Monday, October 29, 2007
Black de Char
This tells the tale of how Willy and Chris invented a new breed of sheep.
Jennie, who keeps rare breeds, stopped to chat as she passed by Willy’s yard. It was a hot day during clipping, and the men were easing off from their morning’s work, ready for lunch. Among the newly clipped sheep was one that took her eye: its fleece was grey – a delightful, soft smoky colour. Other than that it looked rather like a Swaledale.
Jennie took a long look, admiring its colour. Then she asked what it was.
“It’s a foreign ‘un, a Black de Char,” said Chris, Willy’s son.
“It looks good,” said Jennie, seduced by the French name - something similar to a Bleu du Maine or Rouge de l’Ouest perhaps? “How many have you got?”
“We just have the one, at the moment like,” said Chris.
Willy added, with a grin, “ – but she’s got twins. There’s a tup and a gimmer, so we might breed a few more.”
“What’s the wool like?” she asked, thinking of showing her discovery to the wool growers’ co-operative she had just joined.
The men looked sideways at one another, and puffed at their cigarettes thoughtfully, waiting to see how Chris would respond.
“Come and feel it,” said Chris, leading her down the dark and greasy shed to the heap of newly rolled fleeces.
“Lovely shade,” said Jennie enthusiastically as she approached, envisaging sweaters, perhaps even a fine jacket, of that delicious pearly grey.
When she put her hand into the fleece she found it was harsh and gritty, and her hands came out smeared with black. "URGH!" she said loudly.
Outside there were smothered noises – whether of merriment or of coughing, it was hard to tell.
The old ewe and her twins had been sleeping in the nice dry ashes of a bonfire.