Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bird's Eye Balling Me

     The little bird... is eyeballing me...  Wonder what he thinks?  Bet he thinks I'm on the short rows, time is running out.  If I'm going to get ready with Belle for the Nursery Nationals I best be almost there as no time remains to cure any problems or do major training.  The bird is right.  In that Spirit

     I ventured over the Claremore Ok this past Saturday evening.  Each year at the fair, they put on a little arena trial and all the locals attend.  I get to visit with old dog friends and I get a chance to put Little Belle thru her paces.  Friends called early and said you'll love these sheep Bob as they're seriously slow and you'll have to push.  You can find out how much walk up Belle has.   I am not a fan of arena trials.  At best, you can't tell whether the same dog will do well in a big field.  You can test control though.  Did the dog take the whistles, etc.  So off I went. 

     I drew up an early run.  I'm feeling good.  I'll get home early and not miss much sleep.  Then I get the nerves.  The jimmyleg shakes.  You know when you wish you had some pepto bismol.  You don't know if you should go out there lest you have to run back.  I wish I knew why?  My voice was shaky,  my whistle sounded like it had emphysema.  I forgot my stop command completely.  All the previous draws were sluggards.  I get a runner.   It's humid and hot and I'm sweating like a teen ager on his first date.  As I walk off the disaster the Judge inquires, "is that the nursery dog you've been writing about".   I almost lied and said no it's a different dog.   But you know, she covered the stock.  She took what commands I gave her.  I've got a run under my belt with her.  I have high hopes.

     In that spirit I put in a night time winter picture to cool things off.  Summer will end.  We will cool off.  Please!  Snow was on the ground, Ice was in the trees.  Cold night.

     On a sad note,  Teresa's brother is named Bud.  Jackie was his high school sweet heart and lifetime love.  Jackie was diagnosed with a brain tumor last November.  Their walk together ended just last week.

I think Bud will be alright.   He was her sole caregiver these last months.  Some words just don't work,  "oh, in time, you'll feel better",  or, "she's in a better place".   I think they only thing you can say is,  "she was the love of your life, a wonderful person.  I am sorry for your loss".

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A day lily has more guts than I do.

                                                A single day lily
                                                Reports for duty
                                                Brave and all alone
                                                Doesn't hear your laughter
                                                Rejects our ridicule...
Her testament is courage
                                                And she knows you look
                                                And envy her...everything!

      Can you tell I like flowers?  I do!  Color never hurts.  Just a splash here and there.  In a room, on a shirt or blouse.  Why not?  The Swedes paint there doors bright colors.  I'm thinking we're afraid of color.  Afraid to make a statement.  We want to be safe in the shadows, in camo.  No one would laugh at us or point us out.  The world seeks safety.  Risk managers make millions. 

     Still, this dam day lily has my goat.  Every year about this time, in a silly place in the yard, all by it self, it shows up.  Then it just stands there.  Full of expectation.  Saying "look at me you sonsabitches."  And I do, and I get over the funnies, and I think you brave little pretty flower.  Giving all you got regardless.  You don't play it safe, you don't blend in, you just do it.

      I've made about eight blogs so far.  I think about eight more will finish off this road to the finals blog.  I remind you, I've been to the finals before.  Twice, but not in the last ten years.  I'm thinking if I owe you anything or if I need to do anything here,  I've got to be honest.  So, I puked it up today.  I missed the boat.  I dropped the dog.    First, I over slept.  Tb wanted to see the new movie "The Help".  She'd just finished the book,  loved it and to the movie we went.  Got home late.  I'm not an early riser by nature and could not get out of bed.  If you read the last blog you know I planned to load up the sheepers and go to my friends big field and stretch the outrun.  Didn't happen.  I texted him I'd been kidnapped by gypsies and was being held in sleepytown.  He didn't laugh.

