My runs at Meeker.
Well. Dorey’s was going good. Very good. A little tight on her second outrun, but no cross. Her shed was twenty pointer, with good control. I considered driving away the fifteen further, but everything seemed so settled and Dorey had been penning the tough stuff for three weeks like a pro. I took them straight to the pen with the winning run on my hands. I don’t know if it was a step I took, or Dorey making a slip. I can’t remember what precipitated it. But one bolted. Dorey ran to cover it, zigged when she should have zagged and that was the end. The sheep rejoined and there was insufficient time to do it all again.
Monty drew up second from the end which cannot be considered an advantage. But without making excuses for him, he let me down on two critical flanks, on both his fetches. Once I got mad, he sulked. The drive was all right. Not like Dorey’s. And the shed was en exercise in anger management. It didn’t come off.
Meeker is a big wonderful trial to win with remarkably difficult conditions. Sheep, altitude, heat, all combine to challenge deeply. It was nice to get two on the final day, but underperforming makes one hunger for next year.
I left on Sunday night, trying to get some hours into the long road ride ahead.
The drive was more oppressive than usual due to the angry oven heat over the midwest. All of Nebraska, normally a drag to cross, was out of sight. I stopped somewhere to let the dogs out at noon. Blistering wind swept around dust devils. The dogs wanted back into the truck instantly–a first for them. Since the heat was too extreme for stopping, I kept driving for a twenty hour stretch, that got me to Davenport, Iowa. I plugged in the generator and turned on the AC–37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) at 10:30 at night.
Back at it in the early morning, I crossed the Mississippi, bathed in morning light. It was Rock Island. There were twin spans of bridge over the lazy river; one for the traffic bound for Illinois; one for the traffic bound for Iowa. They were pretty. People had boats out in what was left of the water that must have been swept away by yesterday’s hot wind. So many things to hold back that river, but it keeps going. The Mississippi.
I got to my darlin home town this morning. Kevin Gallagher had my place all spruced up. It was a joy to see him and my home and my dogs left behind. I had been gone for such a long, intense time.
The wait for Dorey’s run was long. The time had been extended from the usual fifteen minutes (two marked sheds) to seventeen. So every run was twenty minutes or so. The heat became oppressive in the afternoon, as it had been daily all week. A thunderstorm rolled through, just to our north, so no rain but lots of noise and flashing skies. Dorey doesn’t like thunder. Not at all, is understating it. She quaked on the couch here, while I hoped it would pass by before her run. I took her out midway through Dennis Gelling’s run, who ran just before her. She dug deep and put in a great run, to get herself qualified for tomorrow.
She is up second. Monty is less well endowed by the draw, running eleventh. I hope it is not too hot.
My qualifying run with Monty was nothing to write home about, leave off the blog. However, at the handler’s dinner last night, he was awarded the cowboy lift belt buckle, chosen by the cowboys who spot sheep all day everyday. They liked the way he came in deep, lay down and walked directly in, for a great lift. I have a fondness for one of those cowboys, so good and good.
Monty made up for the ordinary qualifying run with a good one today in the semifinals, where it really counts. Second, at 95.5 so far.
At noon today we really mixed it up. Michael Gallagher and i took on the two cowboys from up top, in a shootout for a timed trial. The cowboys lost the toss and went first. They were funny. Things got western. For their shed, one of them grabbed two sheep and held them while the other chased down the third collared sheep. They had all three for a moment, but let them go, only to have them get back together.
Michael and I made it happen. The announcer announced that Michael had come all the way here from Ireland, just for this jackpot.
Dorey runs late this afternoon, third from the last. Number 28 on the order.
I started for MeekerOn Monday night, overnighting in Vernal. In the morning, I grabbed a delicious coffee at one of the little cuppa houses and saw the work behind the petunia planters. Two miles of pink, purple and white wave petunias in gigantic tubs. Imagine the potting soil required and greenhouse time. They have always been a wonder. The big tanker truck with a long watering arm driving up main street at six a.m. I am sure they had to be watered twice a day in such arid hot climes. A lot of water. They lined the street, a defiance of what comes naturally.
I stopped at the Kenny reservoir. No else is ever there, as though it is its own Rattlesnake Point. The dogs love it.
Meeker was its usual warm -hearted, welcoming, hat-hanging place. They start with a pizza night. People I have known for twenty-five years are there, our annual get-together.
