The course for the finals was big. The first gather took dogs in the direction of the preliminary running with a couple of extra hundred yards tacked on and a confusing irrigation hedgerow separating the fields, mowed, but nevertheless, a visual barrier. A trick. Most dogs got it right with a few exceptions. The fetches were long and demanding to the gates with a go back that proved the undoing of all dogs sare Patricia’s Cap. The salvation of her championship.
There was some frost the morning of the final. Imagine going from there to 86 in one day. As the day wore on, and the heat intensified, the second gather escaped every competitor. Some went back well, only to be drawn in by the white hubs on some irrigation wheels, which were brightened by the afternoon sun, beaming down upon them from the west. Scot Glen’s Don stopped to lift them (the hubs) and then carried on in an impossible track across the rough ground that separated the arms of the alfalfa fields, hosting the gathers. The hearing was compromised with the full on heat of the afternoon, with many dogs who could be redirected back, having no second fetch worth talking about in charitable terms.
Bev and Joe had a good if nervous first gather with five minutes spent sending him back, and reorganizing the first sheep to launch Joe on the go back. He eventually got them and had a good drive to be called for a grip in the shedding ring. She had to go for it. Think of Bev on upper drugs and there you have her after her run.
Roz had everything going pretty well until she too, was stymied by the second outrun. She spent a ridiculous spell of time frozen below a knoll that obscured the second sheep. They were nestled nicely in a slight swale that kept them out of sight of the outrunning dog and with the hearing not so handy in the heat, very difficult. At least I found it so. A toxic blend of circumstances. She finally brought them but without enough time to finish the shed. Two or three more.
It was a day full of good byes. With ciaos to all the friends with whom I had spent much of the previous month, Au revoir to the new friends. “What a pleasure to have met you.” Packing up my camper for the road. Congratulating competitors. “Until the next time.” sort of a scene.
The Mississippi was more rewarding than usual. We pulled off at Le Claire and went right down to the water. The river was low and lazy. Michael Gallagher jettisoned his sandals and stepped right into the river of lore. To the focus of all water from just west of Rawlins Wyoming, where we crossed the continental divide. He stepped into Johnny Cash singing Big River. He stepped into Mark Twain. He stepped into Comte de Lasalle. The sun was shining down on us and the dogs. It was dazzling. A treasure moment.
The road was long. I am home now. The dahlias have bolted in gratitude for the rain. I have a bunch of tomatoes and basil from my own garden, with which to make Panzanella. Ma and I are drinking the same wine they will serve at Haley and Blair Hunewill’s wedding party and we are drinking a toast to them. Mother is looking at the pictures of the lion hunt, the Sierra’s ride, fascinated, It’s nice here. Sheep look good. Back to work tomorrow.