     The day got worse.  I realized although I'd hauled the sheep into my place,  I'd not loaded them up in the field.  This I would have to do at my friends, so out to practice loading the trailer in the field I went.  A total mess.  Belle is not a precise dog, not yet.  Back and forth we went.  We looked like a bear cub luv'n up a football.  More so,  I'd been to the USBCHA finals blog and read about all the handlers who are prepping and how often they've been.  My two times without showing great promises, paled next to their attendance every year, their high placings, their obviously greater talent.  I was thinking, I don't have a chance.  I'm not that good a handler, I don't have their experience, the western ewes will kill me.  What kind of fool am I?  Right?   My confidence was zip, zero, zilch.   Then the circus act of trying to load the sheep.   I was chapped.  I had the red ass.  I felt sorry for myself.  I did not want to be there.   Panic parked next to rage.  Almost crying like a pity brat, almost.   Then that dam day lily.

      So all my talk about doing my best and being satisfied, and having fun regardless.  Just talk today.  I did nothing but fail. I have no great predictions or hopes.  I'm sitting down and tired.  If I could back out I would.  To old to fat to tired. 

     Then that little day lily.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Maiden Grass Plumes in Bloom
in the midst of drought conditions.

Why does it bloom and it's cousin a few feet away not?

If I said you were pretty as a pumpkin blossom would you feel pretty.

Some dogs point birds some dogs point punkins.

     I am excited.  All the prep on my place has still not prepared me for a field as large as I expect to see at the nursery finals.  I expect it to be at least 350 yards and more likely about 400 yards.  On my place the biggest outrun I can do is really about 250 yards.  I could do longer before we put in the big pond, but not now.  Tomorrow I am going over to a friends place.  His field is so long you can see the curvature of the earth.  Well, almost.  If I can't stretch her there, I won't stretch her anywhere.  Wish me luck.  I think she will do it without any trouble.  What's the saying?  If they're right up close they'll be right afar?  Maybe.

     She's doing fine so far.  Flanking well, not perfect, but well.  Pace is coming along nicely.  Listens.  Sometimes she tunes me out but not often.   We are getting used to each other.  I will have had her for two months before the finals and believe me it's not too much time.  I am not a handler that can just grab up and dog and run it.  Some can.

     I thought you would enjoy our blooming pluming maiden grass.  Each year regardless of moisture, she gives us a show.  We don't water her except maybe a little early on.  Next to her are more plantings.  Notice the brown color.  That's the normal hue when we're this hot and dry.  So tell me, what's the deal with the pretty one?  I'm thinking there must be some sub,surface moisture she's found.  Beats me but she's pretty.  

     The pumpkins have survived a month of over 100 and are now putting on blooms.  If every bloom is a pumpkin in prospect, look out,  I'll be hallo weening everywhere with my punkins.  A pumpkin bloom is not in poetry.  Roses are.  Roses are supposed to be synonymous with beauty.  But they have nothing on a pumpkin blossom.   Belle agrees.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Road To Glory or Shame?

View Larger Map

See the Map, from A my place, to B in Carbondale Co. In less than 30 days I travel that road. Is it my road to Glory, or Shame? At the Nationals Nursery will I rise or fall? Will they remember my name or will watchers put the memory of the bad run in some dark place to forget.

Don't examine the route to see whether it's the best route. If you don't select a preference, google maps will send you up the interstate and across bloody Kansas. I can't do that, it's too boring, to flat. But the New Mexico southern route I've traveled before and am not afraid of the switchbacks and slow travel of the byways, so this route is my route. The last part through the mountain passes looks like fun. I'll see some pretty country.

I love my home area and won't move, but if I were to move I'd give preference to the beauty of the Southern Colorado area. Pagosa Springs or Durango. I'm not alone as when I've been there I've seen many old fat folks that have thought the same and retired there. But I digress. The Road looms.

