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Payback


Donald McCaig
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Dear Fellow Handlers,

Every year a spectator shakes his head: “ Looks like a lot of work. Why host a sheepdog trial?”

 

My short answer: “Payback. Because I attend trials all over the country almost always in a beautiful spot, sometimes hosted by strangers who do everything they can so me and my dogs have a good trial.”

 

The longer answers:

 

Because I owe dogs created by generations of stockmen who hosted thousands of long-forgotten sheepdog trials and because my small trial and others like it mean these same dogs will delight and amaze people long after I’m gone.

 

Because just after dawn in the fields below our house, packs of sheepdogs frolicked; black dots appearing and disappearing in the low hanging mist.

 

Because my neighbor Thea Marshall cooked for three days and was annoyed when I offered pay. Because when she shut down and emptied the cooker, the dogs adored her so.

 

Because I was explaining the trial to spectators when Mark Billadeau and Peg laid down a subtle, stock-sensitive, unforgetable 104 point run.

 

Because the big rigs got down our lane.

 

Because Kay Sanders created an official Highland Occasional SDT Wreck Trophy. (Open handlers only).

 

Because I’d readied fifty pounds of back ribs for Saturday but I’d never cooked ribs so Steve Godfrey shooed me off and prepared the best ribs I’ve ever tasted.

 

Because the pies turned out all right.

 

Because the sheep were cared for as if by their owner. Because Julie Poudrier would radio, “Short delay. We have to pull a limper.”

 

Because our preacher, her husband and a dozen neighbors turned out for Steve’s ribs and next morning at sunrise she preached a lovely sermonette and we sang Amazing Grace which, it occurred to me, is likely the only time I get to pick the hymn until my funeral.

 

Because of the stories and jokes.

 

Because, after all these years we held our first double lift and at the International shed, Barbara Ray gave us all a free master’s class.

 

Because Judge Craig Rogers was on his feet checking the line for every open dog. Because when I sleazed my shed he hit me pretty hard.

 

 

Because every time something needed done, somebody did it.

 

 

Because after dinner, kids played around the campfire and the stars came out and cello and fiddle struck up and I met Debbie Crowder who’d just spent eleven hours in the sheep pens. I said, “Good day.”

 

Debbie said, “It was.”

 

And because, Monday morning after everybody’d left, my sheep dogs and guard dogs walked down there. My dogs’ noses were glued to the earth and our boss guard dog had to ration his squirts and there was no sign anybody had ever been here. Not a water bottle, not a crumpled running order, not a cigarette pack - just flattened grass under the big green funeral tent, and a hundred fifty sheep grazing in the quiet.

 

Donald McCaig

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For me, the best payback of working at Donald's trial is being able to walk my dogs down along (and in) the Cowpasture River; to be able to gaze up at night to a black, black sky so full of the stars that we can't see anymore in other parts (even rural ones) of the country--you can actually see the milk of the Milky Way; the early morning quiet, broken only by singing birds and the occasional bleating sheep; and to contemplate with my partner-in-crime at the top the people who crossed those mountains and settled those valleys with none of the technology we have to assist us today, often on foot or horseback--those were people of fortitude. And a lesson that we all can learn: It *is* possible to live without your cell phone for THREE WHOLE DAYS! :rolleyes:

 

I seriously consider becoming a squatter whenever I visit there....

 

(Oh, and Donald is too modest about the pies--he makes AWESOME strawberry-rhubarb and apple pies, and cooks a mean breakfast too!)

 

J.

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Thank you Donald for a wonderful weekend full of great food and fun sheep to work.

Thank you Julie & Debbie for your hard work on top and suggesting the double lift/international shed; it was very educational (thank you Barbara).

 

Like Julie, we too enjoyed a walk along the river and marveling at the view of the milky way each night.

 

Mark

 

P.S. Those were some gooood ribs!

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Hello everyone,

 

Thanks for another outstanding post, Donald, and I am sorry that I wasn't able to get to your trial this year. For those who haven't been to Yucatek Farm, here is a photo of the fog over the trial field, with Donald's American Homeplace in the background.

 

highlandfogcropcomp.jpg

 

 

Congratulations to all for another successful Highland Ocassional SheepdogTrial!

 

Regards to all,

nancy

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It was, indeed, a great weekend! What a treat it was from beginning to end - the sheep, the beautiful farm, mountains, river, the food, the people... I am so glad I went. My only regret was having to leave.

 

Many thanks to Donald for having us all - and thanks to Julie and Deb for the really great set-out (as usual) and to Thea and others for the fabulous food.

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Because, Laura gave me a crash course in scribing and I learned SO much.

Because, when I was scribing for Craig he would sometimes give a quick explanation of why "x" number of points was deducted, so I could understand.

Because, Walt was able to help me correct aggressive/fear behavior in Apache, especially lunging and growling at other dogs.

Because, Thea was able to send some photos of the trial to The Recorder paper...

Because, mine sucked.

Because, Kenny's dog, Kathy, was able to run at the end of N/N with no pressure and she actually brought the sheep to him (like a bat out of hell, but we'll take it!)

Because, I could enter Lily and not be embarrassed when she just sniffed the ground and left of out fear.... then went home and tried to herd our sheep on her own!

Because, Lord willin, we can do it again next year. Thanks, Donald

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Because the look in Tess's eyes after our run ....they glow with pride with a job well done, of true teamwork, of love, of trust and of a special bond that can never be broken or bought.

 

Of seeing what was bred into her generation for countless years, of courage, of a true test of working ability...

 

and of AWE....

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