Travails of Traveling Trialers Episode Four
We arrive in Fred’burg, Monday mid a.m. Chris and I go through our housekeeping; she is getting really good at dumping the tanks!! However, we are both so tired, we feel ill. Took me a few days to realize that the weather in Gouldbusk took it’s toll on our bodies. It was FREEZING!! Wind gusting in our faces for three days. I put arctic underwear UNDER my flannel-lined jeans and three warm layers on top. It was brutal. Fredericksburg seems a little paradisaic after that.
We take a reconnaisance mission to the Burkey Ranch to scope our trial field on Tues.
We have to go thru three electric gates and two Lifetime gates to get there. Open range of Angora goats and Rambouillet sheep. It’s called “Top of the Hill” trial with good reason: the dogs have to go up a very steep hill to get the sheep. The same Dorper lambs we used in Pottsville have been transported here. We spend the rest of the day shopping in Fred’burg and eating “real” food
Day one of the trial starts clear and cool but quickly warms up into the 80’s. Zula ran early and earned an 88; she was awesome!! Kept the first place slot for most of the day but then the “good” handlers had to come and knock us to 5th. I had a really nice run going w/ Duke but he can’t shed these sheep so ran out of time. Poor Bryce was still lame and struggled at the shed. Got it but ran out of time penning. During out shopping spree, Chis and L finally bought watches to time their runs. They used them while running and hustled to get the job done. Chris got a 77 to finish; she used her watch. L used her watch but still can’t shed. Not her..Beau. She made three beautiful openings but he wouldn’t take it. We all have mucho homework to do when we get home!!!
Open Ranch weather was superb. Brenna did a great job and received a 78. Quin got a 77. Today the weather turned BRUTAL; windy and freezing. We sought refuge in the RV, furnace blazing. Retired w/ Duke; he was on the muscle and missed whistles so I called it. Bryce tried to cross over AGAIN; redirected but many pts off. Drive was good but I missed the cross drive. Chris and L ran out of time. The shed is killing people out here; these lambs require the services of a surgical team skilled in separation of siamese twins. Zula had the first place run…until we got to the shed. She just wouldn’t hold the one lamb from the rest long enough. Lost enough points to knock us to 5th.
Our trip home was a marathon of driving. L couldn’t drive any longer the first evening so Chris jumped in her van to spell the driving. I was pretty awake. They were behind me (the freeways are so EMPTY out there) and I was scolling thru my IPhone for appropriate driving music. C & L thought I was going to sleep and started calling; guess I was weaving over a few lanes looking for tunes
Truck decided to make the LAST leg of our trip a white-knuckle experience. Almost didn’t make it up the grade on I-8 toward home. Had to have the turbo replaced a few weeks later.
We will be going back next year!!
Travails of Traveling Trialers, Episode Three: Gouldbusk or Bust
I left off with our safely exiting Pottsville and on to next trial site. The same could not be said for Larry & Marla. I watched his truck when he was trying to hook up and had the same sinking feeling as his truck tires. We had agreed to meet at WalMart but they weren’t there right away. The tractor had to come pull them out. Poor Larry felt bad but MANY people were being pulled out that weekend. We did our shopping and proceeded to Gouldbusk.
I am enjoying this part of the country!! Its quite picturesque and so OPEN. Lots of exotic hunting ranches; camoflaged blinds (Calvin) in the midst of trees to hide from prey for hunterds. Gouldbusk is a speck of a town but this ranch is HUGE!! Mesquite trees ( a forest), cactus, little ponds and green grass (thanks to the rains) Alistair told us to pull into the trial pasture and stay to the side so I drove in and backed into a spot. L followed then in came Larry. Once again the sinking feeling returned. He got stuck right in the opening of the field. I got my tow chain out and tried to pull him but no dice. We needed to unhook him to get his truck out then ask Alistair to pull his RV. His hitch is jammed and won’t come off. Alistair graciously comes w/ his big One Ton Powerstroke Four Wheel Drive and gets him to safety. He also alerts us to the loose sheep moving around the pasture and asks us to keep an eye on the gate we have to drive thru.
Larry is, at this moment, feeling pretty low. He has been towed twice in one day, has injured his upper thigh and just wants to sit. They have eight dogs to walk first so Marla lets them out carefully, one by one. Larry takes Emmie ( one of my pups) and is chaining her up when she slips away from him. I am sitting in my chair, watching the horror about to unfold. Sure enough she spied the sheep, takes off on a nice flank and brings them hellbent-for-election back to the OPEN gate and down the road. I ask L to get Beau and start after her. I hear the sound of a big truck engine. Alistair is charging down the road at a fast clip to intervene. The sheep race down the road and (thankfully) turn into another open gate to a pasture. Little Emmie kicks herself into a huge outrun and CATCHES THEM. They are about to make it back out the gate to the open road when Alistair intercepts her. I watch as he takes about five minutes to drive her away from the sheep and into Larry’s waiting clutches. “You should start that pup” he kindly says.
We are naming Feb 22 Larry Day.
Wednesday is a “free” day so I ride my bike to Gouldbusk for some exercise. Then we decide to take a sight-seeing trip to Fredericksburg. Quaint little German town to walk around. Sort of Brunhilde meets Matt Dillon. We shop and walk several blocks; find the Silver Creek Saloon with live music so sit, have a beer and listen. Temp is over 80. We need to get home soon as I don’t like driving in the dark in Deer Country. While in enjoy a nice venison steak, I dont want it on my windshield.