Cormac McCarthy wrote The Road. He wasn't talking about Route 66 or romance or adventure or happy endings. He was talking about a struggle for survival. A road not only less traveled but a hard road where to travel and survive was victory. Not a gauntlet with an end but a long road with perhaps no end. The Road was a test of will, our will to live and keep our humanity, in the midst of hopelessness and deprivation. Wonderful book. Pretty good movie.

Two roads diverged into a wood and the poet took the one less traveled by and was the better for it. But that's not so much my road or this road. Going to a dog trial is not a life changing choice. Plus most of my life is behind me. I'm not starting off, I'm topping off. I'm on my bucket list, not my someday list. This is "now" I'm living and the consequences are short term.

So glory or shame? Which shall it be? Tell me dear reader. Does my success depend on whether I "stand on the neck of mine enemies"? Must I win to win? Perhaps a little. Don't go if you're not trying to win. Otherwise it's prominade, a display, a strut like some barnyard rooster before the hatchet and dinner pot. No I want to win! I want to dance in little circles with my arms up in the air saying, "I won, I won. On this day in this place I am the best." Then like the slave's whisper in the Emperor's ear my wife can whisper, "enjoy, glory is fleeting."

But what if I get an odd draw, you know, the straggler, the breakaway, the knucklhead. The draw with two sheep and one cheetah! No flock all fleet. Must I even win then? If so I fail now because I won't. Last years final saw our biggest winner ever suffer a bad draw. Beautiful handling but not a big score. They don't give handling points, they give run points. For even the best handlers it's one day the white house and next day the outhouse.

So my Road, will it end in glory or shame? Here's the answer and the ending. If on that day, at that post, I do my best, and my dog is at her best, I will win. I may not have the highest score. But I will win. I will be proud of myself and my dog and my effort. My best is really all I have to give. If I can give that, and it's hard to do, I'll feel good and be content. I'm not driving out there thinking of applause I can't control. I'm not driving back thinking what a waste of time and money because I didn't place first. I want to do my best. I want to be on my game. I want to be quick and alert and ready to deal with the draw and weather and the early or late run. I want to win.

Glory is fleeting, certainty is an illusion, repose is not the destiny of man. Isn't life fun.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Practice, Practice, Practice

A better picture of view from out sitting area.
      The picture yesterday was just to dark.  The above better shows my favorite view on the place.  On the far side beyond the water is where I do most of my practicing.  Not a lot of room but enough.  A big mistake I tend to always make is extend a dog to far to soon.  It's better to work close longer and insist on proper work close up.  Then the long takes care of itself later.

                                 Teresa summons the Lord of the Pumpkins.
      It's been so hot we're lucky to have anything in the garden.  Pumpkins are planted July 1 for fall harvest here.  It takes faith to plant something when it's so hot and dry.  I have a drip system and they still struggle.  So hot they don't put on blooms.  No blooms no punkins.   Global warming is real.

                               Belle and I visiting Tom Hines at his place Sat.
     Part of my prep for the National Nursery Finals is to hit as many different fields and types of stock at possible before the next thirty days are gone.   I drove up the Hines early this morning.  He's got some wild dorpers that see a dog and take off.  It was a good exercise in self control for me and the dog.  They're not western ewes and don't fight a dog but the dog must learn to stay off them or it's a mess.  Belle started out fine then started tightening up.  Not sure why.   Then after a while started blowing of the commands.  I'm thinking it was stress and pressure.   After several water breaks and rest I was pleased with her overall though as during one stretch she never missed a flank.

     We also practiced working around another dog and pulling the stock off another handler and dog.  It was like the horses.  She just ignored them and did a good job. 

     Plan for next weekend is to go down to Nancy Duley's who has offered to let me practice at her place.  She has one field I can do six hundred yard outruns.  I suspect the nursery nationals won't be more than four hundred.

