SHEEP FARMING ON THE BORDER 173
the thaw did almost as much damage as the actual storm itself. The ground had been covered with hard frozen snow for some time before it began, and the shepherds were all keeping their weather eyes open in expectation of a blast. The day before the storm was thick, dark, and piercingly cold, but without a breath of wind, so that no one had an idea from which direction the tempest would come. One old man, out of his own experience, said that wherever the first opening appeared through the fog the storm would burst; whereat his fellow-shepherds hooted, for just then a south wind sprang up, and the opening appeared in the north ! Nevertheless the old man was right, for, towards midnight, with a roar like thunder, the hurricane broke with a blinding drift from the north. This lasted for about a week; but to give you some idea of the strength of the blast, I must tell you that two hours before daylight it was impossible to get out of any door facing north, so deep were the drifts outside. In a short time the whole aspect of the country was changed; dykes, of course, had vanished, valleys were levelled, burns w7hich, in the morning, had been swollen to the size of rivers, had in many places disappeared, and even trees were buried entirely out of sight.
So you can, perhaps, understand a little the difficulty younger shepherds, who were new to the district, had in rescuing the sheep on this occasion ; for they recognised their whereabouts only by landmarks, and were dismayed to find that everything had completely gone. But all the experienced hands had set out before daylightówith their hats tied firmly on their heads, their plaids sewn round them, and a good flask of whisky in their breast pocketsóin search of the sheep. They plodded thus, three or four of them together, in single file, each man leading in turn, for the fury of the blast was such that no mortal could stand up against it for more than ten minutes at a stretch. It seemed an almost hopeless