The very difficult running began the next morning. The scores will attest to the harshness of the conditions and the challenge of the fabulous sheep. The high was a three way tie at 70. I didn’t run the first day. Just watched. Mich Ferraro and Kak Weathers have now joined the dogging, happily for me. We all went to the White River for a recreational dog swim. And the Hallandras’ entertained us in style in the evening. All the while I was thinking of running Dorey, the next morning.
She didn’t let me down on the outrun and lift. Things were going well until I over flanked her. You could see her. I was unaware I had done it until the sheep turned up the field on the fetch, for not only a blow to my score but made the sheep pissy. And Dorey I am sure wondered where in the hell we were headed with this. She recovered sort of, for a good finish, very strong at the pen and a score of 72 that puts her in second for the the semifinals, second to Scot Glen and Don.
Tomorrow I run Monty.
Things didn’t go that well for me at Soldier Hollow on the final day.
Monty had by far the more desirable draw, in the morning cool, following a rare rain in this neck of the woods. He went out on the first difficult outrun with about three helps. He lifted well and fetched straight to the panels, when he hesitated for some unknown reason and the sheep missed the fetch panel on his side. We brought them past it and he went back like a rocket, but I let my myself reconsider the missed panel and my concentration lapsed for one ridiculous moment and missed Monty heading too tight up the field. Worse, he was behind a tree and I couldn’t see him to properly correct him until he had nearly crossed. A gaffe, on my part and his. Since the rest of his run went like clockwork, I almost wanted to poke my eyes out with a dull spoon. He finished with a 133 with two major errors.
Dorey was less fortunate draw-wise, picking up the end of the running in the fifteenth spot. The cool was replaced by incredible heat and the sheep were awkward. I had a decent start with a single redirect and a pretty good fetch. When they came through the panel, the sheep darted exhaustward and she stayed with them, rather than flanking right. When she did stop, she was totally obscured by those darn spruce trees. I gave her a look back and tried to see her. Couldn’t. Everyone says she was just waiting for a direction. I finally gave it to her and she shot back well for the second group. After that the heat and pressure mounted in spades. We missed a couple of panels and at the shed, a single beat me. We got it off only to have it rejoin at the pen.
I am heading to Meeker tonight
My friends, Mary Minor and Sandra Massie were married last week at Lake Tahoe. Georgette Levantis and her partner Paula Gibbs organized a celebration party at Sundance–The Tree Room. a wonderful restaurant in a spectacular setting. We did the usual at a wedding celebration–champagne toasts, lots of good wine, reading the telegrams. The night was festive, the occasion auspicious.
I awoke in the morning with my coffee maker cranked. It was lovely and overcast, cool by any Utah standards. I was up after Virgil Holland and Cap. Monty was a tad tight on his outrun, unlike him, but after that, not too many feet in the wrong place. My favourite part of it was the pen, which has eluded many and been the main challenge of the trial. Monty was confident and cool. I could make my moves with no worry of him. Sheep going straight in was a beautiful thing. It wasn’t like Dory the day before, when she brought the house down. It was so early, there was no one there to watch. He scored a ninety which held for the day.
Bev Lambert was among the happy qualifiers today.
Tonight, the draw, Handler’s supper
Soldier Hollow. They should maybe rename it Milliken Hollow. Amanda just won the second and third preliminary rounds. She won today 8 points ahead of the next dog with a scorching Monty run in the morning. The first day was hot with the best running in the morning. Happily, Nan and I had a morning slot and managed to make use of it. Oddly enough I think there were more pens the first day than the second. The second day was very hot, with good morning running. Alan Mills ran first on the second day and set the standard with a good go, no pen. Today stayed cloudy and not hot. Much better running.
The sheep have been very manageable every day. The biggest problem is that they don’t pen. Handlers use all their tricks and skill and they don’t pen. Just when it looks hopeless, bam, someone pens, making the rest of us look fools!
I think this has been the smoothest running Soldier Hollow yet. The sheep have been very well spotted. The top end of the runs have mostly gone quite nicely, with none of the mad dashes across the top end of the field that have been common in previous years. The level of competition has been very high with the scores closely grouped.
The preliminaries are over now. We’re all walking dogs and cleaning up for the handler’s dinner.
At daybreak on Wednesday, Blake, Joni and I went fishing on the Tongue River Reservoir. Bodies of water are always a miracle in these arid settings. something out of sync with the immediate environment. We drove an hour or so from Clearmont and put the boat in next to a a picnic area known as Rattlesnake Point. There were no picnickers there. We floated around the lake with our lines in. Blake let the girls fish. We caught some croppies and some perch, a few small small mouthed bass, throwing them all back. We watched an osprey hope something we threw back was his. It was meditative, perfect temperature. the measure of a fishing trip is never the number of fish you catch after all. It is the act. The suspension of all else but the angles and water outdoors. Beautiful.
