For all the complaints about Nebraska, it gave up a breathtaking sunrise this morning. I took a picture, so that everyone could see that Nebraska wasn’t a total bust , that it had a charm or two that it kept from view. Just a glimpse here and there. It took a long time to cross.
I encountered the great river, south of 80, at LeClaire. The water is wide. I skipped the mayhem of all the dogs and just took Dorey. She promptly charged into the river, thinking the surface of lilypads and floating flora was firm ground. It was kinda smelly but the water was flowing under the docks like a sharp tide. A flock of storks flew by, but they surprised me and I missed them with my camera. Who knew they had storks here, supplying babies to the childless of Davenport? Their flight was a graceful one, arching over the river and settling on a floating thing, mid river. The traffic on the I80 bridge was east west, but every notion, every sentiment, of this spot, looked south, like Dorey.
Chicago was passed in the dark. My home is calling out to me.
What a final. The outruns were not so difficult, but the drive was enormous. two hundred yards way and three hundred yards of cross drive then a trip back to the ring. The sheep were different kinds of difficult all day. Handlers struggled to get the twenty around the course and many taken down for grips, the frustration of getting them moving.
Monty started with a good outrun , but he was scrambled in his fetch, so much so, I wondered if he could hear. He missed the first fetch badly and I had to send him back from below the drop point with vexing cost. After that, the only really good thing was his shed. I should have taken stock of his fatigue level–when I brought his five collared ewes to the pen, he was doing ok until one broke away and rejoined. Hell.
My camp broke up suddenly. We were all happy there for awhile, and now everyone is going back to the home routine. My hat is off to Bridget and Kit Strang and the mass of volunteers that worked the finals to make it a beauty.
I can honestly say I enjoyed the drive through Colorado. I haven’t been through the Glenwood Canyon during daylight hours for years. What a spectacular route it is. The Colorado River coursing down done one side with kayakers and white water rafters, the steep rocky mountains up the other. You can see how those people would love where they live. Riding through Colorado cuts a couple of hours off Nebraska–that is a preferred route, the one that cuts the time off Nebraska.
The semifinals was a long day with 41 runners (ties were included), fifteen minutes per dog and many of them used all their time, and begged for more. The sheep were mostly uniformly difficult, but they showed that they had been through handling facilities and worked once or twice by being easier at the pen. Or maybe everyone had to try for it it with the single at stake, if you failed. The spectating was engrossing. Seeing the reaction of sheep to various dogs, their exclusive styles and the outcomes. High entertainment for serious dog runners, indeed.
Monty took the course like a pro. His gather was handy and his turn at the post good, where many had trouble. Sheep began to be willful in the drive away and they were testing right through the first panel. They moved off keenly in the crossdrive but resented being made to go through the crossdrive, the in-the-face flank. The short ride from the crossdrive to the ring was marked with peril which Monty negotiated successfully. Patient in the extreme. One collared, one not, tried him repeatedly. If he did pop them (and I don’t know that he did, he isn’t the type), it was on the up side, and into the ring they came. His penning was the most noteworthy of his run, very sure and cool. That seems to be a repeat story about him these days. A good one.
Monty runs ninth tomorrow. Patrick Shannahan eighth. Barbara Ray runs third, a coveted draw. Joni Tietjen runs 14th. We are all honoured to run in the final, from such strong company and many good dogs and hands.
On Tuesday, the running began in the rain. There were strange patterns of weather all around us and Dorey could hear nothing but thunder from somewhere. She ran like a stranger. All her flanks were hesitant, all her stops late. Thunder phobia is a vice that gets you eventually and Tuesday was Dorey’s day.
The weather remained oppressive all day with occasional breaks in otherwise uncharacteristically heavy rain. It is a desert here, for heaven’s sake. Sage brush and cactus.
After a disturbing USBCHA director’s meeting on Tuesday night, I was not myself. Poisoned. I ran Howell in the morning. He ran out beautifully and brought them well, and then I drove the fetch, to conclude his Nursery career. He will just have to be a good Open dog.
The sheep have been difficult and pretty even with a few sorry draws with a single offending runner. For the most part, they were uniformly difficult and no pens were ever easy.
