Jane in the Land Army – 5

Bobby knew he was doing valuable work for the country on the farm, but it was still not easy being at home when the other men his age were off in the Forces. He had poor eyesight, so wouldn’t have been on the front line either – my own father was in that situation, so was in the RAMC; the medical corps.

A young woman was visiting and she was a keen and experienced rider, so Bobby and she rode off for the afternoon over the fields. A rabbit jumped out, the horse shied and the girl fell off. Everyone who rides falls off once in a while and she laughed it off, but Bobby had seen her hit her head – no riding hats in those days. However, she insisted on remounting. They were a long way from home and so they set off again at walking pace. However, she suddenly went pale, said she felt ill and fell off again. It was obviously serious, she was unconscious. Bobby galloped off to get help and she was carried off to hospital, where she died. Her skull was fractured in the first fall and the second one was fatal. Bobby was devastated, particularly as the coroner criticised him at the inquest. She was an only child, too.

It was a truly mixed farm. They just had one pig, but they had cows, sheep and chickens, as well as arable land. They’d have grown most of the feed for the animals as well as corn and vegetables to sell. I know this because my mother used to tell me about milking the cows – women tend to be good at this, apparently, as their hands are usually smaller, the skin is not so rough and they treat the cows more gently as a result. There was one occasion when she was milking a particularly bad-tempered cow – of course, it was when the pail was full that the cow kicked, knocked it over and Jane off her stool. “You sod!” she said, and everyone else looked round at her like a Bateman cartoon. First time anyone had heard her swear.

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