The photo on the ram sale catalogue of a small flock posing with their bums and balls to the camera said it all, really.
We're Beltex blokes with big, meaty backsides. Come and check us out.
And so the farm manager did; he's been interested in Beltex sheep for a while. They're described as a "portmanteau of Belgian and Texel" sheep which started from the Texel in Belgium.
They're used as terminal sires — which means their offspring become your dinner — because of those double-muscled hindquarters they flashed so freely at the camera and their fine bones.
Some years back, three Canterbury couples got their hooves in the door by importing embryos of the double-muscled Texels (the Beltex) from a top UK stud. Somehow this breed got overlooked when Texels came into New Zealand in the 1980s.
Finally, with sufficient rams for a sale they spread the word.
The first I knew was when the farmer walked in and said, "Are you sitting down?" which usually signals really bad news, but his expression suggested otherwise. My plans to horse ride on Uretiti Beach were dashed because the ute, loaded with the stock crate, was off to the South Island and New Zealand's first Beltex ram sale.
Time passed and we figured the manager and his partner would be having fun ambling down the islands before hitting the sale at Rangiatea at Mt Somers. They'd return early the next week.
But then, a frantic phone call. Soon after leaving the sale the ute had stopped dead.
I sent a text: Do you have a ram on board? Just curious.
The reply: Yes, have four rams in paddock.
"Four!" The farmer went pale. "Four! Easy to spend money when it's not yours."
Without a scrap of knowledge, I tried to soothe him: "They've driven a long way. May as well make it worthwhile. Everyone has to have a dream. This has been planned for a long while."
The world's kindest tow truck driver grazed the rams in his paddock, took the people to a motel and the ute to a mechanic who reset the electronics and it was good as gold.
When we learned our ram buyers had starred on TV1 news, the farmer went paler. "The biggest buyers at the auction," he muttered as he found the clip online. It was headed: Sheep breed new to NZ fetches record prices at first auction — one Beltex ram sold for $15,000 at the auction in mid-Canterbury."
"$15,000!" The farmer went very quiet. I couldn't find words of comfort.
Meanwhile, the rams were heading north. Time had been lost, the ferry sailing delayed. Getting home was urgent. They travelled through the night.
The next morning, he checked my cellphone and, well, sheepish with relief, reported: "They transported three for someone else."
The farm manager has always had a warped sense of humour and he'd done well this time.
We met Jock as he rolled into the farm. When you travel for that long with a sheep, it gets a name. He looked too short, more like a pig crossed with a sheep. His bug eyes were worried but then he'd been travelling day, night and day and his three mates had just disappeared. He settled to graze immediately.
"He's very short," I said to the farmer. "Do you think he's tall enough to do the business?"
"You're going to having spread boxes around the paddock for him," he replied.
But the latest news is encouraging. He's cohabiting with a bunch of ewes and looks like he knows what's expected of him. Time will tell.