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Donald McCaig

The morning after

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Dear Sheepdoggers,

 

I emptied the rainwater bulge from the roof of the judge’s tent and collected a diet Pepsi can from the fence post where some handler forgot it. No other trash; not even a cigarette butt. Fog slid down the hollows. It was very quiet. No Rv”s, no spectators, no lawnchairs, no black and white dogs racing through our hayfields.

 

Whew.

 

I didn’t know if the musicians http://www.paolomarksviolins.com/biography.html would show up. We don’t pay much. When I phoned in June , a harried young mother said, “When? When’s that? We’ll be there if I don’t call you back,” and I hadn’t heard another word. Our preacher finished blessing the dogs and folks were cracking beers and sniffing the air wondering when the ribs would be done when their West Virginia caravan came around the barn.

 

Saturday was the first day of the trial which is when the last details get ironed out and the trial is turned over to judge and handlers. Rain showers kept the temperature down and there were some fine runs –Charlie Hurt ran his first novice trial here three? Four? Years ago came 2nd with his Josie.

 

I liked the way Joe Evans Mist threw herself off the sheep at the pen.

 

We attempted a double lift at the end of the day but a big thirty minute course on tough sheep was too much to ask of dogs that had already run that day.

 

Young eagles have been nesting next the river but I didn’t see them the morning after and hope the ruckus hasn’t driven them away. Roxy, the guard dog, is whiter than her sheep. It’s time she’s fed but she won’t come off. I supposed she’s worried those strange dogs will come back and start up again.

One hundred ninety ewes grazing close. They’d only been here a week which wasn’t enough time to get them bloomy. One run each day was plenty.. After I take down the panels I’ll shift them to fresh pasture.

 

Thea says we had 24 pounds of ground brisket leftover so she gave it to neighbors who needed it. The serving tables and coffee pot go back to the community center and we'll include our leftover soda pop and extra plastic ware.

 

Not much to take back to Martins: case of chips, 5 12 packs of soda, a carton of spring water and some rib rub I didn’t use.

 

Sherry Faster did Bluegrass caliber judging and enjoyed it. I can judge but I’m wrapped tight and judging’s pure duty.

 

If it dries this afternoon, we’ll take down the big green funeral home tent. Bryan Obaugh told me we could have two next year. Bryan brought his fiancé to the trial and said he’s keeping a pup out of his Tip dog. Good cattledog. I keep meaning to talk to Bryan about that preneed stuff while I’m still in the “pre” part.

 

Our guard dogs and sheepdogs are whipped Too many strange people/vehicles/dogs on their farm. Monday morning ,old, sick Luke, slipped out to wreck Jan Thompson’s run and got a big waterbelly for his exertions. I’ll take him to the vet but there’s not much Luke left.

 

Half full can of fancy dog food in the cabin refrigerator and one flat piece of strawberry rhubarb pie. I could make a couple more pies next year but can only get six in our oven. Maybe I’ll ask a neighbor to bake a couple.Made too much Sunday night deer chili and cornbread . The handlers were still eating BBQ.

 

Next year I’ll rotate the pen opening so the dog is right on the pressure. If I shift the crossdrive just twenty feet, the brush-pile won’t be so tricky. But maybe I prefer tricky. Several handlers offered to come out and burn it. Anet Haithcox said she’d bring smores.

 

Against the deep green grass white plastic panels seem monumental. Steles waiting for something to happen.

.The running was better this year and more fun to watch, My Fly was silly but less silly than she has been. She did fine working the trial and I hope I tricked her into believing that farmwork and trialwork just the same thing. Really Fly! They are!.

 

Sunday, at Polly Matzinger’s suggestion, we shrank the double lift to its core elements: lookback and international shed and that worked better. If we only run 30 dogs next year, we’ll do it again. If we fill up, given a fifteen minute course. we won’t have time.

 

Over three days, we drew fifty carloads of paying spectators and plenty livestock folks. It was fun talking to them because they could see the sheep. My old loan officer showed up with his family.

