Shovelling Shit

Monday 30th October

I have done quite a few different jobs in my time.  As a boy I had a paper round.  From about the age of 12, I used to get up before 6, and slip out of the house before anyone else was awake.  I would ride my Moulton bike into town and the newsagents.  Taking my empty paper sack I would sort and fold my papers.  I knew by heart my ‘round’, which houses had which papers and put them in order.  I suppose I must have delivered over 50 papers each morning, and a few weekly magazines too.  You learned these off by heart, and I am not sure I could even begin to do it now.  After a few years I started working Saturday mornings and most school howidays at Ray Wasp’s farm.  I think my Mum got me the job.  It was better paid than the paper round too.

I used to collect the eggs from the battery hens and feed the pigs.  The sows in the farrowing sheds were easy, laying on their sides with the little piglets squealing and fighting for a teat, the old sows happy to see me and my bucket of swill.  But the dangerous bit was the big pig sty where the young sows and the two boars used to run about.  I would climb over the rails with my bucket.  Then about twenty pigs would charge at me while I ran from them throwing pig food around the pen, and jump out again before they caught me.

Once or twice I had to clean out this large pen.  The pigs would be moved to a new sluiced down concrete pen.  Fork in hand I would literally shovel shit.  Well, a mixture of shit, piss and straw.  Every few days a hay bale would be spread around the pen to help absorb the shit; this would compact down into about a foot deep layer.  At first the smell was overpowering, but like everything – you get used to it pretty soon. Back-breaking work though, shoveling the straw and shit into a wheel barrow and wheeling it to the big manure mountain ready to be spread on the fields each Autumn and ploughed back into the soil.

I also used to clean out the chicken shit.  The birds were double-decked and there was a steel tray running the length of the shed.  There was a mechanical scraper which would push a river of shit along the tray and into you waiting wheelbarrow. This smelled far worse than the pigs actually and was runny and a mustardy yellow colour.  But as a young teenager this never used to bother me.  I could have happily shoveled shit all day long.