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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison


As a child, I had been inspired by the story of George and Joy Adamson. They had reared orphaned lion cubs and come to understand the natural experience of these wonderful wild creatures. I later read of similar individuals who had devoted themselves to study of other species by painstakingly immersing themselves in the lives and environments of the animals. Diane Fossey was one such heroine in relation to the gorillas of central Africa. I resolved to follow their examples. But what species should I make my own?

The answer came as I walked across a Welsh hillside. Much had been written about the rearing and cooking of sheep, but little on the structure and culture of sheepate society. This would be my study.

I realised that to get beneath the wool of sheepory, I would have to live amongst them as one of their own. I therefore obtained a life-like sheepine costume from a theatrical supplier and began my observations from within the flock. This was twenty-five years ago. Since that day, I have been on the hillside every day and night, patiently observing, while chewing grass. I am now ready to publish my conclusions.

This project has not been without its hazards. After the first, somewhat traumatic, year, I was always cautious to graze with my back to a dry stone wall when a ram was released among the flock. I was also careful never again to be herded into a stock wagon. It had been unlucky that the zip on my costume had jammed on that occasion and even more unfortunate that the wagon had been en route to the abattoir. Fortunately, the stockman had been distracted as the flock disembarked, and I was able to climb onto the roof of the vehicle. This both effected my escape and returned me to the farm, otherwise I would certainly have been for the chop.

A more persistent problem had been dogs, and I had had to flee on more than one occasion. Fortunately, this did not reveal my research. Irresponsible dog owners are always Townies, unfamiliar with the countryside. A sheep sprinting on its hind legs across a field and then climbing a tree was, therefore, viewed as amusing but not, in any way, odd.

The solution to this problem followed from two factors. Firstly, that it was legal to shoot dogs who were worrying sheep and secondly that there was sufficient space in my costume to conceal a shotgun. Once again, Townie ignorance of country ways allowed credibility to rumours about gangs of armed sheep marauding the hills. This discouraged their visits, to the benefit of all.

But what of the conclusions of my quarter century of research? At first glance, one might think that sheep had no societal structure. One might think that they simply ate grass all day with no regard for anything else. I have now proven conclusively that this is absolutely correct. All that now remains is for my book to become a best seller and a decision about who will play my part in the ensuing film.