wrong with you, Dad. You walk like you're an old man.” Harry chuckled at
his father's hobbling gait.
funny, Harry. You're father's rheumatism is acting up.” Maureen, his
mother, snapped. “Don't you have work to do? I distinctly remember asking
you to brush out the cow's hair.”
don't be too harsh on him,” her husband, Hugh, said, smiling.
sorry, Harry. I suppose I'm a bit on edge today. There must be a storm
coming. I'd really appreciate it if you took care of Robbie and Catriona.
Their hair is nearly to the ground and full of snags.”
kisses his mum on the cheek. “I'll go and do it right now, Mum.” He opened
the back door, stopping for a moment. “The sky's clear, Mum. I don't think
there's a storm coming.” Closing the door behind him, Harry headed for the
you're right,” Hugh said. “I only ache like this when there's a bad storm
coming. We'll just have to wait and see. Where's Fish this morning?”
already. He was meeting Chips and then heading for school. It's really
quite funny isn't it, that they both acquired nicknames and that they
match. Fish and Chips. How rare.” Maureen put the last of the dishes on
the rack to dry.
a busy day ahead of me. If there's a chance we might lose power, I'd
better get a few things done today. I trust you'll keep yourself busy.”
Hugh squeezed his wife's hand.
million things to do, luv.” Maureen winked and then headed for the bedroom
* * *
so boring today,” Fish complained. “When is Mrs. Redfearne going to teach
us something useful.”
learned a lot today. Did you know that William Shakespeare was born 23
April? That's my mum's birthday.” Chips adjusted her back pack.
know and I don't really care.” Fish glanced up at the sky. “Look how blue
the sky is today. There's not even a cloud.”
remember one day Mrs. Redfearne telling us that a blue sky in Inverlarich
means a storm coming in a day or two.” Chips kicked a pebble off the path.
Look above you. There are no clouds.” Fish ran ahead. “Talk to you
tomorrow. Meet me at 8 A.M. at the loch.
waved and dashed home.
walked in the house, his mum greeted him. “Fish, there's a lot of work I
need you to do today. I hope you've not made plans with Chips.”
to go to visit her gran. What sort of jobs?” Fish dropped his pack on the
floor by the back door.
a storm coming and we need to get things ready,” Maureen said.
too. Chips said the same thing a few minutes ago. Mum, go and look
outside. There's not a cloud in the sky and it's bluer than I've ever seen
it.” Fish sat in one of the wooden chairs around the table. “What is there
feed you, but then I need you to help your father. He's in a lot of pain
today.” Maureen put out a plate of ginger biscuits, a glass of milk, and a
cold sausage roll. “Eat up then.”
gobbled the last bite and wiped his mouth. “I'll go and see what Dad needs
help with.” He found his father dragging the sheep into the barn.
Glad to see you. Help me with these sheep. They're being very stubborn.
Imagine, they would rather stay in the pasture and eat than be stowed away
in the barn.” Hugh pushed one of the larger sheep through the door and
shut it. “Stubborn creatures.”
put Robbie and Catriona away earlier. He brushed their coats this morning.
When he gets home, he can help us. In the meantime, it's up to you and
me.” Hugh headed for the pasture. “Come on then, lad.”
them three hours to gather the sheep. Fish held the last one by the ears
and nudged them inside with his knee.
showed up and pointed at the sky. “Look up there, Fish. Clouds. We're in
for it tonight.”
gather up everything that can be tossed by the wind and stick it inside
the barn. Mind not to let any of the sheep out. Your mum's chickens are in
there too. She'll not be pleased if one is let loose.” Hugh nodded to his
their mum called them for supper, everything was safely packed away in the
barn. “Come on, lads. Your mum made some steak and kidney pie with tatties
and neeps and hot scones.” Hugh turned to look at the barn. “Everything's
sardined in there. Let's hope the storm doesn't do too much damage.”
feasted on pie filled with chunks of beef, chopped onions, leeks, and
carrots, smothered in a rich brown gravy. Maureen mashed the potatoes and
turnips together and tossed in some butter. The scones, light and fluffy,
melted in their mouths with each bite. For sweet, she made some hot
rhubarb pie and smothered the pieces in cream.
just cleared the table off when the wind's howling shook the house. She
glanced at her husband. “Hugh?”
nothing we can do now. We'll have to tough it out.” He slipped his arm
around her waist. “Lads, go on and do your homework. Who knows how long
the electricity will last. I'd better get out the oil lamps, just in case.