 

Our preacher was surprised 44 dogs could sit quietly during her blessing. With many dogs on two leashes, Julie Poudrier looked like a Manhattan dog walker. Our neighbor Jane Bergamin brought her beloved, slightly befuddled cocker and Shasta, our exrescue came too. I was glad to see Shasta looking smug.

The ribs were good. Might have used a little more sauce.

 

At dusk as the mist rolled in we gathered under the funeral tent and the cello hummed into the melancholy sweet Askowan Farewell. Classically educated, they play mountain music.

 

I got to bed early and didn’t hear Alice Urquart play the spoons. A neighbor was nipping moonshine and when the musicians closed up shop, he thought he’d just sleep there in his chair but his wife said, “And what you gonna do when you wake up tomorrow morning with all them dogs a sniffin’ at you?”

 

Cy Peterson had a terrific three days but also captured the not-at-all-coveted train wreck award. Having penned her sheep, Cy’s dog slipped in there too, ejected the pesky critters and bit one.

 

The trial almost broke even. We’ll do better next year. A benefit trial should probably benefit.

 

Sherry and Julie and Deb and Thea and the musicians who camp with their children, play, and watch dogs run before they drive back to West Virginia: – why?

 

Why do otherwise rational people load their dogs, drive hours and hours to waste a perfectly good three day weekend without Wifi, or TV where their cellphones don’t work?

 

Ribbons? A wreck trophy?

 

None of them break even.

 

Maybe it’s being part of something bigger than we are; bigger than any host or worker or the most brilliant run or any one trial. We are one of many: no different from those dozen rough shepherds behind a Galway pub, or waiting to run on a stony beach in the Falklands, or before a hundred thousand spectators at high noon at Brisbane’s Ag Ecca, or on the clipped alfalfa fields at the Oregon Finals., at Dumfries, a clamorous Maine fairground, a big sky Dakota ranch, or a mountain farm down the road from Williamsville Virginia.

 

We honor the dogs that have shaped us as we shape them.

 

Donald McCaig

Highland SDT scores 1sep12.doc

Highland SDT scores 2 Sep 12.doc

Highland SDT scores 3sep12.doc

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Thank you, Donald. I'd wanted to come badly, planned to come, and then could not (camper in the shop, car in the shop, life kicking me from all directions at once). Your beautiful recap of the weekend alternately made me laugh, gave me shivers, let me live it from afar, and made me cry for having missed it.

 

Sometimes, it's downright frustrating to have to be responsible and face up to reality. Maybe next year, like I keep on saying. I've made it once and will never forget it.

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Donald,

 

Renee and I are sorry to have missed it this year; it would have been great to get away. Peg's sporting a bright red cast and I'm sore from laboring over labor day weekend.

 

Mark

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i could hear the Ashokan Farewell in the backround as i read your description. very haunting, thank you. it must of been beautiful.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to write this wonderful descriptive.

 

By the way, what is "... got a big waterbelly"? (Excuse my ignorance.)

 

Jovi

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Jovi,

I assumed that what Donald meant was that Luke had water retention from all the activity. He has a very bad heart, so I'm guessing that going onto the field a couple of times was more activity than his heart could take and so he ended up looking bloated.

 

As for the trial, I always think it's wonderful. I missed the stargazing this year, though we did get to see the blue moon on Friday (the rest of the time was pretty cloudy), but the river had more water than it usually does in the late summer, so the dogs were able to enjoy a good daily swim!

 

J.

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Jovi,

I assumed that what Donald meant was that Luke had water retention from all the activity. He has a very bad heart, so I'm guessing that going onto the field a couple of times was more activity than his heart could take and so he ended up looking bloated.

 

As for the trial, I always think it's wonderful. I missed the stargazing this year, though we did get to see the blue moon on Friday (the rest of the time was pretty cloudy), but the river had more water than it usually does in the late summer, so the dogs were able to enjoy a good daily swim!

 

J.

 

Julie,

Thanks for the explanation.

 

Jovi

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