The Most Wanted Man
We have been taking our holidays down on the Devon Farm for so many years that the owners, Jennifer and David, now look upon us as both visitors and friends. We were therefore invited to attend their son, Mark’s, wedding, in October, 2004.
Jennifer and David are lovely people, totally devoted and dedicated to the farm. Jennifer cares for the visitors and provides good fresh English meals for her house guests. David, together with his son, Mark, do all the farming. They have never taken a holiday. To be self-supporting they, like so many farmers have had to diversify, and the old farmhouse is opened to guests like ourselves who come to relax and enjoy the peace of the countryside.
Each evening, about 6 p.m., while we are dressing to go to our evening meal, we like to watch David out in the fields carrying his shepherd’s crook, which helps him to round up, so carefully, three separate groups of geese – different broods that will not mix. He leads each group to its own roosting house. Eagerly they trot in to eat the food David has already put there, then they chatter quietly and settle down for the night. It is then that David, in Wellington boots, walks all around the pond and guides the ducks up a ramp and into their sleeping house. All this is necessary as foxes come from the moors.
Then together, David and Mark, take a dog each and go around the fields, herding the cattle into their byres. And so it is that all the animals are brought close to the farmhouse.
And there we will leave them for the moment, whilst I return to the events that occurred to us at home.
o o o
Jennifer and David invited us to stay as friends over the weekend of the wedding. They said that they would drive us the 52 miles (84km) to the Wedding Ceremony, it being held at Chard, in Somerset. It all sounded great and easy, so we accepted.
However, four days before the occasion, our neighbour, Ron, who owns Sam, the dog we often share, came dashing along in a bit of a panic. He needed to go to Spain on urgent business, and could we help by having Sam? This coincided with the dates of the wedding!
“No problem,” I declared, and at once phoned to obtain Jennifer’s approval.
“Sam can come to the farm with us. It simply means that I will have to drive us to the wedding.”
And so it was that we arrived at the farm with Sam, the extra guest!
On the day of the wedding, the weather was glorious. It was such a joy to see David and Mark, previously only ever seen in farming clothes, transformed by full morning suits and cream brocade waistcoats. I had received a message from the bride assuring me that there was a field beside the hotel for walking Sam. It was hilarious to see Tom, my husband, walking in a field, in his best wedding suit, with Sam. Sam happens to be a fully trained guide dog for the blind. Devoted to duty as trained, he was painstakingly navigating Tom around the cow pats!
The wedding held all the delight of the occasion, and the bride was beautiful and radiated happiness, as she should. This had all the promise of a good marriage.
When we were down earlier in the year, we had seen how the farm house was being prepared to accommodate Mark and Rachel as newly weds. We met Rachel then, and saw how already she was adapting totally to farm life, and helping Mark with the animals. The cats had never received such care, and there was a new collie dog being trained. Rachel bottle fed lambs whose mother had triplets. In addition, she was contributing her skills as a highly trained chef, to the farm guests, who happily savoured her delicious treats, lovely roulades, truffles and chocolate mousse.
As I am no longer able to drive in the dark, when the guests
began leaving the reception, I approached Jennifer to say that we should leave.
“David is anxious to get home too. He needs to see to the animals,” she confided immediately.
We at once suggested that he accompany us.
Gratefully, she dashed off to her car to get the farmhouse keys. She could not find them. She felt that she must have left them in the front door in the flurry to get away.
Off we all went. I accelerated as much as possible as the light was already fading. To approach the farmhouse, one has to drive across a field full of sheep, and drop right down to first gear round an acute bend. We did this and what a sight beheld us!
The whole farm yard, which is usually empty at this time, was full of noisy, demanding animals. There were three groups of 15 screeching geese, two packs of 10 ducks loudly quacking, two guard dogs straining to be free and barking fiercely, two cats peeping beneath the old barn doors. All around their byres, the cattle from the fields had accumulated. All were mooing noisily in urgent protest at their master’s absence at this all-important time of their day.
Poor David was aghast at the sight!
“David,” I exclaimed, “you are the most wanted man in the county!”
It was almost dark.
As we stay in the little bothy [cottage], beside the old farmhouse, we had our own key. David returned from the front door to say that there were no keys there. He was locked out!
We made him come in, persuading him to change from his wedding clothes and put on some of Tom’s everyday wear to enable him to attend to the distressed animals.
When Jennifer arrived home an hour later, she was alarmed to find the farmhouse in complete darkness and David locked out.
“I must get in through a bedroom window, ” she declared.
Tom offered, but she would not allow him to do so as only she knew how to operate the window latch. Tom held the ladder and Jennifer went up, dressed in her lovely pale lavender wedding ensemble. Almost at once, the old farmhouse glowed with lights and its door opened.
The farmyard was now empty and silent. David was still away attending to the needs of his beloved animals. Darkness fell at last on that now peaceful Devonshire farm.
– Norah Bryson
Fleet, Hampshire, England.