Use readily available hazel to hatch the finest thumb sticks
Ever since the day when my father chastised me for not carrying a stick when herding cattle, I have always made sure there was one at hand. A simple ash plant cut from a hedgerow was all that was needed and I passed this warning on to my own children as soon as they began to wander in the fields on their own.
The biggest danger lay in coming across a freshly calved heifer and not exercising proper caution, for a heifer defending her calf can be more aggressive than any bull.
As time passed, I began to appreciate the value of a strong, well-balanced stick as an aid for walking as well as encouraging livestock into a lorry or whatever. But then one should never beat animals unless in self-defence.
A prod is usually all that is needed and good cattlemen seemed to have an uncanny way of anticipating when and where an animal would turn.
The late Mickey Towey, who came from that past generation of real cattlemen and must have bought and sold thousands of animals in his day, would always berate a farmer if he caught him beating livestock.
Not only was it unnecessarily cruel but it damaged the most valuable part of the beast, the hindquarter.
Blackthorn is often regarded as the best wood to produce sticks, but good examples are difficult to find and are generally covered in thorns.
If you are lucky enough to locate a suitable one, this heavy wood can provide beautiful material after the thorns are removed and the stick then finished with varnish.