     I looked at the USBCHA web site and there are 97 nursery dogs entered.  What are my chances of having a good enough run first time out to make the top forty percent.  Mathematically it's 1 in 97.    But that's is all being equal and you draw one.  We all know that the better handler has a better chance.  The better dog has a better chance.   So where will I end up?  I don't know but tension mounts.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Scissortail Classic - Horses - and Belle

                                View from Scissortail Handler's Post

     I used to host the Scissortail Classic.  Tthe handler would stand at the post right about where I took the above picture.(It was getting dark, so sorry for the quality of the picture). When at the post you could send the dog right or left.  Both directions required going down, then up, then down, then up.  On each up the dog could see the sheep.  On each down they disappeared.  Then the fetch was back through the draw.  The big pond was not created yet so, no, they didn't have to swim the sheep to your feet.   They were in view on the entire fetch.  Fun times.  Fun course.  Different.  Not the best course I've seen. That would be Bob Roe's Course in Omaha Ark.  My course was interesting.  Bob Roe's course was grand.

                                 Chapel/Tea Room where handler's post used to be.
     Now we have our little tea room chapel where the handler used to stand.  Isn't it pretty.  Lovely panoramic view.  You can feel yourself decompress whilst you sit there.  Day break or twilight.  Both the same. 

                                 Belle by the little pond.  Behind her is Chapel Tea Room.

                             Across the big pond looking back towards Handler's Post

     For about six years I held the Scissortail Classic Sheepdog Trial.  It was a well attended regional trial that drew the usual suspects and big hats.  Folks liked the course and since I've started this blog several have emailed me reminiscing about the trial field.  I'm hoping Nancy Duley and Yancy Paul might resurrect the Name and hold a trial of their own called the Scissortail Classic.  We have a Traveling Trophy ready. 

     My sheep escaped my pasture for lesser grass.  Go figure.  Why would they leave a field of good grass and go through a tiny hole only a fox can penetrate, all to enjoy a weedy while amongst strangers?  Beats me.  

     Plus there are horses in the pasture.  I studied and decided this was the time to see how Belle works around horses since they'll spot with horses at the Nationals.   So we loaded up and commenced to wrangle the sheep back home.  Horses make me nervous.  They're big.  They can kick and bite.   A big vicious dog doesn't scare me.  A any kind of horse scares me a little. 

     Horses and dogs together make me cautious.   Could I get the sheep out of the horse pasture? Yes.  Could I do it without a nosy horse coming up and assaulting little Belle?  I found out I could!  All went smooth.  The horses came running up to see what was up.  She ignored them and kept on working just fine.  I am thinking the finals spotting might not be a problem?  Sort of.  No rider was mounted on these horses.   But still, it's a horse right? 

     Lastly,  I asked for advice on the prep for the finals.  I was most pleased with one suggestion.  "Relax, enjoy it all."  You know what,  I think I will!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

We Are the Champions My Friend

                                                                  Tom and Ruth Hines
                                                                Oaktree Border Collies

     I have not learned how to put the Youtube video's in the blog.  I see others do it but I need to study up.  Till then I've put this connection   to a video Tom Hines prepped. His you tube videos are at Oaktreebc1.    Tom Hines and his wife are Oaktree Border Collies.  They own Belle.  They bred Belle.  They sent Belle to the trainers and they are letting me run Belle in the nursery finals.  Folks who trial in this area know the Hines.  They are special people.  Tom has a sense of humor.  In the video I am down at Angie's with Belle doing a little practice.  Tom or Ruth videos the practice.  Tom takes it home and puts the video to We are the Champions.   At first I thought it would jinx me or sound pretentious as with 90 dogs entered the odds of me winning are greater than 90 to 1.   But really now, what is a champion?  The last person standing in some knock down drag out? No not really.  Sure they play the song when the last tournament team wins but that's not quite right.  A champion is a representative.  Goliath was the champion of his group.  David of his.  You cheer for your champion.  A champion is the one who keeps keeping on.  Belle will be my champion regardless of whether she wins.  If she does her best what more can I ask? 
     Tom and Ruth are champions.  They don't have to win anything to be my champions.  And perhaps as I'm running there dog and doing a little "representing" I'll be their champion.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wind Bad, Rain Good, Muskrats -- not so bad any more.

