dip

When the time came to dip the livestock, Anton would load them onto the back of the truck and drive them to another farm, for we did not have the cement-lined trench of poison into which sheep and cattle were driven periodically to rid them of ticks and other insect pests. At Rudolf’s Hoek, the Cope family farm, there was a dip, however, and the dipping of the animals was for me an occasion of excitement mixed with terror. The fear of poisons that had been sensibly ingrained in me was wildly stirred by such profligate, splashing, spuming quantities of the very substances which we were never to touch or inhale, and this multiplied the thrill of the dusty, noisy, smelly event.

I remember in particular the thrashing panic of the animals as they skidded bellowing down the slipway, emitting streams of wet green shit, crowded by their peers and urged on by whips, the danger of their hard hooves or horns as they tried to escape, the foam at their mouths, the foam of the liquid in the trench as they swam frantically to the far side, their rolling eyes, their slippery and dripping emergence from the poison, and their chastened gait as they moved to stand again among the herd or flock. At the end of the procedure the dogs would be tossed into the trench, now shallower, smirched and muddy, to emerge cringing and shaking the poison all over everyone.

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