Sunday, March 23, 2014

Like the Green Jeep

Coal - March 2014
This blog post is really about the Zamora Hills sheepdog trial, 2014 version.

But to understand it I had to think way back to maybe 1998 and a story about a green Jeep.

My brother and I would do anything back in those early border collie days, to try to find a place to practice with our dogs on sheep. He had made an arrangement with an elderly rancher to use a small field (that was knee to waist high in grass and weeds) right next to the road to train on his sheep, IF we would also work with this rancher's little bitch who was part aussie, part (??) and had almost zero talent. But we wanted to work our dogs so we gave it a try. One Saturday we were trying to work our poor dogs in this not so great arrangement when we noticed that the rancher's family had taken the green ranch jeep (an elderly contraption solely used for climbing up on the steep hills overlooking the winding two-lane road that leads out to Jenner from Duncans Mills). No doubt they were doing something with the cattle that day, or perhaps just out enjoying the ranch. All of a sudden we realized that the green jeep was careening down the very steep hills (an almost vertical drop off) without a driver inside and luckily no passengers. Someone had not set the brake or they had parked the jeep in an un-level location, or both. The jeep was headed right for the road and was out of control. We were panic stricken but luckily no cars passing by, on the road were hit. The fencing on both sides was taken out though before the jeep bounced to a rest in a tired heap on our side of the road. We rushed to push the fencing back up as best we could so that livestock would not escape. I am not sure that we ever went back to that ranch to try to train our dogs again. The aussie mix was hopeless and better left for a pet. The tall grass was impossible for our poor beginner dogs to navigate in hopes of heading the awful non-broke cull ewes that the rancher had put in the pen for our use. But we have never forgotten that green jeep! :)

That brings me to Zamora 2014. Coal and I were on the waiting list to get in as the trial was way-oversubscribed. Thursday evening later I got a phone call saying that there had been a scratch and did I want to run? I said sure and we appeared on Friday ready to go.  We ran late in the afternoon so I watched run after run with really good handlers and dogs having trouble. For the past several years I have really been working on Coal's fetch, and getting him to steady and/or stop on the fetch. Our non-Zamora fetch scores have slowly gotten better even though we don't trial a lot. In all honesty I know that I have worked hard at it but I found out at Zamora this year, I have not worked hard enough. On his fetches, Coal was like that green Jeep tumbling down the hillside with no brakes or steering and in front of him five unbroke commercial ewes who were like greased lighting, running at top speed! It is almost impossible to steer a contraption like this! I found that out, because we messed up the post turn, not once, but twice, and had to un-wind it. Oh my.

But, one of my disappointments overall at trials, is in when someone is complimented for their run, and that handler instead of smiling and saying "thank you" just lists all the things that went wrong and does not seem happy about all of the things that went right. If someone compliments my runs I am trying to smile and even though I may laugh at all the things that went wrong, I am wowed by someone who thinks I may have done some things right! :)  I know that our Zamora 2014 runs were not great and there were many things wrong. In contrast I also know that many things went right and we have come a long, long way from that little field next to the road, in waist-high grass and our poor dogs (who are now gone) trying to contain sheep who were having none of it. This year, we got a score, both runs. I know many good handlers walked. We got our sheep down the field, both runs; I know many good handlers would have liked to do that. We finished the drive, both runs, when many folks did not get that far. We got the sheep through the first drive gate, when hardly anyone else did on that first day (and then brought them back through without intending to - arghghgh!). We even got a shed, one day and got our hands on that elusive pen rope! Thank you, thank you!

I have a lot more thoughts about our Zamora experience so I will save some of them for more blog posts. Overall I had a really fun time, connecting with folks, and in going to the post with my little monkey of a dog who had such a great time! He seemed exhilarated after his runs and would have immediately gone to the post with me a second time very willingly if given the chance.  And I was worried about his fitness! :) I'm very grateful that the family decided to go ahead with the trial. And very happy that I got to run even if it was behind the wheel of a green jeep with no brakes! :)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a day that was when the Green Jeep came careening down the hill, through the fences and across the road! And what a blessing no one was injured! Years later, I talked with one of the family who was involved and he thanked us again for our help with the fencing that day. Glad to hear that story again on your blog, Sis! It had a happy ending.