The first frost had fallen that morning. Dill had waited until the sun had melted it before taking his two westies for a walk. There was still some sparkling white patches of grass in the shadows of the hills and in the distance some of the higher tops looked as white as the clouds that seemed to be touching them.
Dill relying heavily on his metal walking sticks, followed the small stone covered pathway towards the lake. He knew this country well, having spent his whole life out here looking after the flock of sheep. Now, that responsibility had moved to his sons and Dill was free of a burden he had never realised he had carried.
Sitting on a bench his grandfather had built, Dill rested his arthritic limbs. The familiar ache in his chest made itself known and reminded him that he was no longer young. Still though he was defiant that old age would not bet him.
He watched the two westies sniffing about and drinking from the edge of the lake. Soon the water would start to freeze over and in the heart of winter, the lake would become a hard glass surface dusted with snow.
The memory of one winter when he was eighteen always haunted him and the sight of the lake always brought it sharply back.
Dill had been driving the sheep towards shelter when one of the sheep had broken away and gone onto the frozen lake. Dill’s then sheep dog, Kip, had refused to go after it. The black and white dog stood on the edge of the ice barking, torn between chasing the sheep and sensing the danger underneath his paws.
Dill hadn’t been able to abandoned the ewe and had decided to go after her himself. He knew the lake had been frozen for two months now and there was a heavy covering of snow across the surface. He could see the sheep in the distance, her dirty huge fleece making her stand out and her dashing hood prints plain in the snow.
Kip had shadowed him in a shy way and when encouraged still refused to fetch the sheep. Dill had given up and carried on walking, using his shepherd’s crook to steady his footsteps.
Far from the shore, Dill felt the snow shift under his feet and came to a stop as a loud cracking sound started up. Covered by thick snow, it was hard to make out the lines of the break. He had felt a little spiral of fear but pushed on. More cracking echoed off the hills and he thought he heard the sound of water bubbling.
Dill could see the ewe and he was so close but within seconds the sheep disappeared. Her desperate cries echoed in Dill’s ears as did the sound of splashing. Quickly, Dill had rushed onward and found the sheep drowning in a watery hole, edged by jagged ice that looked like broken shards of glass. The force of the water and the sheep’s heavy fleece were dragging her down to her doom.
Grabbing fist fulls of the wet fleece, Dill had tried to haul the ewe out. He struggled as the sheep fought him and the icy water tried to claim her. He tugged and tugged, his own feet slipping on the mushing snow and ice. Kip barked and danced around, unable to help.
Finally, Dill had pulled the ewe out and they had lay on the water snow, both exhausted with lake water running off them. Then, Dill had half carried, half dragged the yew back home. Snow had began to fall and he had thought they would never make it but Kip kept bit at his heels and the ewe’s until they did.
Safe inside, they had sat by the kitchen coal fire for the rest of the night. The warmth melting the snow and chasing the frozen lake water from their veins. The ewe had seemed none the worse of almost dying and Dill knew they had both had a lucky escaped.
One of the westies’ licked Dill’s cold fingers, bringing him back to the present. He patted the dog, speaking softly to it. It was time to go back, Dill could feel the coming snow in his shepherd’s bones. Standing wobbly up, Dill made his way slowly home again where a warm fire and steaming mug of tea with whiskey would be waiting.
(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/11/14/thursday-photo-prompt-glass-writephoto/ with thanks).