We came home with a stop in Sheridan where I got a new life changing temperpedic mattress. Joni and Blake helped me make the move.
In the evening we ran dogs as soon has it was cool enough. Joni did an international shedding lesson with Michael Gallagher. I worked outruns far up the field until the darkness called it all off.
We drank some Closson Chase wine and dined on shellfish risotto, ready for the ten hour drive onto Soldier Hollow in the morning.
I had a couple of of ho hum runs at Soldier Hollow. One of them, with Dorey qualified me for the final day on Monday. But I failed to pen with any of them. Such a disappointment. I trust my dogs to pen almost anywhere, under nearly any circumstances. Today I had a lone run with Dorey at an unfavourable time of day, in the mid afternoon. The time was shortened from thirteen to twelve minutes for today’s trial and there were very few pens. The sheep were exceptionally difficult there. We spent a long day watching the interesting running of Soldier Hollow and I mad a rash promise to pen or die. It was quoted back to me frequently, for everyone’s amusement.
I had a reasonable go around the course with Adorable, one bolting ewe, trying her everywhere. The shed happened, but just barely keeping them in the ring. Onto the pen. Dorey did a couple of fluid flips that turned the wild one into the others. She had them in the mouth. One’s nose was just past. I broke with our usual pattern of just saying c’mon and asked to come by. She said “Really?” Took one step left and the sheep went in. What a moment. The crowd went wild and started yelling Dorey’s name. Dorey did a parade past, jumped in the water, and turned for a photo shoot. She became a star. Tomorrow. I run Monty, second up. Cool. I have my hopes up high.
There was a small but high caliber field for the Canadian Championships, at the Open level. You can see by looking at an order, familiar handlers and their dogs. It was no surprise therefore that the standard of the running was very high, small number of dogs notwithstanding. The sheep were spotted on horseback by the Chris and Wendy Schmaltz about four hundred yards up the big roomy field. We ran on four Columbians and while they were range type ewes, they came from the flock of Dale Montgomery so they were not the raw type we sometimes get at western trials. The sheep were quite accustomed to dogs. They penned much more easily, for instance, than the sheep at Kingston did. They tolerated people excessively well and for the most part, moved off the dogs, although as the trial wore on, and they were rerun, some moved less well.
The ten spots for the double lift final were coveted ones. The scores allowed for many people to remain hopeful in trial two, of putting together the two good scores that would take them into the double lift final on Sunday. Scot Glen lead the qualifying with Don with two very good runs. Three of us got two dogs in, Scot Glen, Peter Gonnet of Saskatchewan. and me, the eastern girl.
Monty tore his two mid toenails from their bed, on his front right paw. What a mess, leading into a heavy few weeks of trialling. I wrapped him, treated him with Previcox and Tuff’nup, form Viki Close. Running him was iffy every day. What an annoyance. He ran quite well considering the handicap. Roz on the other hand let down the side in all respects with a startling absence of left flank, that left her handler gobsmacked. Hormones? Heat? Something set her off on the wrong foot and she stayed there for the duration of her run.
No one knew who had won until the last score was posted although many guessed. In the end, it was Michael Gallagher, of Kingston by way of Ireland who won the Championship with his dependable Flo. Scot Glen was second with his equally dependable Don.
I started down the road to Soldier Hollow that night. I was aiming for Joni Titgien’s place in Clearmont Wyoming, a ten hour drive from Shaunavon. I elected to break it up and it turned out well. The border crossing was one of the most unpleasant I have endured in a long time with the border agents scouring my camper for anything dangerous, like passion fruits and dog food that might contain lamb, or beef. Things that could be the ruin of the USA. He found some old drugs that I think belonged to Mich Ferraro and warned me of the hazards of brining dangerous narcotics into the USA. I couldn’t have agreed more.
I drove through spectacular northern Montana. I seemed to be driving the only vehicle on the road–miles of two lane highway, not meeting a soul. I crossed the Missouri River, a big one, by Montana standards, at dusk. I noticed a campground and turned in for a fabulous night on the banks of the Missouri. On the sixty acre campground, there could not have been more than three campers–lots of room for happy dogs. The mosquitoes must have been what kept people away. But what would a gal from southern Ontario care about a swarm of mosquitoes? The water ran, the bugs hummed, and the dogs and I had a long, comfortable sleep. I was bound away across the wide Missouri. This one, the Missouri, was a greedy river, taking so much water from all the ground in its reach, taking it to the Mississippi.
