Cold Steel

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There’s a cold wind in the east. It’s the kind of wind that can pull the meat off your skull and freeze your tears while it does it.

We unloaded steel beams as darkness fell. The eight foot girders are heavy, and I felt each burry, fresh-cut edge on my gloveless hands. This steel will build much-needed strength into the cattle pens, and the bull calf rolled his eyes and stamped in the red tail lights of the trailer – he has the makings of monster.

Bending and lifting soon opened a crack between my shirt and my trousers. An inch-wide strip of skin was exposed to the wind and I fought to contain a shriek. Shreds of straw skittered past my boots like the ribs of long-forgotten rats.

Woodcock flew in the twilight. The little birds are famously fat and well oiled, but they looked bitterly pitiful in the claws of this wind. Perhaps they will spend the night in the shelter, because open ground would be a death sentence. I pictured their bodies frozen into curling stones on the short grass at sunrise.

Only geese can stare down a wind like this. They came in the final moments before abject dark, pouring down to the shore in ripples of two and three hundred birds. The steel clattered and rang on the concrete as we worked, and the sky replied with the roar of half-seen ranks. Every winking mutter rang around the yard, and the stars blinked as the geese passed against them – endless skeins and a relay of sound, growing and fading in joyous, gabbling waves.

It takes more than a cold wind to upset the geese – Grand old ganders lead their teams across country to the sea. Cold steel; hard birds; tough places.

2 thoughts on “Cold Steel

  1. Mike Tones

    Hello Patrick, first picked up your name through Shooting Times article on Wild Partridges (Jan 2018). I live in the middle of the North Pennines at 1000′ on a small farm. We back onto the fell and have Black Grouse and wild greys. I have started a small game shoot and have started to try and increase both by habitat improvement and not shooting any!
    I would love to explore ideas and experiences. I do deer control up on the borders evry month and it would be great if we could meet up sometime. Let me know what you think.

    Best Wishes,
    Mike

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