Limbs all in a row after high winds.
Pens going back up after wind

     Wind is a metaphor in the scriptures.  Like a "great wind", "winds of fire".  I personally like the wind of central Oklahoma.  We have beautiful wind farms not far from here.  Lovely graceful wind milkers, thirty stories high.  They reap an electrical harvest from "the invisible" just passing by. 

     But, a pleasant breeze becomes a menace at speed and destructive at high speed. Yesterday, we received the "wild wind"!  In the first pic I haven't moved the limbs.  The wind lined them up on the ground.  Neighbors lost roofs, barns and carports.  Training stable nearby lost their roof.   No horses injured unless they were hurt in the crowd of folks pulling up with their trailers to haul their treasured equines to a safer place.   I like horse folks, they spend so much on trailers and horseflesh, it eases my mind that I'm not profligate in my spending on my dog hobby. 

      In the second picture I was already don't cussin' and hollern' and sweatin' as I've moved the pens back.  Calmed down enough to take the pic.  See the pine tree on the far right.  That's where the pens ended up all stacked like an accordion.    I'd had the dogs in the house so no one got squashed.  Pure luck having them in as I normally would have left them out even if I'd seen the storm coming.  In this case is came up so fast and was over so fast no thoughts or planning were necessary or possible.  The pen walls are fine. The connector thingies are all twisted and I had to use new but all is well.  Had to take them apart a piece at a time to get them in position to put back together.  Not easy work for an old fat man. 

     So what's the good news?  We also got a rain storm with the wind storm.  A solid inch of rain.  Now you folks in the wet parts of our country might laugh at our measly inch.  But we're so dry an inch is a mile to us.  I think I can see the grass taking a green hue.  Not sure but maybe.  Plus a break in temp.  May be over a 100 today but probably not a 110.  Ten degrees is a lot.  If you'd have told me I'd look forward to 90 someday I'd have said your were crazy.  I really look forward to a 90 degree day.

                                                   See Mr. Muskrat.  Bad dude dead now.
      Before I finish up with Belle news let me introduce Mr. Muskrat.   He's not cute, he's not cuddly, he's a rude dude.  He invaded my big pond in the dark of night.  He didn't ask permission.  He didn't offer to pay rent.  He just moved in and began to make holes in the banks and in my dam.  He spit in my eye and threatened the health and loveliness of my two acre water feature.  My predatory nature took over.  No more Mr. Nice Guy.  I read up on muskrat lore, I studied muskrat love, and I bought some traps.  I situated my traps in the proper places.   Then bam snap wham, and crash.  Four "muskies", as us wilderness men call them, were dead, dead and deader.  But I got more.  More time, more determination, and more traps.  I will go on till ever last one of the muskies is "luv'n no more" in my big pond.

     It's about 35 days till the nursery nationals.  I'm open to any suggestions for last minute preparations.  

     Let's see.  Will she stop?  Got to have a good stop.  Yep, she stops.  Even stops on the out run.  Which is nice, if you've got to redirect.   Nope, she's not ready for the running redirect, not yet.  

      Does she come up.  Yep, she comes up.  Strong enough for western ewes.  I don't know.  I can't know till I get there.  I can't go early to run her anywhere.  I think she will be able to.  But a little tension is a good thing right. 

     Does she take her flanks.  Yep, she's spankn' in her flankn'.  We struggled a little together at first but I am pleased with her willingness to take the whistle.

     So what else?   Is she used to a spotter on a horse.  Nope,  not seen one that I know of.  Plan is to do that before we go.   Is she used to pulling them off a spot by another dog?  Not sure.  She's worked around other dogs and I think she will ignore them.  Time will tell.

     Will she handle the altitude?  Don't know.   Will she go in our heat.  Yep, she'll got longer than is good for her.  

