horn of

  one claw was a |

  bit overgrown and was rubbing on the sensitive sole, but we didn't

  usually get called out for little things like that. I cut away the

  overgrown part and dressed the sore place with our multi-purpose

  ointment, ung pini sedativom, while all the time Mr. Worley knelt by

  Queenie's head and patted her and sort of crooned into her ear. I

  couldn't make out the words he used - maybe it was pig language because

  the sow really seemed to be answering him with little soft grunts.

  Anyway, it worked better than an anaesthetic and everybody was happy

  including the long row of piglets working busily at the double line of

  teats.

  "Right, Mr. Worley." I straightened up and handed him the jar of ung

  pint. "Keep rubbing in a little of that twice a day and I think she'll

  be sound in no time.

  "Thank ye, thank ye, I'm very grateful." He shook my hand vigorously as

  though I had saved the animal's life. "I'm very glad to meet you for the

  first time, Mr. Herriot. I've know Mr. Farnon for a year or two, of

  course, and I think a bit about him. Loves pigs does that man, loves

  them. And his young brother's been here once or twice - I reckon he's

  fond of pigs, too."

  "Devoted to them, Mr. Worley."

  "Ah yes, I thought so. I can always tell." He regarded me for a while

  with a moist eye, then smiled, well satisfied.

  We went out into what was really the back yard of an inn. Because Mr.

  Worley wasn't a regular farmer, he was the landlord of the Langthorpe

  Falls Hotel and his precious livestock were crammed into what had once

  been the stables and coach houses of the inn. They were all Tamworths

  and whichever door you opened you found yourself staring into the eyes

  of ginger-haired pigs;

  L there were a few porkers and the odd one being fattened for bacon but

  Mr. Worley's pride was his sows. He had six of them - Queenie, Princess,

  Ruby, Marigold, Delilah and Primrose.

  For years expert farmers had been assuring Mr. Worley that he'd never do

  any good with his sows. If you were going in for breeding, they said,

  you had to have proper premises; it wasn't a bit of use shoving sows

  into converted buildings like his. And for years Mr. Worley's sows had

  responded by producing litters of unprecedented size and raising them

  with tender care. They were all good mothers and didn't savage their

  families or crush them clumsily under their bodies so it turned out with

  uncanny regularity that at the end of eight weeks Mr. Worley had around

  twelve chunky weaners to take to market.

  It must have spoiled the farmers' beer - none of them could equal that,

  and the pill was all the more bitter because the landlord had come from

  the industrial West Riding - Halifax, I think it was - a frail,

  short-sighted little retired newsagent with no agricultural background.

  By all the laws he just didn't have a chance.

  Leaving the yard we came on to the quiet loop of road where my car was

  parked. Just beyond, the road dipped steeply into a tree-lined ravine

  where the Darrow hurled itself over a great broken shelf of rock in its

  passage to the lower Dale. I couldn't see down there from where I was

  standing, but I could hear the faint roar of the water and could picture

  the black cliff lifting sheer from the boiling river and on the other

  bank the gentle slope of turf where people from the towns came to sit

  and look in wonder.

  Some of them were here now. A big, shiny car had drawn up and its


  occupants were disembarking. The driver, sleek, fat and impressive,

  strolled towards us and called out: "We would like some tea."

  Mr. Worley swung round on him. "And you can 'ave some, maister, but when

  I'm ready. I have some very important business with this gentleman." He

  turned his back on the man and began to ask me for final instructions

  about Queenie's foot.

  :]

  ..

  :i ."

  I he man was obviously taken aback and I couldn't blame him. It seemed

  to me that Mr. Worley might have shown a little more tact - after all

  serving food and drink was his living - but as I came to know him better

  I realised that his pigs came first and everything else was an

  irritating intrusion.

  Knowing Mr. Worley better had its rewards. The time when I feel most

  like a glass of beer is not in the evening when the pubs are open but at

  around four-thirty on a hot afternoon after wrestling with young cattle

  in some stifling cow-shed. It was delightful to retire, sweating and

  weary, to the shaded sanctuary of Mr. Worley's back kitchen and sip at

  the bitter ale, cool, frothing, straight from the cellar below.