Thank goodness for my crowd of friends. I don’t know what I would have done without them. Wednesday night, Joni and Blake Tietjen found the new restaurant that the chef had opened, replacing his former good one in downtown Carbondale from a few years ago. Carbpndale is finals town with all the accoutrements except good cell service and wifi. Whole Foods is about three miles away with a big Starbucks next door (not that we need that, our coffee is better). We have wined and dined with a very effective camp and endlessly good supplies. Mary Minor and Sandara Massie brought a tent that has civilized our outdoor activities. The barbecue has been very lively. The parking people call us the South Beach community.
Today was the final day of four days of preliminary running. Monty ran well enough to secure him a spot in the semi-finals tomorrow. Lots of cautious hands with decent runs, have played it safe at the pen and not tried. I went for it. Monty took it like a pro. He ran quite fluidly today, talking to me the whole way around. He is up thirty-ninth tomorrow.
Mary Minor and Sandra Massie joined the party. they had a hard drive across Nevada and Utah and were very tired when they arrived at Loma, Julie Hansmire’s.
Mary and I ran dogs at Swift’s again in the morning. Our dogs were running well. This finals , At Carbondale, is Mary Minor’s first. She is doing it with Feist. They are becoming good partners and I have my hopes up high for both of them, running on Wednesday. On we rode, to Carbondale. The Colorado rushed cheerily at our side most of the way. I envied the fishermen in small boats, fly fishing the dream.
After making a perfect camp for ourselves (Barbara Ray showed up and Bev Lambert covers a corner). we all went for a long walk that took us through the sage brush, with all its suspect hiding places for rattlesnakes and got to the top of the hill overlooking the valley of Strang Ranch and the sheep dog finals. In the opposite direction was Mount Sopris. I have attached a picture with Zola and Dahlia and the big mountain in the distance. It is an imposing back drop for the trial. Colorado at its best.
What a handler’s meeting, with so many in attendance. Everyone walking every nook and cranny, as though it would help with a scheme to get five ovine athletes, blood doped with high altitude, around a course of obstacles in good order.
Mich is second tomorrow. An early draw. Dorey is 20th. Rain is forecast. A demain!!!!!
Joni Tietjen and I worked dogs at Jim Swift’s. It was fun. I only took Howell but he ran just as I expected him to do, cool, a good partner. She ran her year-old Rob, who had not benefited from several days cooped up in a crate. We will go back tomorrow morning.
A return visit to the rewarding Las Marias Mexican hot spot was our reward for fun at Swift’s. The green chill sauce was completely authentic. Everyone had huevos with something, Chorizo, Green chilies, enchiladas, burrito. It was all good. Afterwards we went to chill roasting /fresh vegetable place on the south side of Grand Junction. Thank goodness Jim and Lisa Swift were with us to direct us. We never would have found it. Blake Tietjen got four bushels of roasted chillies. The fragrance was unforgettable, with a roaster, hot on the job, with big spinning bins, on high cook, alternating with cold spray water. That was quite a thing, A culinary specialty of Grand Junction.
The hot dogs were waiting for us at home and they all welcomed a swim in the beautiful Colorado River, not so far south of Julie Hansmire’s place. Monty swam and swam, stationary against the current, a river rat. Down by the banks of the Colorado, I will find my sweet Eldorado.
We peeled the four bushels of green chillies tonight, finishing just in time for the arrival of Mary Minor, coming to her first finals, with Feist, and Sandra Massie.
Green chilies 1
Green chilies 2
The semi finals got started early with a very hot run from Jean Gellings and her dependable little Star–97 of 110 points. Dorey did not make it through, called for commotion near the end of her crossdrive. Dave Imas will put it on Vimeo and we can all see.
I saw my opportunity to go to Fruita, Colorado to hear my beloved Butch Hancock, who I have not seen for thirty years. My Texas days.
I followed the Colorado River. Flanking it sometimes. Sometimes, criss-crossing. Water in hurry. River with a mission. It was aqua blue until Palisades, of peaches fame. There, it turned muddy. Interstate 70 in Colorado, must be one of the most picturesque Highways in the USA. Then onto Julie Hansmire’s hacienda, where Joni and Blake Tietjen, Mich Ferraro and Kak Weathers were camping out. We went to Julie Hansmire’s favourite Mexican place in downtown Grand Junction. No disappointments there. All the comforts of tamales, Chilli Relleno and enchiladas.