     What else?   Suggestions are welcome.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A little History - A little Hope

Bob Second Place Open - El Reno 1994

Belle The Dog 2011

     I am convinced the best blogs or at least the blogs I enjoy reading  (Like DeltaBluez) are  blogs that post something everyday or at least often enough to keep your interest.  So as dedicated as I am I still missed the second day.   But if you,  dear reader, will be patient I will carry on today as if all is well.
     My first border collie was ole Andrew.  In the first picture you can't quite see the date but it's     1994.  That's a long time ago.  I'd been trailing about two or three years by that time and finally lucked out and placed high enough to get something for the wall.  I followed the typical cycle in the coming years.  Trialed as often as I could.   I held my own trial the Scissortail Classic for about six years.   Then I was so busy at work plus tired of the constant run I hung up the trialing for a while.  But 17 years later I have Belle to run at the Nationals Nursery and it's my third trip to the Nationals.   Many changes but more on that later.

     The second picture is of little Belle.   Pretty thing.  Works with one ear up and one down.  Responsive dog and easy to please.  Not hard headed at all.   Seems to have some push.  Enough for western ewes?  Don't know yet!  

     There's always the tension of unknowns in trialing.   Will the draw be nice?  Will the dog do this or that?  Will my timing and anticipation be correct?   I've never walked up to the post sans butterflys.  I may suppress them.  I may pretend I don't feel their flutter.  But they they flip their little wings any way.   I'll never be "Mighty Casey at the bat"  predicting a result.  I'm the guy who's always surprised at the good run, like it's "found money".  I know there is a connection between preparation and talent and results.  In some things don't get in my way.  I'll run you over,  I know I'm good.  But at the dog trials I am not confident.  I'm the weak sister, the leaky vessel. the good guy who often just doesn't get there.

     What about this time.  More on that later also.

Jenna Baxter "Dog Starter Extroidinaire"

     See the pretty girl second from the right.   That's Jenna Baxter and can she start a dog?   I've watched her progress over the years and if she ever decides to train full time watch out.   She has intuitive non teachable skills like Angie Coker.   Jenna started the dog "Curly Bill" who qualified and went to this years Cattle Nationals.  She also started, our little Belle, who is going to the sheep Nationals.  Pretty fancy even for a high stepper.  Josh, in the picture to her right,  is her good hubby.   He also trials but Josh probably agrees with me that Jenna has the "touch".

     What's gonna happen at the Nationals?

     More on that later.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bob and Belle's "Strawberry Practice Field's Forever"

     Above are two pictures of my practice field.  Taken from differant directions in  differant seasons.  But it's the situs operandus.  Where, if I "get there" in Carbondale Colorado at the National Sheepdogs Finals, I will have started here. 

     Don't be confused.  Belle's seen other fields.  Owned and raised by the Tom and Ruth Hines and trained and qualifed by Angie Coker-Sells.

     But above, in this field, in these two pictures, Bob and Belle's most excellent adventure started.   It's just a normal field, with normal shapes and hills.  Pretty in summer and winter.  It has ups and downs and flat spaces.  I'm comfortable out in this field.  

     I can't present a current picture as it would frighten you.  The sun has settled about 30 feet off the ground and baked the field to a light brown.  Like a pie crust that glows and murmurs, "don't touch me, I'm to hot".   It's a oven during the day, we only venture onto the field early and late.  Sun's Rising, we're there.  Sun's Setting, we're there.

     In the next month up to and including our time at the Nationals I will post pic's of Belle and myself and comments of our time together.    Tom and Ruth Hines are so kind to let me take little Belle to the Nationals.   Angie Coker- Sells is so talented in her training and trained Belle three months ran her in her qualifying trials.  But I have Belle now, and we are getting ready for the National Nursery Trials.    More pictures of her and our adventure are to come.

     Tell anyone about the blogspot if you think they'd enjoy following it.  I can't promise to post every day but I'll do my best.

     Bob Brown and Belle the dog.