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by travelling hawkers. Thom struck at the man's head with his stick with all his might, saying at the same time, “ Cattle of your description cannot be far out of your road anywhere.” The man let go his hold, and Thom galloped off, calling to me to follow, which I was nothing loath to do. Thom's horse was white, and mine was a bay. The vagabonds might have seen a white horse coming on in the dark, while they did not observe the bay, and may thus have been led to suppose there was only one man. As the boxes were laid aside, I have no doubt they intended a robbery, though this did not strike me at the time. But our troubles were not yet at an end; at the same old Castle of Barra, Thom, still in advance, called out, “ The wife, the cows, and the ropes again!” He had just time to save his distance, and save me too. The following year we had hired a horse and gig from Aberdeen to go the round by Trual Fair. We were as usual very late before we could leave the market. We had to go by Aberdeen. When we were within ten miles of it, the horse got fairly knocked up. We had no help for it but to walk the rest of the distance; and we reached our destination between three and four o'clock in the morning, driving the horse and empty gig before us.
The ninety-nine beasts turned out to be only ninetyfive (they were no great spec after all, leaving only £45 of profit). Thom had booked four he had never bought; and when the lot was counted to be joined to the drove, they would not number more than ninetyfive. I advertised for them, and had a man in Buchan a week searching for them; and when I told Thom in Edinburgh that they could not be found, he confessed he had never bought them. .
I am not sure if it was the same year we had come up to Edinburgh the Saturday night before Hallow Fair. We were rather late in getting ready to go to church. I had heard a great deal about Dr Muir as a preacher, and we went to hear him; but not being
very certain of the church, we inquired at a gentleman's servant, dressed in splendid livery, very civilly, the way to Dr Muir's church. Instead of giving a civil reply, “Oh," he said, “ Aberdeen awa'!" Thom, who was very impulsive, came across the side of the fellow's head with his umbrella, and laid him flat on. his back in the middle of the street, with his heels in the air. I made no remark, Thom said as little, but walked on as if nothing had happened. We heard our friend calling after us he would have his revenge; I hope it was a lesson to him to be civil in future.
I sent for many years sixty horned cattle in spring to Mr Buist, Tynninghame. They were grazed in Tynninghame Park, and he also required other forty or sixty during the season for house-feeding. I only gave up the commission business when I could carry it out no longer to my satisfaction and to the advantage of my employers. For years after I went to the Falkirk markets there was not a white beast to be seen; but by-and-by Irish-bred cattle appeared, and then the shorthorns. The business of dealing in north-country cattle came to be worthless. I bade Falkirk adieu, and turned my attention entirely to the rearing and fattening of cattle at home. I gave up the fascinating business of a lean-cattle jobber, seeing it was done for, and I have never regretted my resolution. The lean-cattle trade was difficult to manage, and in fact was most dangerous. Many a day, when attending Hallow Fair, I have got up by four or five o'clock in the morning, breakfasted, and not tasted food till six o'clock at night. The weather was so bad on one occasion that man and beast were up to the knees in mud. I had my beasts standing near one of the gates. Mr Archibald Skirving never got further than them; he bought forty, sent them away, and returned home. As he bade me good morning, he remarked, “I would not like to be in your place to-day.”
