Monday, April 11, 2016

That'll Do

Sometimes running a farm feels like being in your own action movie. The stakes are high, the air is crisp, and while you won't find yourself fighting bad guys or walking a tight-rope - your heard still pounds.

Last week I found myself walking up the road, watching the woods with squinting eyes as the ghostly bodies of escaped sheep darted through the trees, little lambs loping behind them. They were a ways up the steep hillside, but still visible since most of the woods here are not yet green. Gibson was beside me, watching, head low and eyes locked. We had been trailing them for a half mile, tipped by a neighbor who had driven by to say they saw my ram and some ewes down the road. My road ends at a rural highway, so that got our attention.  I put down the colored pencils and we suited up in boots and a walking stick. We'd get back those sheep. Now we found them. Step one, complete.

I have been spending so much time inside focused on the artwork that is trying to catch up with the bills here, that I didn't stop to look out the window at the flock after morning chores. So they had plenty of time to slip through a hole in the fence and follow the deer paths and stream into the woods.   To get to them Gibson would have to jump over the cold creek, race uphill, and have the wherewithal to send them home, not farther away from the farm. I wasn't in hunting chaps, and the rose bushes and other thorny growth was thick. I was hoping Gibson could hand this without me going home bruised and bleeding. I sent him up and he was gone like a buckshot.

It wasn't easy to see from the road, but far as I could tell Gibson locked on them with that classic stare and it was enough for them to turn tail. They darted back towards the farm, and the dog slowly stalked behind, trotting when he needed to to keep up. Gibson has been trained with me and some professional sheepdog trainers, but we are far from trial ready. I was counting on his instincts, not my commands. We are not a well-oiled machine like that. I watched them as I walked back home, along the road and then they crested over a bank and they were out of my site. I watched. I waited. No sign of dog or ewe.

I walked faster, my heart racing a bit. This wasn't our property and I didn't know it. I don't usually have Gibson out of my site, much less leave him with a 200 pound ram, ewes, and their offspring to deal with. I heard nothing, no barks or yelps. I saw nothing, though I strained my eyes trying. Finally I saw a flash of white and it was gone, but it was heading towards the farm. They were on some secret path for cervines and ravens. Seeing them closer to home I called to my dog, who raced back from farther up the road than I expected.

He popped out of the woods and onto the empty country road. His chest was heaving and he looked to me and then back at the sheep. I called to him "That'll Do!" and when he ran to me I went to my knees and hugged him close. This dog, he's perfect to me.

The sheep were back in their pens, soon munching early grass and acting as if nothing was wrong or different. Gibson and I were back home, he at my side as I worked on drawings for clients and files for logos. I let out a happy sigh, a long one. For years all I wanted was some sheep on a hill. I thought it was because of my love of wool and fibre, livestock, and farming. But it's about the tiny exhales of adventures I share with these dogs. We don't win ribbons. I we don't enter contests. But we work as a team to keep a little farm sane and safe.

That's better than an action movie.


Blogger edie batt said...

Loved this.... Gibson is so perfect for you! Good job...I really need to get a border collier as well - would make life with my sheep much easier it seems! Thank you for the story as always!

April 11, 2016 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger Simple as ALC said...

It's better than an action movie until they make it to the highway and are killed.
This entire post made me uneasy and worried (again) for the safety of your animals. I'm guessing others feel the same way, seeing you only received one positive comment so far.

April 11, 2016 at 2:45 PM  
Blogger crashdown said...

Great story. There's no better feeling than using your dog to save you from a sheep emergency--I've been there. Atta boy, Gibson!

April 11, 2016 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Thanks guys!

ALC: so far every tweet and comment you have made has been negative, and from a simple search online you are a part of the crew that is recreationally offended by my life. So I won't be posting your comments here any more. Have fun out there.

April 11, 2016 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

On safety - farming isn't safe. Raising animals isn't easy. But I have never had an animal roam to the highway or cause a problem in the road. And if they did I would be A LOT more concerned about the humans driving on that highway than the animals. Fences get repaired when such things happen. You make a mistake, you hug your dog, you move on.

April 11, 2016 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Miriam Romais said...

Nicely done!

April 11, 2016 at 4:14 PM  
Blogger Jenny Leong said...

Good job, Gibson. Great post, Jenna. Love your writing style.

April 11, 2016 at 5:27 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

Good boy Gibson! I just love that dog. Give him a big hug for me.


April 11, 2016 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger The Morrissey said...

ALC, As far as the fence - I have a 4 foot chain link just to keep my dogs and chickens in and that doesn't work all the time. Shit happens and alls well that ends well. Sheesh.

April 12, 2016 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger Patsy said...

What does Friday think about the sheep?

April 12, 2016 at 9:28 AM  

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