About the only person not already at the market was Old Dan. Wollombi intersection was seriously clogged with bodies overflowing from Mel’s and sight-seers, milling around, admiring St Michaels, the court house and the post Office, beautiful examples of convict masonry in locally quarried sandstone.
I had never seen it before, despite spending months at a time on my grandparents’ dairy farm at Werombi, where the first chore of the day, after a round of the rabbit traps, was to take Rowdy and drive the herd in for milking. Not that they needed much driving: they all knew the way and were further motivated by swollen udders and a trough of grain and silage waiting at the out end of the milking shed. But we drove them from the back
Now, here was Old Dan, chugging along on his old Massey Ferguson in low-low, a bale of lucerne hay on the carry-all, parting the crowd of revelers, followed by a herd of mixed cows and calves. There was no hurry, no yapping, nipping blue cattle dog and no break-aways to be chased and cursed at. That was so outside my experience. I stood and watched and learned.
He knew cattle are followers. They string out in a line, one behind the other, each calmly following the one in front and in this case, following the one following the hay bale.
I saw it again at Dooralong years later as the dairyman brought his cows home by simply walking slowly in front, leading the way with the dog at the rear adding a little encouragement to any cow stopping for more than a quick chomp of roadside greenery
Peter Police was fussing about, fretting over the impediment to traffic flow and trying to keep the road clear in case a car should blunder into town. Then at the height of confusion, along came Dan to be the star of that moment, creeping along on his unregistered tractor and for me at least, showing how it was done. As he passed where I stood, his old eyes appeared briefly from under the hat brim and he winked. People standing nearby were startled by my sudden laughter as I turned away. Dan kept going, eyes front and I knew he heard and understood he'd been sprung. I miss him.