  The smooth working of the system was facilitated by the attitude of the

  local constable, P.C. Dalloway, a man whose benign disposition and

  elastic interpretation of the licensing laws had made him deeply

  respected in the district. Occasionally he joined us, took off his

  uniform jacket and, in shirt and braces, consumed a pint with a massive

  dignity which was peculiar to him.

  But mostly Mr. Worley and I were on our own and when he had brought the

  tall jug up from the cellar he would sit down and say "Well now, let's

  have a piggy talk!" His use of this particular phrase made me wonder if

  perhaps he had some humorous insight into his obsessive preoccupation

  with the porcine species. Maybe he had but for all that our

  conversations seemed to give him the deepest pleasure.

  We talked about erysipelas and swine fever, brine poisoning and

  paratyphoid, the relative merits of dry and wet mash, while pictures of

  his peerless sows with their show rosettes looked down at us from the

  walls.

  On one occasion, in the middle of a particularly profound discussion on

  the ventilation of farrowing houses Mr. Worley stopped suddenly and,

  blinking rapidly behind his thick spectacles, burst out:

  "You know, Mr. Herriot, sitting here talking like this with you, I'm

  'appy as king of England."

  His devotion resulted in my being called out frequently for very trivial

  things and I swore freely under my breath when I heard his voice on the

  other end of the line at one o'clock one morning.

  "Marigold pigged this afternoon, Mr. Herriot, and I don't think she's

  got much milk. Little pigs look very hungry to me. Will you come."

  I groaned my way out of bed and downstairs and through the long garden

  to the yard. By the time I had got the car out into the lane I had begun

  to wake up and when I rolled up to the inn was able to greet Mr. Worley

  fairly cheerfully.

  But the poor man did not respond. In the light from the oil lamp his

  face was haggard with worry.

  "I hope you can do something quick. I'm real upset about her - she's

  just laid there doing nothin' end it's such a lovely litter. Fourteen

  she's had."

  I could understand his concern as I looked into the pen. Marigold was

  stretched motionless on her side while the tiny piglets swarmed around

  her udder; they were rushing from teat to teat, squealing and falling

  over each other in their desperate quest for nourishment. And the little

  bodies had the narrow, empty look which meant they had nothing in their

  stomachs. I hated to see a litter die off from sheer starvation but it

  could happen so easily. There came a time when they stopped trying to

  suck and began to lie about the pen. After that it was hopeless.

  Crouching behind the sow with my thermometer in her rectum I looked

  along the swelling flank, the hair a rich copper red in the light from

  the lamp. "Did she eat anything tonight."

  "Aye, cleaned up just as usual."

  The thermometer reading was normal. I began to run my hands along the

  udder, pulling in turn at the teats. The ravenous piglets caught at my

  fingers with their sharp teeth as I pushed them to one side but my

  efforts failed to produce a drop of milk. The udder seemed full, even

  engorged, but I was unable to get even a bead down to the end of the

  teat.

  "There's nowt there, is there?" Mr. Worley whispered anxiously.

  I straightened up and turned to him "This is simply agalactia. There's

  no mastitis and Marigold isn't really ill, but there's something

  interfering with the let-down mechanism of the milk. She's got plenty of

  milk and there's an injection which ought to bring it down."

  I tried to keep the triumphant look off my face as I spoke, because this

  was one of my favourite party tricks. There is a flavour of magic in the

  injection of pituitrin in these cases; it works within a minute and

  though no skill is required the effect is spectacular.

  Marigold didn't complain as I plunged in the needle and administered 3

  c.c. deep into the muscle of her thigh. She was too busy conversing with

  her owner - they were almost nose to nose, exchanging soft pig noises.

  After I had put away my syringe and listened for a few moments to the

  cooing sounds from the front end I thought it might be time. Mr. Worley

  looked up in surprise as I reached down again to the udder.

  "What are you doing now."

  "Having a feel to see if the milk's come down ye."

  "Why damn, it can't be! You've only just given t'stuff and she's bone

  dry."

  Oh, this was going to be good. A roll of drums would be appropriate at

  this moment. With finger and thumb I took hold of one of the teats at

  the turgid it, I i l i !

  l ., .1

  back end of the udder. I suppose it is a streak of exhibitionism in me

  which always makes me send the jet of milk spraying against the opposite

  wall in these circumstances; this time I thought it would be more

  impressive if I directed my shot past the innkeeper's left ear, but I

  got my trajectory wrong and sprinkled his spectacles instead.

