Whooper

 

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I keep a few sheep and send their lambs to the freezer. They go to the tup in November, and this year I’ve been slow at fetching them back. So it was yesterday by the time I loaded them into the trailer, all red-arsed where the raddle’s rubbed them, and the tup gone dumb and glassy-eyed.

I stood for a half hour with a neighbour and watched the day pan out. Swans came up from the east and battled the wind. I saw them coming from a mile away against the blue horizon; rising and falling and hurling in a line. Even at that range, I could they were nothing like the roady swans you find in a town park, with their wings crisp and frilled as lace; nothing like the red-masked devils who can break your arm, they say. Not mute swans, but whoopers, with yellow jaws and a mutter like cold wind over a jar.

They passed precisely over our heads. We craned to see them, with white throats gulping in our collars. Eighteen swans, and the downbeat of their wings seemed to part our hair like a draft. We didn’t speak for ten minutes after that, watching the rain ride in from the sea in lank, trailing palls like steam from a straightened hazel shank.

If you like nice moments, there was one for you.

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