What Shall We Do Now? 163
The man who looks after the cows is a very valuable friend. He may even let you try to milk, which only specially gifted children ever succeed in doing at all well ; and he will teach you the cows' names (in some farms these are painted up over each stall—Primrose, Lightfoot, Sweetlips, Clover, and so on) ; and perhaps he will give you the task of fetching them from the meadow at milking time.
In a general way sheep are not very interesting, especially in low-lying farms. On the South Downs they are better, particularly as you may then see sheep-dogs in perfect training: heading them off, bringing in the stragglers, steering the flock through a gap, and, after the carrying out of each order, bounding back to the shepherd with every sign of self-satisfaction. But though sheep, as a rule, are dull, there are two occasions when they are not — at sheep-washing and sheep-shearing. The washers stand up to their knees, or even their waists, in the brook, in oilskin clothes, and seizing the struggling sheep one by one by the wool, plunge them into the water. Shearing is a finer art ; but the sheep is hardly less uncomfortable. He has to be thrown into various positions (on his back for one, and with his head between the shearer's knees for another), while the shears clip-clop all over him. The wool is not taken off in scraps, as our hair is at the barber's, but the whole fleece is removed in one huge piece.
It may be that Tom (let us suppose his name is Tom ; it very often is) also has charge of the horses, and possibly he will like your help with them too. Sometimes, when going out with the waggon, he will let you ride part of the way with him and perhaps hold the reins now and then, and sometimes there will be a chance of riding a quiet horse for a little way.
It may be that while you are at the farm the day will come for having the horses shod, and Tom will take you with them to the blacksmith. The blacksmith is of course a very important person to be friends with ; and people are very fortunate if their
The cows Sheep.