Do you have candles, Maureen?”
headed to his room, listening to the sounds of his parents preparing for
the worst. He shut his bedroom door and walked to the window. Pulling back
the curtains, he glanced outside. Sleet pounded against the glass, running
together into a sheet of water. “Sky juice. That's what Harry calls it.”
He let go of the curtains and sat on his bed. “Time for homework. I
suppose I should read the chapter about the new energy proposals. Boring
cracking and splintering of wood caused Fish to jump, dropping his book on
the floor. He bolted down the stairs. “What was that, Dad?”
skidded into the room. “It sounded like the barn.”
The gale is much stronger than I ever dreamed. It blew the barn to bits.
The animals are running wild, exposed to the sleet and icy wind. We're
going to have to bring them into the house, or at least put them out of
harm's way.” Hugh slipped his Mac on. “You'll have to help too, Maureen.
The chickens won't stand a chance in this weather.”
opened the back door, the wind ripped it from his hands and blew it back
against the croft with a thunderous thud. Harry helped him push it shut.
They had to shout at each other to hear over the sound of the wind.
chased down her chickens, one by one. Most lost feathers and were running
wild in terror. As she caught them she took them into the house. “You'll
not lay any eggs for weeks now, will you girls?” She sighed and went back
out to help her husband and sons.
chased down Robbie and Catriona. Being the largest of the animals, they
hadn't gone far. He scoffed when he saw the mess their coats were in. “I
just brushed you,” he said soothingly as he tied them to the side of the
house, away from the blast of the gale. He picked up the wool blankets
used to keep the cows warm on bitter winter nights and threw one over each
cow. “You'll be safe here. I'd bring you inside, but, well, you're just
too big.” He stroked their heads, trying to calm them. “Stay here.” He ran
off to find his father.
Fish herded the sheep into a fenced in pen, behind the croft. Just as Hugh
was about to close the gate, a bolt of lightning crackled and exploded
right above them. In terror the sheep scattered, knocking both of them
down, trampling over them in escape.
rushed over to them. “Are you all right?” He helped his father and brother
broken bones.” Fish brushed himself up.
stood. “We're all right. Let's find those sheep. They're going to have to
herd them in here and get the gate shut.”
at a time, they gathered the flock, shoving them inside the pen. The sheep
huddled together in a corner, cowering from the ferocious winds.
Rose? I see all the others.” Hugh put his hands to his mouth and shouted.
and find her,” Fish said. He ran off into the darkness.
better have a look too. Rose has been having trouble. I think she's going
to lamb soon.” Hugh nodded and headed for the surrounding hills.
search continued into the wee hours of the morning. As the first sign of
dawn appeared, the gale force winds died down and the rain dissipated.
the bone and shivering, Fish turned to go home. He heard a soft baa.
“Rose? Is that you?” He followed the noise. A thick hedge of brambles hid
the sheep from his view. “Are you in there?” His hands tore and shredded
as he parted the stickery branches of the bush. “There you are. You've
tangled yourself. I imagine you've had quite a fright being caught out
here during that horrid storm.” Fish caressed the frightened sheep with
Fish.” Harry shouted to his father.
over to the struggling sheep. “Good job, Fish.” Hugh helped pull the sheep
out. He felt her belly. “The lamb moved. They'll be fine. Let's get her
back to the croft. Your mum can dry her off.”
pregnant sheep was warm and calm, Fish took her to the pen. She joined the
an arm come over his shoulder. “We've got a lot of work ahead of us, lad.
Look at the barn. It needs to be rebuilt. Robbie and Catriona will be fine
and I suppose the sheep will too. Your mum is fretting over the chickens,
but we'll get by.”
rubbed his shoulder. Fish sighed. “Dad, are you all right?”
lad.” They turned to look at what was left of the barn. The rain stopped
and a rainbow filled the sky.
that, Dad. It's the prettiest rainbow I've ever seen.” Fish shaded his
eyes as the sun broke through from behind a cloud. “The cloud has a silver
rainbow is a promise that a bright new day has begun and now you know what
that saying means about the clouds having a silver lining. The good thing
is that we all came through the storm unharmed. Our croft house is in
great shape. Not one animal was lost. Your mum's chickens are missing a
few feathers, but all is well at the Ross croft and that, my son, is a
blessing in itself. Sometimes we need storms to remind us how much we
done, Dad? That was a good lecture.” Fish smiled.
tickled the lad and then hand in hand, went to begin the work of