As I filed out med forms, the clerk asked, “When did you retire?”
and my glib answer was “I’m self employed, I don’t retire”, which has been true since 1970 but the day I scratched the Billadeau trial I’m retired. The Billadeau trial has enough even sheep, an interesting tricky course and fine hospitality. Not too far to a grassy dog friendly motel next to a Texas Roadhouse doggy bag friendly saloon. It’s my kind of trial but I can’t drive 20 minutes to church. Retired.
A couple years ago in the hospital I prayed to live long enough to finish the third big historical novel in the Jacob’s Ladder, Canaan trilogy. Lived long enough and it’s making the rounds of publishers. I even had time to fiddle with another dog book. Didn’t get far. I’ve not got brain power to work a complicated narrative.
For my adult life I’ve defined myself by work: shepherding, writing, dog trialing. When we sold our flock my self definition sounded like a windblown drinks cup rattling against a chainlink fence outside Gillette, Wyoming.
I ran my first novice/novice dog in 1981 or 82. When I confused Pip he’d nip at my legs until I got coherent. Pip was a goodun. As were Harry, June and Luke. The not so good were my friends and got the work done and sometimes, on good days, won trials and lived with us until they were buried on the hill where I’ll rest too.
Of the dogs I’ve seen I’d most like to have run Bobby Diehl’s Dryden Joe, I bred a couple gyps to Wilson’s Roy and admired Templar’s Roy (on the crossdrive (32 commands in 20 seconds). I couldn’t have handled Roy or John Thomas’ Don or MacCrae’s Nan. Berhow’s Nick, Bruce Fogt’s Hope, Kate Broadbent’s Trey, Ken Arrendale’ Mack, Glyn Jones’ Spot, Ralph Pulfer’s Shep. Beverly Lambert’s Pippa - what a privilege it’s been to see such dogs properly honored.
In 1984 I sat up past midnight in a Houston hotel to watch Ethel Conrad and Bess introduce our dogs to David Letterman. Letterman was trying to agitate the ducks : they flurry/dog attacks/something funny but Ethel kept order on the set. After Lettermen discovered they weren’t “Stupid Pet Tricks”, Tommy Wilson’s dogs headlined his show’s tenth anniversary gathering sheep on the Radio City Music Hall stage and driving them down the center aisle and into a waiting yellow cab.
When I started we didn’t know if trialing would survive - indeed, whether the Border Collie would survive. But we got through the AKC putsch and the flood of newbies who had never seen a sheep before they owned a sheepdog. These newcomers to an unfamiliar difficult tradition have embraced it and the dogs are safe in their hands.
The standard of work is higher than it was. As Beverly Lambert said, “In those days if you hit the panels and got your pen you won. Then you had hit the panels and get the pen correctly. Now you must do all that and take chances.”
I've had a good go.
I’ll miss the trialing. I’ll miss your dogs. I’ll miss you.
See you on down the road,
Posted 14 September 2017 - 05:46 AM
Posted 14 September 2017 - 07:35 AM
"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.
You are his life, his love, his leader.
He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart.
You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion." Author Unknown
Nancy Cox Starkey
Trial & Error Acres
Mt. Airy, Maryland
Posted 14 September 2017 - 08:35 AM
Thank you, Donald, for sharing your prodigious gift of words with us over the years, as well as your advocacy for the working sheepdog. I'll always treasure the memory of our first meeting at Amanda's all those years ago, and I've continued to enjoy your public musings - and hope to do so for quite some time to come!
Take care of yourself, and keep in touch.
Montague, in the State of Jefferson
Posted 14 September 2017 - 08:19 PM
I'm so sorry to hear that you've reached the end of dog trialing. I'm just now trying to get back in, and I'll miss seeing you, just as much as I miss the Highland Occasional trial. I hope I do get to see you and Anne again sometime.
I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream.
~Vincent van Gogh
New Kent, VA
Beloved, and living in memory: Willow (6/1997-5/2014, run free, my heart), Boy (3/1995-10/2010, RIP), Jill (8/1996-5/2012, RIP), Farleigh (12/1998-7/2014, RIP), Kat (4/2000-6/2015, I miss you, my sweet, funny little clown), and Twist (11/2001-11/2016, you were my once-in-a-lifetime dog and forever my BEST girl)
The current pack: Lark, Phoebe, Pipit, Birdie, Kiskadee (Kiss), Rue, Corbie, and Kite!
Willow's Rest, Tunis, Tunis mules, Leicester longwool, Teeswater, Border Leicester, and Gulf Coast Native sheep
Visit me on Facebook at Poudrier and Crowder, Set Out Specialists (P&C, SOS)
Posted 15 September 2017 - 04:24 AM
Celt, Megan, and Dan
"When the chips are down, watch where you step."
"The happiest people don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything." - author unknown
Posted 16 September 2017 - 11:21 AM
Hey, I met you once. The gal out in the PNW with the bent leg crook and the rough old dog with no collar.
I am sure you don't remember me.
But, buddy I'll remember you.
Do me a favour
maybe now and again whisper me some advice and patience.
My heart on these mountains owes you a debt.
Posted 16 September 2017 - 04:33 PM
I'm sad to hear there isn't a chance to cross paths with you at a trial going forward. I doubt you recall a brief meeting at Vashon a couple years ago. I liked how you later called that field "technical." A perfect description, among many you've given us over the years. Please don't stop writing us. Your insights and ways of expressing them give us so much pleasure.
Jan & Daisy & Juno & Star
LJ Shores, San Diego CA
Posted 16 September 2017 - 07:50 PM
Always enjoyed your company at. many trials throughout the continent. Especially appreciated your comments on my Jim dog at Caora. Hope to run him next week at Belle Grove. Please don't give up the ghost and get out and about to some trials to keep you young and active.
Posted 17 September 2017 - 07:41 PM
I fell in love with the breed while reading Nop's Trials. I also cried a lot.
While we sometimes don't agree here on a few topics, know that your work influenced my life and made me want to stand at the post.
I hope you find a pleasure and peace in retirement, and maybe still find some time to be involved.
"one dog shy of a crazy dog lady..."
Posted 17 September 2017 - 08:02 PM
Thanks for being a champion for the working Border Collie all these years.
Posted 17 September 2017 - 08:14 PM
Oh Donald, I'll miss you! I was thinking about you this weekend and thought it odd you weren't at Pipedream.
Shoofly Farm, Oxford NC
Posted 24 September 2017 - 09:43 PM
Dear Mr. McCaig,
I think I have read all your books - yes, even the Jacob's Ladder books, and actually enjoyed them even though I am not/was not a history fan. I will certainly read the next.
And I will echo others who have expressed thanks for your support for the working Border Collie throughout the years.
Your legacy is impressive, and not yet finished. Hoping to hear more from you.
"Folks will know how large your soul is by the way you treat a dog." Charles F. Duran
Posted 31 October 2017 - 09:26 PM
Sheepdogging geezer, you are a special person. I'm only sorry I have lived too far west and started too late in the game to meet you in person. Take care of you. The hills and the dogs and the sheep never forget.
To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring - it was peace. ~ Milan Kundera
Posted 04 November 2017 - 12:48 PM
After a career spent largely in Country radio, you bring to mind a George Jones song, "Who's gonna fill their shoes". You leave a very large pair.
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