I have stood many a bad Hallow Fair, but the worst
was about twenty years ago. I never was so much in want of assistance from my friends. The price of cattle had fallen very much after the Michaelmas Tryst. Turnips were bad in East Lothian. I had been on a visit to Mr Buist, and met Mr Kerr, Mr Slate, Mr Walker, &c. Both buyers and sellers anticipated a bad fair, and it turned out the worst I ever saw; it is generally either a very good or very bad market. Tuesday came, and with it a perfect storm of wind and rain—the worst market-day I ever encountered. You could hardly know the colour of the cattle, which were standing up to their bellies in a stubble-field. My friends got to the market; there were Mr Buist, Mr Walker, Ferrygate, Mr Kerr, Mr Slate, and one or two more. They gave my cattle what examination it was possible to give animals in such a stormy day. Out of about two hundred which I had, they wanted about one hundred and seventy. Mr Walker said to me, “I think you might give us a glass of brandy;” and accordingly we retired to a tent, from which we did not move for an hour, as one wanted forty, another thirty, another twenty, &c.; and of course it took a good deal of time to talk over the different lots. At last we rose. I had, while seated, drawn them as to the price as far as they would come. The weather was dreadful. I was very unwilling, and they were not very anxious, to face the storm. I was in the middle of my customers. I did what I could to get an advance on their offers, but I could not extract another farthing; and when all was settled, I gave the accustomed clap of the dealer on the hand all round, and I did not see them again till night, except Mr William Kerr, who, with a struggle, got the length of my remaining thirty beasts, and bought ten. I think I hear the triumphant howls of the men to this day, as they started the nine score of cattle for their destinations, one lot after another, through the astonished dealers, whose cattle at that hour, I believe, were never priced. There were few sold on the first day. I could not sell my twenty remaining cattle, and could not even get a bid for them. Of all the good turns my friends did for me, this was the best. I came out with a small profit, while the losses sustained by other parties at the market were heavy. A great many cattle were sent farther south, and returned back to the north. One respectable dealer told me that no one had ever asked the price of his cattle, and coolly added, “I have taken turnips from - , and sent the cattle home.” I never lost a shilling in East Lothian, or by a bad debt, as a lean-cattle dealer.
To be a good judge of store cattle is exceedingly difficult. We have many judges of fat cattle among our farmers and butchers, and a few good judges of breeding stock; but our really good judges of store cattle are exceedingly few. A judge of store cattle ought to be able to say at a glance how much the animal will improve, how much additional value you can put upon him on good, bad, or indifferent land, and on turnips, in three, six, or twelve months. Unless a grazier is able to do this, he is working in the dark, and can never obtain eminence in his profession. Since my first speculation, already referred to—the half of the £12 field-I have bought and grazed store cattle for nearly fifty years. No one has been able to put upon paper a clear definition, such as can be understood by the reader, of the characteristics of a good store beast. It is only practice and a natural gift that can enable any one to master the subject. There are a few rules, however, that the buyer of store cattle should be acquainted with. He ought to know how they have been kept for the previous six months, otherwise their keep may be entirely thrown away. I make it an almost universal rule (and I have never departed from the rule except with a loss), that I will graze no cattle except those that have been kept in the open strawyard, and have been fed exclusively on turnips and straw. If you can get them off yellow turnips it will be decidedly to your advantage. I have seen this proved by dividing twenty beasts, and keeping one half on yellow turnips, and one half on swedes, both lots getting full turnips. Those on the swedes shot far ahead in the strawyard of those upon the yellows. When taken up from grass, however, the cattle fed upon the yellows were equal to those fed on the swedes. They were grazed together. The difference of improvement in different lots of cattle must have often struck every observer.
I am well acquainted with the different strawyards in Morayshire, and know how the cattle are kept, and how they thrive. There are some farms on which they thrive better than others, even when their keep is in other respects the same. It is of very little consequence to the grazier now, however, to be acquainted with the merits of the different strawyards in Morayshire, as there are so many who “feed” their cattle, and so few who “winter” them in that county. There are farms in Morayshire which are not breeding farms, and where the young stock does not thrive, and the calves have to be sold, and even old cattle only thrive for a certain length of time. Some farms are apt to produce cancer on the throat and side of the head. I pay little attention to this, as change of air cures the complaint. For the first two or three weeks after a beast is attacked with this disease, it will go back in condition; but I have seldom seen much loss by it. If in warm weather, the beast may have to be taken up to avoid the flies ; if the disease is inside the throat, it may interfere with the breathing, and the animal may have to be killed. I bought from the late Mr David Sheriffs, Barnyards of Beauly, in spring, ten Highlanders, every one of which had cancer in different stages. I grazed them until October, when the cancers had all disappeared, and the beasts did well (for Highlanders) at grass.
If you put upon grass cattle which have been fed