  He took them off and wiped them slowly as if he couldn't believe what he

  had seen. Then he bent over and tried for himself.

  "It's a miracle!" he cried as the milk spouted eagerly over his hand.

  "I've never seen owl like it."

  It didn't take the little pigs long to catch on. Within a few seconds

  they had stopped their fighting and squealing and settled down in a

  long, silent row. Their utterly rapt expressions all told the same story

  - they were going to make up for lost time.

  I went into the kitchen to wash my hands and was using the towel hanging

  behind the door when I noticed something odd; there was a subdued hum of

  conversation, the low rumble of many voices. It seemed unusual in a pub

  at 2 a.m. and I looked through the partly open door into the bar. The

  place was crowded. In the light of a single weak electri
c bulb I could

  see a row of men drinking at the counter while others sat behind foaming

  pint pots on the wooden settles against the walls.

  Mr. Worley grinned as I turned to him in surprise.

  "Didn't expect to see this lot, did you? Well, I'll tell you, the real

  drinkers don't come in till after closing time. Aye, it's a rum 'un

  every night I lock front door and these lads come in the back."

  I pushed my head round the door for another look. It was a kind of

  rogue's gallery of Darrowby. All the dubious characters in the town

  seemed to be gathered in that room; the names which regularly enlivened

  the columns of the weekly newspaper with their activities. Drunk and

  disorderly, non-payment of rates, wife-beating, assault and battery - I

  could almost see the headings as I went from face to face.

  I had been spotted. Beery cries of welcome rang out and I was suddenly

  conscious that all eyes were fixed on me in the smoky atmosphere. Above

  the rest a voice said "Are you going to have a drink?" What I wanted

  most was to get back to my bed, but it wouldn't look so good just to

  close the door and go. I went inside and over to the bar. I seemed to

  have plenty of friends there and within seconds was in the centre of a

  merry group with a pint glass in my hand.

  My nearest neighbour was a well-known Darrowby worthy called Gobber

  Newhouse, an enormously fat man who had always seemed able to get

  through life without working at all. He occupied his time with drinking,

  brawling and gambling. At the moment he was in a mellow mood and his

  huge, sweating face, pushed close to mine, was twisted into a comradely

  leer.

  "Nah then, Herriot, ow's dog trade?" he enquired courteously.

  I had never heard my profession described in this way and was wondering

  how to answer when I noticed that the company were looking at me

  expectantly. Mr. Worley's niece who served behind the bar was looking at

  me expectantly too.

  "Six pints of best bitter - six shillings please," she said, clarifying

  the situation.

  I fumbled the money from my pocket. Obviously my first impression that

  somebody had invited me to have a drink with them had been mistaken.

  Looking round the faces, there was no way of telling who had called out,

  and as the beer disappeared, the group round the bar thinned out like

  magic; the members just drifted away as though by accident till I found

  myself alone. I was no longer an object of interest and nobody paid any

  attention as I drained my glass and left.

  The glow from the pig pen showed through the darkness of the yard and as

  I crossed over, the soft rumble of pig and human voices told me that Mr.

  Worley was still talking things over with his sow. He looked up as I

  came in and his face in the dim light was ecstatic.

  "Mr. Herriot," he whispered. "Isn't that a beautiful sight."

  He pointed to the little pigs who were Lying motionless in a layered

  heap, sprawled over each other without plan or pattern, eyes tightly

  closed, stomachs bloated with Marigold's bountiful fluid.

  "It is indeed," I said, prodding the sleeping mass with my finger but

  getting no response beyond the lazy opening of an eye. "You'd have to go

  a long way to beat it."

  And I did share his pleasure; it was one of the satisfying little jobs.

  Climbing into the car I felt that the nocturnal visit had been worth

  while even though I had been effortlessly duped into buying a round with

  no hope of reciprocation. Not that I wanted to drink any more - my

  stomach wasn't used to receiving pints of ale at 2 a.m. and a few

  whimpers of surprise and indignation were already coming up - but I was

  just a bit ruffled by the offhand, professional way those gentlemen in

  the tap room had handled me.

  But, winding my way home through the empty, moonlit roads, I was unaware

 
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