by Dick Nutt
A day on the B.F.S.S. stand with my ferreting display can be classified as either 'pain' or 'pleasure', according to the makeup of the audience.
Chatting to another fieldsports enthusiast or fellow ferreter often results in useful dialogue, with exchange of working tips or husbandry knowledge, plus of course, checking, if they are current members. This is usually the 'pleasure' side of the coin.
The 'pain' side is more often found at shows where lay members of the Great British Public are more in evidence, and therefore some of the questions and comments come under the heading of 'incredible'.
However, regardless of provocation or stupidity, the smile and polite manner can't be relaxed, but it is possible at times to get in a pleasant verbal parry or even thrust!
Inevitably at some stage along will come a somewhat beery gent, with lady in tow, and this pair will stand mutely and listen while I talk animatedly to someone else. Eventually he will nudge the lady and say pointedly, "Do you put them down your trousers then? Ha, ha, ha!"
On goes the deathmask smile and I say, "I haven't room for anything, else in mine, have you?" They never, ever answer that!
Then there is the earnest, rather formidable lady, probably suffering from a surfeit of Beatrix Potter, who asks what I do with the ferrets.
"I use them to help me catch rabbits in these nets I'm making, Madam," says I.
"Rabbits?" says she, "Poor little furry darlings, how can you? It's so cruel!"
GOTCHA! I think, and say, "They can be used against rats as well."
"Oh! Please bring them round to my place our compost heap is full of the loathsome, horrid, filthy creatures." Funny things, people........
By late afternoon I decide to have a walk around the show, and, leaving my display under Pat's watchful eye, set off with 'Rush', my old polecat hob, contentedly draped over my shoulder. Now Rush is a big lad at nearly 4lbs, with canines half an inch long, and as gentle as can be. So we wander around, getting some curious stares, then join the queue at the ice cream van, me talking softly to the old boy all the while as he really enjoys a chat.
This is when I'm spotted by the scarlet woman! That's right, the one in the yellow bikini top, cerise shorts, four inch heels and all over sunburn, dragging the small child.
"Kevin!" she shrieks fortissimo, "Kevin, look Kevin, that man has got a badger!"
I'll swear a pained look crosses the handsome polecat mask and I hear him ask, "What on earth d'ye breed that sort for, Guv'nor?"
Oh well, we are about to be served, if the assistant can take her eyes off Rush, and relocate her bottom jaw.
"A choc ice for me and a small vanilla cone for the ferret, please," I say.
Yes I just love shows!
(First published Spring 1993)