Friday, January 7, 2011

the story of a stick

When I came home to the farm yesterday I discovered a tall, skinny, box propped up against the red door. I knew exactly what it was and (to my recent memory) had not been that excited to rip through cardboard in a very long time. What lay under all that paper and tape was something I had wanted since I saw my first sheepdog trial years ago: a proper shepherd's crook. I have a simulacrum of sorts: a very cheap wooden livestock staff I bought for twelve dollars online, and it does the job of helping me sort through animals and guide gibson in training....but it's a clunky. heavy, ugly thing. It's nothing like the beautiful crooks you see at big trials, the horn and wood artifacts held like scepters among the serious competitors aside their mythical dogs. A good crook is a piece of art, and after three years of living with sheep I was about to have one my very own, Cold Antler style.

Inside the box was a handmade stick of hazel with a curved antler top and ram's horn inlay. And It wasn't just any antler either....this was a special item of my own with a story just like mineā€”and now the story was completed in the form of an avatar for my own manifarmdestiny. or to put it plainly: I held a dream in the shape of a stick.

See, that antler on the top was bought nearly a decade ago at a festival in Pennsylvania. It decorated my college dorms, and traveled with me on the dash when I moved to Tennessee. It held no real purpose other than I liked it. And that gut attraction to it's curve and strength kept it around. I tied it to some straps of leather and it hung from the rear-view window of my Subaru for a while in Idaho, and when I moved to vermont it had a spot on my bookshelf. Like me, it found itself in places unexpected, always a part of a larger story it had yet to understand. And when a crook-crafting shepherd in Virginia asked me if I had any antlers lying around I'd like to turn into a stick....I knew this was the one I'd send.

I had been sending emails back-and-forth with a shepherd in the Shenandoah Valley I had met online. His name was Daniel King, a dog and sheep man in Virginia. (We shared acquaintances of members in my local working border collie club.) He works his staff of border collies to manage a large flock of hair sheep onQuiet Acres Farm. Together with his wife Sylvia they produce quality grass-fed lamb for their community. So the Kings are a couple living my dream.

Somehow in the transaction of stories and dog talk we struck a barter. I'd send him some signed books and he'd fashion me a proper herding stick, something that matched my farm and personality. The staff in the picture above was his gift to Cold Antler. It is so beautiful, rich and vivid as a prop on a movie set. The natural curve of the antler makes a nearly perfect crook-shape. It will know lambs, and woods, and long walks with my dogs. There is Gibson with it. Over the years he'll learn that when I grab this stick, it's time to get to work. After a while of such association he'll love it as much as I do.

The antler was mailed to Daniel a few weeks ago. There he bleached, filed, cut, carved and stained this beautiful staff. You can see a photographic essay of its creation here. (He said he'd add captions to explain the process eventually), maybe this is something some of you craftier gents and ladies out there might be able to make yourself?

I'll someday walk out onto the Novice Trial field with this stick, Gibson by my side. I'll stand at the post and look down at my silly dog and send him away to the flock. He'll dart up that hill and leave me standing with my hazel and horn in old faded jeans, high rubber boots, and a waxed cotton jacket. A statue from another slice of history. I look forward to the time travel.

19 Comments:

Blogger Odie Langley said...

Great story Jenna and now I know how special it really is. Hope you have a great weekend.
Odie

January 7, 2011 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

It's gorgeous! And it looks just right lying across Gibson's paws.

January 7, 2011 at 4:05 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Your own Coldantler heirloom, the story unfolding by each step you make.

January 7, 2011 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger City Sister said...

I always wondered about the significance of "Cold Antler Farm" You tell quite an elegant story of the evolution of the farm in such a simple artifact. It really is beautiful.

January 7, 2011 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Cool story Jenna!

January 7, 2011 at 4:49 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

Gorgeous! What a wonderful gift to have something that's such a part of you, and then meet someone who can transform it into something so stellar.

January 7, 2011 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger ladybughomer said...

Ah Jenna, you always hit me in my heart. Lovely.

January 7, 2011 at 6:09 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

It's perfect and really beautiful. I can just imagine all the sheep you'll herd with that through the years. And Gibson looks great with it already.

January 7, 2011 at 6:16 PM  
Blogger Toni aka irishlas said...

Sweet!!

January 7, 2011 at 6:39 PM  
Blogger Stargazer 2 said...

JENNA,
WHAT AN INTERESTING STORY ABOUT A WALKING STICK!!!
I ALSO HAVE A "VERY SPECIAL" WALKING STICK FROM MY
GRANDPARENTS' FARM WHICH I MADE, &
THAT MAKES IT TWICE AS SPECIAL FOR MY SON!!!
THIS IS ONE OF THE MANY REASONS I CONTINUE TO FOLLOW, &
READ THE COLD ANTLER FARM BLOG!!
ALWAYS SOMETHING INTERESTING, & NEW!!!
CHEERS WITH A HEALTH DRINK!!!
RONNIE A VERY HAPPY SEAT WEAVER!!!
http://www.chaircaningdirectory.com

January 7, 2011 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

Custom shepherd's crook
Gourmet and organic food
Hard Cider
Homemade wine
Homemade Pie
Grass fed sheep
Free ranging chickens
A couple of very cool geese
Waxed cotton jackets
Wool sweaters, scarves, hats &mitts
Four wonderful seasons
Fly rods
Brook Trout
And a mountain home

You're truly blessed

January 7, 2011 at 8:29 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

MAN!

Forgot to metion the wood stove!

January 7, 2011 at 8:30 PM  
Blogger Reason's Whore said...

Beautiful. what a wonderful gift.

January 7, 2011 at 9:43 PM  
Blogger Jenny Glen said...

Dan does make the greatest crooks and a nicer man you will never meet. His field is THE BEST for training on - we were there just before the nationals and it was a great place to work the dogs. His wife's newest dog, Dexter came from us.
Your crook will be a nice symbol of your goal of trialing in your first novice class!

January 7, 2011 at 11:45 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

"Manifarmdestiny"...I love how you play with words- too cool. :)

January 8, 2011 at 12:15 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

I looked at the photos of how the stick was created, because I wondered how the antler was attached. Very nice work!
Nice touch to have one of his dogs watching in one of the photos, too.

January 8, 2011 at 12:30 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Captions are up on the pictorial!

Cheers,

Dan

January 8, 2011 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

So glad you've replaced the simple bent wood one I gifted you when you moved to Vermont. It was intended as a reminder of your dream sheep farm. Since that dream has been realized, it's fitting a newer, finer reminder has taken it's place. Such a lovely piece and so nice that it was created especially for you of items most meaningful.

Blessed be.
Diana

January 10, 2011 at 9:31 PM  
Blogger Rob Stout said...

Jenna, I'm sorry to bring you sad news. Dan King, the shepherd from Quiet Acres Farms, passed away from a heart attack this weekend. He will be missed.

October 8, 2012 at 1:51 PM  

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