Little old man with a strong farmyard smell on him
Of mud and damp rubber and root vegetables
Totters into this yard, bandy as a baby,
And can tell straight off what’s wrong with a pony
Just from being quiet in the stable with it a while.
Sees things in the way they use their eyes,
Gets ideas or hunches suddenly, same as they do;
Or standing in the paddock, watches which herbs they pull
From far back in the hedgerow.
Sees which way their need will drive them.
Can tell if there’s a speck of mould in the hay.
Gets out an old curry-comb with half the teeth gone,
Then runs it through the coat and smells
With his head down and mouth open at it like a dog.
He drenches a sick one using an old horn,
And a blue glass bottle with a crusty cork.
They’ll take it. They’ll be kicking the place down,
Flaring, all teeth and eyes and flattened ears,
Then go all quiet under his hands,
While we can’t get behind them, can’t get near them.
The dogs love him. He brings a bag of bits for them;
Best of all when he’s seen the blacksmith for the parings.
Throws them crescent moons of hoofcuts –
A ring still burnt and smoky
That goes pattering down the stones – the dogs rushing for them.
Could be anything in that blue glass bottle,
But the old feller knows his stuff all right.
He’ll part a pile of droppings with his boot and
Show you the story in it – can tell the weather from it –
Like those Eskimos with all their snow,
Twenty different kinds of shit, at least.