Friday, March 25, 2011


What do I know of the ram in that field? I want to think a little bit more about him, standing far off in the shadows when Rozzie spotted him. “There he is!”

“No!” said Walter.

“Yes,” she said. “It’s a ram.”

He was minding his own business in a field to himself. But he was in solitary confinement. He was a dark impression with horns curled on either side of his head - not menacing from the distance. In fact, his horns reminding me of platted hair, and German country girls.

He was there because of sexual urges he couldn’t keep to himself. That was why, after we came over the crest of the hill and passed through fields of wooly sheep, gormless in their new spring coats – that was why he was in the bottom field, excommunicated. He wasn’t to mingle with the sheep in the field because he put them at risk. You stay put. You aren’t fit company. Or rather, we suspect you aren’t fit, we don’t quite know - but we don’t want to take any chances. That was he, the ram, by himself at the far borders of his field – feeling put out to be left there – taking himself to a far corner because of it.

But the sheep we passed in the upper field, were not as harmless as they appeared. Andy Goldsworthy, in the documentary Rivers and Tides, reminds us of their rugged power, which flies in the face of all our myths about sheep. We imagine them as gentle tender and harmless but in fact it is they who are responsible for the landscape of Scotland – for the Lake District, for that barren quality of the hillside – because in grazing, they have altered forever the shape and nature of the landscape. Nothing can grow now but grass.

And I wonder about grass as well. Is it so very humble? The Bible would have us believe that the grass is meekness itself – and yet it can grow, and does grow, when everything else is stripped away. I might have got this wrong, but I have the feeling that grass is pretty powerful stuff – sprouting up wherever you don’t want it.

What I am getting at here is, that perhaps the ram had been maligned. He wasn’t as dangerous as all of that. Sure, he had his urges, don’t we all. It was because he was alone in those urges that they’d singled him out – put him out to pasture by himself. And now he was standing at the far end of the field, barely visible, in a kind of Coventry. He’d been put in his place and felt put upon because of it. Sulking in the corner of the field.

I’d like to say he noticed us as we passed, but he didn’t. Rozzie insisted that he might notice if we were to cross in his field, but Walter said they couldn’t just put a ram in a field where there was a public footpath without any warning to the public, if in fact he was dangerous. Then Rozzie said he wasn’t technically on the path, but in a private field, in which case the farmers had every right to leave him there. If he attacked trespassers, that would be their look out and their misfortune.

So we passed by. We left him there. We had no interaction. But there is still something about the impression of him that interests me. The semblance of freedom, while actually being penned in – his sulky face in the shadows, believing itself to be unobserved. I can’t get him out of my mind.

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