BADGER LAST CATTLE DROVER

Badger (George Page) was the last real drover in this area, he just drove cattle, no other work. My when it was a warm day you kept the windward side of Badger for a ½d (a ha’ penny) he would shed his coats, waistcoats, pullovers, jackets – all 9 or 10 or more! Badger carried his wardrobe on him, summer and winter, it kept the sun off and the cold out – so he said.

He walked miles with a good stick and his tin tea can, from farm to market, or market to farm, driving cattle – a short thick set man, always a smile and a cheery word. Oft times George the Badger drove cattle for my father. When he came to the farm to fetch or bring the cattle, he had a handout – a can of tea; bread and jam; bread and bacon; bread and cheese or cake and pudding. If it was morning and he was going to market, tea and bread and bacon and a few coppers, anything from 3d to 5d no more. If late morning it was half a loaf and a chunk of cheese and a bit of pudding – if it was a big bit of pudding he would throw the bread away and keep the cheese for a day when there was no work. It was easy to get a stale loaf from the Deddington bakers and he was a Deddington man by birth.

He lived in a farm shed, the end of the lane that passed Doctor Turner’s house, Deddington. If it was late afternoon and Badger had driven cattle to market for someone and then driven a herd of cattle back to our farm, it could be five or six o’clock in the evening. His day would start at seven am. Often he had walked forty miles or more, Badger would say:

“Once you got the cattle going, after the first mile or two, it wasn’t so bad.” At the start with the cattle that had never been off the farm, you had to go back and across the road to get them going. They would turn back and twist to go back home and into any hole in the hedge or an open gate, they got through. You must keep them bunched up tight and be close up to them. If they looked at a turning or a gate you hustle them along giving then no chance.

In the evening Badger’s face would be red with exertion of the drive and he would welcome his can filled, his bread and jam and cake that he collected from the kitchen door. He never stood around, he would go away across a field or two, then sit down and have his food and ‘copper up’ as he called – counting his pennies. Then off to his home he would go, unless Dad had a drive for him the next day, or a neighbouring farmer, then Badger would kennel up in a shed or a barn, if not under a hedge or a tree, ready for an early start the next morning.

I think Badger died in his sixties about 1926.