We were all strolling down the main drag of Fruita, when I heard his West Texas voice. I spun and there he was, doing something on the street. Whatever it was, he stopped and cried out my name. Amanda Milliken. Maybe my name has sounded better but he made it hard to remember when that was.
He sang lots of my old favs that I sing pretty often, on my own–Bluebird, You’re Just a Wave, You’re Not the Water, and See the Way. Lotsa great songs I had never heard. It was a tiny hole in the wall. He said I could remember these songs from the Alamo on 6th in Austin, so long ago. And I could. I could indeed.
Long day and very difficult. The judge announced at the handler’s meeting he would tolerate no grips. He wasn’t kidding. He had anything that startled a sheep off. This made us all super cautious. He further had a new wrinkle on the marked shed, requiring that the collared ewe on the single was to be taken on the head as the last sheep. This difficult task was balanced by his not caring what we shed in the first shed so long as it was the last sheep.
Jean Gellings and Star ran second and had a nearly perfect run that stood against all comers all day. The only one to even come close was Ron Enzeroth and Mick. Ron Burkey had two good goes to be the only handler with two dogs in the final. Barb Ross and Trim delighted us all with a good run and a slot on Sunday.
Amanda and Dorey were called for a grip near the second drive gate with a very nice run. Bruce Fogt and Jill as well as several other top hands met similar fates.
Nan and I ran early and our run was too rough to make the cut. Joe fared a bit better. In spite of a tremendous fight at the pen we prevailed, just barely, and made the final. Barb Ray and Stella along with Shauna Gourley had great runs in the middle of the day, proving that success was always possible for the right dogs.
The sheep were heavy, stubborn and determined. They seemed more reluctant to pen than they were in the preliminary round. Go figure.
The qualifying wound up today.
Dorey made it in with a whopping 54. She stayed with her sheep to her credit, who [ut on their racing shoes for her run. I made it to the ring in the fastest time but nothing was good except the the salvation of the ten point pen. It does not matter, as tomorrow is a new day and anything goes.
Bev made it in with two. She was her cheeriest self as a result. Most of the running was not very good. Grips were called freely and these are the sort of sheep that invite grips. so not that many runs got off the ground, which is a grave disappointment for those here to watch some dog running.
I went with a gang to Avery Lake, twenty miles south of Meeker, and swam the dogs. The incline to the water was steep and long. While we were fishing and hanging out, a thunderstorm approached from the west, I was nervous for Dorey who can be spooked by them and climbed up the hill, back to the truck, in a hurry, reminiscent of the Von Trapp family climbing into the alps. I know it was good for me, but I was out of breath all the same. We call that SOB, at the office.
Tonight was the handlers dinner, where a coin toss game was won by Mich Ferraro. She won three hundred and some dollars as the last person standing, which caused great excitement for our table.
I run twelfth tomorrow, so before lunch which is nice. Dorey’s qualifying score is low, but she is running well.
Heather just reminded me I am supposed to be blogging. I got caught up in the trial and forgot.
The running has been extremely difficult. It isn’t so much that the sheep fight as that they stand and face the dog. Individuals are happy to leave the group and go solo or to take off for the hills with the bunch. About the only thing they don’t want to do is walk around in front of the dog.
The outrun is in excess of 500 yards with the gathers often taking 6 or 7 minutes. The turn around the post can easily take two minutes and in some unfortunate cases even longer. As each day has progressed this has all occurred in the hot sun with a strong wind. It’s a great dog trial but very hard. It’s not uncommon for the sheep to be 100 yards off the fetch line.
Dave Imas had a great run this morning. His dog made the sheep happy to mosey around the course. They made the near impossible look easy. Joe and I ran in the late morning. The sheep were very disrespectful and Joe was not amused. He was a very good boy, though. He likes to take charge on the top end. An issue we often fight over. On this occasion I let him have his head and he did nice work, getting the sheep to the fetch gates on a reasonable path. The rest of our run was pretty good and we ended up 4th with no pen. I chickened in the face of a fight between him and one of the ewes who’d been trying him for twelve minutes, a fight I knew he’d win and I would lose. I opted for the coward’s path and didn’t really try for the pen.
So Amanda and Dorey are in with a very fast and dramatic run from yesterday. I’m in with Joe and Nan. Nan ran very well, first up yesterday. Tonight is the handler’s dinner where we will draw our spots for the semi final. Thirty of us run tomorrow for twelve slots in Sunday’s double lift. Wish us luck.