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The Oban Times - - Leisure -

It was late. We were about to turn in af­ter a hard day in the fields. House locked up, an­i­mals fed, our own beds wait­ing. Then the ur­gent knock­ing on the front door. Un­lock ev­ery­thing ex­cept the door chain and the voice that greeted me with the blast of icy air sounded vaguely for­eign. ‘I am zo zorry to dis­turb you. I didn't know ver to turn. My - an­i­mal - needs a vet and my mo­bile does not vork here.’ ‘There are vets in town,’ I said, ‘I can phone through for you if you like.’ Se­cu­rity aware, I left the door chain on and came back with our cord­less to phone the out of hours vet. ‘What is your an­i­mal?’ I asked the for­eign gen­tle­man as I waited for the vet to pick up. ‘She is along ze road. It is her an­kle. I can­not carry her,’ he said, a break in his voice. When the vet an­swered, he agreed to come to our house so the gen­tle­man could meet him on site. I of­fered the vis­i­tor the op­por­tu­nity to come in­side for a cuppa while he waited, but he de­clined. ‘I have had plenty to keep mev arm ,’ he said, ‘ I just feel zo bad for dis­turb­ing you on zis night.’ ‘The an­i­mals don't know it's Christ­mas Eve do they?’ I said. He shrugged and mum bled some­thing al­most in­audi­ble. The moon­light had emerged from be­hind the clouds by then and I could see him bet­ter. He w as stand­ing out­side the door, muf­fled up in a parka, the hood al most cov­er­ing his face. I could see a pair of bright eyes, creased at the cor­ners, un­til he turned his shoul­der to the moon­light, putting his face in shadow again. ‘Vould you please tell ze vet ven he ar­rives I am a qvarter mile East by ze great pine tree,’ he said. There was the hum of an ap­proach­ing car and my vis­i­tor was gone across the farm­yard and out of sight into the cold night air. The vet was up the road for al­most an hour and I was about to lock up and go along with torch and Res­cue Rem­edy to see if they needed help, when he came back. He asked if I knew the vis­i­tor and I e xplained what had hap­pened. It didn't lessen the blanched look on his face. ‘Well,’ he said, as he turned back to his car, ‘he paid me in cash there and then, and the painkillers and strap­ping should ease that hoof un­til morn­ing.’ I got the in­voice af­ter New Year. I sup­pose the pa­per­work has to go to some­one, but I'll never know which shocked me most, the huge shoot­ing star that swept across the night sky as the vet's car dis­ap­peared down the road, or the words on that in­voice. The bal­ance was £ 0.00, all paid up. Just the words in the left­hand col­umn: ‘Treat­ment for in­jured rein­deer.’ An­i­mals eh? They never cease to amaze me! Lind­say Campbell


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