Fifty years ago, I was working in the farmyard, when a young man pulled in and introduced himself as the representative of a new company selling weedkiller. The man went on to tell me that for every five-gallon drum of weedkiller a farmer bought, he would receive a box of 12-bore cartridges. Then the salesman flipped open the boot of his car, revealing box after box of 12-bore cartridges all stamped with the firm?s logo.

Being a keen shooter, and living on a farmer?s son?s wage with little money for my favourite occupation, I found myself thinking, ?this must be my birthday?. I promised the salesman that when my father returned from the cattle mart I would persuade him to buy my new friend?s weedkiller. With a grin, he stretched into the boot of his car and took out two boxes of cartridges and placed them into my eager hands. I decided to push my luck a bit further and said to him: ?Surely not all farmers shoot?. He immediately reached into the boot and took out another two boxes of cartridges. Then he climbed back into his car and with a cheerful wave he was gone.

That evening I tipped a box of my usual cartridges into my bag and topped it up with a box of the new cartridges I had been given before heading for the pigeon wood behind the farmhouse. The pigeon flighted into the wood in droves, and in no time at all I was completely out of cartridges with very few kills to show for my efforts.

The next morning I set off on the little grey Fergie tractor to check up on the livestock and my vermin traps. To my delight I had caught one of the largest rats I had ever seen. As I reached to lift the cage out of the hedgerow, the rat gripped the bars with its teeth, demonstrating to me what it would do if I dared put my hand inside. Eventually, I had the trap out in the open and, picking up the vermin gun from its resting place between the tractor seat and the mudguard, I pushed two of the new cartridges into the breech. Then I stepped back a few yards from the trap and gave the rat the right barrel. When the smoke cleared the rat was still sat there, defiantly baring its huge rodent teeth. So it got the second barrel, with the same result!

Weeks later, when the salesman returned to take the weedkiller order, I tackled him about his useless cartridges. His eyes lit up and he broke into his enormous grin and said: ?Oh we don?t put lead in them. We find that farmers are happy just to hear the bang.?

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