Malachy is a hill sheep farmer. Sheep farming is not a job for the faint hearted, farming on the Wicklow Mountains takes stamina, this time of year especially, and it’s a constant fight against the cold changeable weather. He is a big bear of a man, with a mop of curly hair and a full face beard to match. Malachy is certainly built for the job, he is as tall as he is broad, with hands the size of shovels, he has no problem carrying a sheep over each shoulder. It’s usual to hear Malachys hearty laugh or his deep booming voice before you see him. His personality is as big as himself and he is always good humoured. He walks miles every day looking after sheep and most of the time it’s just him, his dog and the sheep. The lambing season is just starting now so it’s a 24hr job for the next few weeks.
Malachy called to us a couple of days ago. There has been a lot of snow and he usually gets a load of straw from us at this time of year, so he can start lambing in the shed. When he was loaded up, as usual he came into the kitchen for a bowl of stew. My kitchen is very warm and everyone leaves their boots and jackets in the porch. Malachy settled in at the kitchen table with my husband. I was standing at the cooker with my back to Malachy when suddenly there was a high pitched scream, it sounded like a woman screaming in terror. I looked around to see Malachy screaming, waving his arms about and standing on one foot doing a pirouette like a very tall, overweight, hairy ballerina. On the end of his swinging foot was our little cat (we call her little puss). She was firmly attached to his toe by her sharp teeth and claws. I grabbed his swinging foot and pulled her off it. I could see the relief in Malachys face straight away, I couldn’t look at him, I was trying not to laugh, I have to say much to my shame now, when I brought the cat outside I had a good giggle. The sight of Malachy screaming and spinning around on one leg was very funny, but when I went back to the kitchen he had his sock off and his foot was bleeding. The cat had bitten into the middle of a very painful chilblain on his toe. My husband was busy administering first aid bandaging the toe. Malachy was very good humoured as usual and was laughing it off.
What happened was, when he sat down at the table little puss was asleep in her usual place on the chair opposite his. Malachy started to wiggle his toes because of the chilblains, apparently when they get warm they get very itchy and sore. Little puss loves wiggly toes, they are her favourite play things, and his toes being so big, wiggly and in front of her was just too much to resist. She launched herself wholeheartedly onto his foot and bit into the chilblain immediately. He swinging her around only made her bite harder and dig her claws in deeper. Malachys foot thankfully was o.k., he is back walking the hills again. I think he will probably leave his boots on in our house from now on. As for little puss as you can see in the photo she still enjoys toes.
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