The next morning’s drive was not so bad and getting to Blake and Joni’s place was downright good. I plugged in–air conditioning. We took the dogs for a swim in the Clearwater Creek. Blake cooked walleye (we call that pickerel in Canada) for supper. I had some carrots that my customs guy missed, from my garden. Joni baked potatoes from hers. We would work dogs in the morning.
Jamie Michele VanRhyn had worked hard to bring us a complicated prize selection. One of the items I got was “skunk off”. I couldn’t imagine when I would use such a thing, not having had a skunk problem for over fifteen years. Hazel was my last one, in New Jersey, at night, outside a church yard. Roz was sprayed by a skunk here at Joni’s this morning. I will be eternally grateful for the skunk off, which seems to have worked along with swims and baths.
There are thousands of acres form which to chose to run dogs here. The alfalfa fields are being hayed any time, so too tall. the other places were more interesting anyway. We looked at the setting for her spring trial and she showed the wonderful alternatives.
We loaded up Joni’s cache of yearling range finewools to one of her far spots to run dogs back and forth. She chose a spot that would challenge met young dogs, up a steep climb and buried in sage brush. Howell, not worldly, was fooled but learned handily. Feist got it right away. Great schooling, not just on the sheep but the setting, with the young dogs having to use their imaginations to find them. They will both be smarter next time out. Couldn’t have been better. We shopped at Wyoming’s version of Prairie Fire, form Beach North Dakota and came home. Me cleaning my camper. Joni getting hers ready for Soldier Hollow.
My departure from Kingston was more hectic than ever. The Croppers were in Kingston until Thursday. The week after Kingston is always difficult. I am tired. There is lots of catching up at the farm to do–things neglected for two weeks. I slogged at the vegetable garden, going for a fall crop of frost hardy things.
Uncle Kevin Gallagher continued as the blessing he is, coming a couple of days early to get the hang of the farm before I left. There is no problem he can’t handle. That absence of anxiety for the home front, is heaven sent.
I puttered around on Sunday morning, fixing things up in my camper for the long haul. And finally took off at noon, with a plan to put in eight or nine hours on the thirty four hour drive to Shaunovan, Saskatchewan. I have to be there on Thursday morning.
Tierney Graham and Michael Gallagher are traveling separately. But tagging. We are following a route that takes us across the border at Sarnia, to Chicago, Minneapolis, Fargo, Estavan an finally the Canadian Championships at Shaunovan.
I overnighted south of St Paul, Minnesota. I like to cross the Mississippi memorably. The last time I took this northern route, I went through the middle of Minneapolis/St Paul, ill advised, with my gigantic rig. This time, I joined a massive number oaf commuters on the the circle around the outside, big latte in hand. This was more than a usual tourist experience of St Paul–native. I watched carefully for the bluffs that would show me the locale of the Mississsippi and found it handily on Riverside Drive, on the northern side of the city. What followed was a bigger surprise. The St Paulians had honoured the great river of lore with a long gorgeous park–walkways, water access, views everywhere, and scarcely another there, at six thirty in the morning. It was ours, my six dogs and I, for an hour of watching the great river flow, of Huck Finn, paddle boats, of the great expanse from which it drew its water, the landmark. We saw it swirl by, on its way to washing St Paul. The dogs stepped in, I dipped a toe and we went on our way, up river to cross the great divide.
North Dakota was too hot for a stop–about 100 degrees– so I dove on. Those that believe me to be living the dream on a trip like this, ought to try the driving more than once. Not a dreamy as you might imagine. I carried on up through eastern North Dakota to Weyburn, Saskatchewan.
My soft spot for the prairie landscape was handsomely rewarded this year–an abundant one for the prairies. There had been tons of rain and the crops have hardly ever been so bountiful with whopping fields of canola, some cut, some not, being the most popular. The wheat was rolling around in the wind–so tall and fat. What a view. I followed a route that took me south of Regina, through Moose Jaw.
The Canadian Championships began on Thursday with the Nursery. The sheep were Columbians from the flock of Dale Montgomery, an hour or so up Highway 1, from the trial. The judge was Jack Knox, a Scot, now resident in Missouri. The field was beautiful–an alfalfa field, freshly mowed for the trial, and provided by our hostess, Jamie MIchele Van Ryn. It had lost of room on each side and the outrun was about three hundred yards. The drive was several hundred yards–a nice test. the four sheep were spotted on horseback, but that did not seem to throw many dogs. I expected my own to run well, but they ran better than expected. Feist, Champion, Howell, reserve champion.