Collectors info, item No: 16-1

My first fieldwork took place when I was 24, in 1980-81, in the northwest of England in the Yorkshire Dales. I worked as a farm-labourer and builder’s mate. (I did not inform people of my status as an anthropologist, because there is no license in Britain for this kind of observation and intrusion. My work as a labourer was not only my way to enter local space and statuses but also to make mutual our engagement. I worked from 8 a.m. till 8 p.m. on the farm where I lived in a caravan (before removing in the evening to a local pub), giving of my time and energy in a locally valued way while using the time and experience myself as a source of ethnographic data. This feels to me like a ‘normative’ relationship, in the sense of normal or average. No relationship entails equal inputs; no relationship is open; no relationship is based on mutual consent of a kind that does not involve intrinsic misunderstandings concerning where each member is ‘coming from’ and how each member is being gratified by the experience.) I could not take photographs myself or be seen to be recording anything at all. The photograph was taken (by someone unknown to me) one evening in the local pub towards the beginning of my time in the dale. I am wearing a beard—I did not yet know that a beard made me untrustworthy (what was I hiding? what terroristic scars?) and I had not yet shaved it off. I am looking askance at a group of drinkers leaning on the bar who are relaxed and in relations with one another. I am envious of their belonging. Behind me to the right is another farmer who is also something of an outsider. In future I would help him build a dry-stone wall. The bald man leaning on the bar near me will become my main boss: the farmer on whose land I will live and work. I do not know this yet. The dartboard behind me will also be a site of much fun and some victories in the months to come. The photograph is a temporal evidencing of a moment of fieldwork I now see as full of potential—my youth, my relations to come—as well as full of anxiety. Will I be beaten up? Will I be made to leave the village? Will I be spoken to or will I be ostracized? Will I gather data? Will it be good data? Will it be appropriate and good and sufficient for a PhD? The sheep’s horn emblemises much of my work with sheep and milk-cows on the farm. Sheep I preferred to cows—for their smell and their activity (on the high fells, and not enclosed in barns and shippons). Sheep, however, must be handled carefully. When picking them up, for instance, their horns can come away if yanked too hard. But I used to like to pick up ailing sheep and carry them up the fells rather than have the sheep-dog chase them up despite their being lame or weak or ill. The farmer looked at me as mad and soft as I carried his sheep rather than have the dog force the situation. I did not consider it at the time but the sheep’s horn is also reminiscent of the ‘shofar’, a horn blown in a synagogue on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) to signify a call to purification, nullification and re-beginning. Jewishness was something shameful, something to be kept secret, during fieldwork, and the religiosity, ritualism and belief mean absolutely nothing to me. However, I like the idea of the sheep’s horn as a Jewish icon (and the story of Abraham and Isaac in the Bible) also somehow being implicated in my life in the Yorkshire Dale of Wanet.