The next day we go to Emil Luedecke place in Zephyr to work dogs. Very windy but nice open field w/ lots of trees to hide sheep. I ran after five dogs for over two hours, trying to fix the probs from the previous trial. Larry, Lasoya and Christy got to work their dogs, too.
There is a nice long dirt road to this place so can take dogs for one mile run on the bike. Saw my old buddy, Bud Boudreau when I got back around sundown so stopped to visit. All of a sudden a hard wind blew up and I ran for cover. This wind blew out our pilot light, threw Larry’s BBQ around the camp area, tossed our chairs and came up SO FAST! Christy and I thought we would have to sleep in the truck last night as the RV was being rocked like crazy!
The ranch we are at is called WineGlass but I think it is a hallucination on the owner’s part. This is full of Mesquite trees and cactus. For the uninformed, Mesquite is nasty, vindictive, and prolific. Picture the dagger studded club ancient man had bludgeoned Sabre Tooth tigers with; THAT is a Mesquite branch. Thorns are 1/2 – 1 1/2 “ long and SHARP. One went through my shoe and was a devil to get out. Most of the dog walks were spent dodging this insidious predator.
Now about the course: 750 yd outrun (for you novices, that’s 1/2 mile) Once again we are using three sheep only this time it is pregnant ewes, lambs and anything in the middle. Alistair is judging and has given 14 minutes to complete the course. The first day, he allowed us to to aid our dogs in finding the sheep if they got lost. The dogs, that is. The dogs could possibly see the sheep, if they have Hubble vision but would lose them down on the first drop. The sheep weren’t visible till the dog crested a second rise AND to confound matters, there were sheep in another pasture quite visible.
Duke was first up. I sent him off, absolutely confident he has seen them (or so he told me) He went up the first rise and tried to cross; I stopped him and redirected him, ohh, about 150 times. He disappeared for an agonizing amount of time. In the periphery of my vision, I saw a figure of a dog running about 1/2 mile away on ANOTHER HILL. Hub Holmes was our assigned chauffeur to pick us up with the ATV and gather sheep.
Christy sent her Bo and had to redirect once. He disappeared for a very long time so Christy decided to walk up to find him. She didn’t get 30 yds from the post and up behind the sheep that Bo came and lifted beautifully.
Lasoya’s Beau had the BEST outrun and ran a decent course but timed out at the shed.
Bryce went next; another series of ignored redirects emitted from my whistle and he crossed. By the time he saw them, they had lifted to the set out pen and he couldn’t them off. Up the field again for me.
Zula was last; several redirects NOT ignored. She got the sheep, did the whole course quite well. Lost so many pts on redirects that score wasn’t good but I was happy with her course work.
Day Two: Christy’s Bo did so GREAT! They finished the course, with a good score and some points for Nationals. Lasoya did a great job and laid down a good run but couldn’t shed again. Duke got down the field, lifted and brought them down the field. One of the girls was so pregnant, you could see the lambs moving inside her. She was cranky but
we got around the course. She was determined to get away so Duke lost his cool in the shedding ring and gripped. DQ. The ewe tripled the next morning. Bryce had gotten up that morning on three legs. I went through his whole foot and found nothing but he was not sound. He did the outrun, fewer redirects and brought the sheep. He actually had a decent fetch and on the crossdrive went totally lame. Continued the drive on three legs, made the gates, got the shed. Timed out at pen. Zula only needed one red. but found the sheep in the other field. She took the flank to p/u the correct sheep but couldn’t seem to catch them. I was blowing “Go Bye” and could see she was trying but something was wrong. Alistair came to tell me he could see with BINOCULARS that she came out of the trees all hobbled up and couldn’t run. I went up the field to get her and a few minutes later pulled one of the damned mesquite thorns out of her leg.
Quin won Nursery, first go and took 3rd in Open Ranch.
Monday a.m. was slated to start our trip to Fredericksburg. Our plan was to have a leisure morning and leave around 10. Christy and I are pretty tired so didn’t want to hurry. However this is TEXAS! The morning was drizzly and threatening rain; we are in a grass pasture that is guaranteed to get us STUCK if wet. We hustled to tear down, load up and get out of there before that happened. Caffeine deprived and wet, we
Travails of the Traveling Trialers; Episode Two!
“Fucking Dog Trialing! Why are we here?”
Spoken by Five Star Resort Afficionado, Christy. Our Gortex was saturated; my rainboots wet INSIDE and we had to put these back on to walk the dogs. My boots were the victim of the rushing, deep water in the trial field while running Chance. L took a picture of us and I will try to get it up. I sent him for the sheep but the exhaust sheep were still in sight so he started for the pen. I stopped him and gave him a couple of redirects; he turned to look the right direction and went beautifully. We finished the course but the water was so deep in front of the pen, they tried to jump away from it. We had to go around it to get them in.
We have a case of Cabin Fever. I have read my novels till my eyes bleed; Christy has taken three naps in between her puzzle playing. My netflix and networks don’t work; we are bored. Suddenly she remembers she had tucked a deck of cards in Lasoya’s rig. L goes looking and comes back with a cowboy deck of cards. I swear a visor grew out of Christy’s head and a cigarette popped out from her lips as she said in a raspy voice, “Who’s in for 21?” Lasoya didn’t know how to play and it had been YEARS for me as poker playing veteran Christy tutored us. We had no chips, no money but our imaginary bank accounts were readily available; the game went until dark. Naturally, L won.
We had to venture out then to take the dogs for a walk and thus the beginning of this narrative and Christy’s outburst
Sometime during the night the rain stopped. Upon opening the door of the RV I knew what Noah felt on day 41. Mud, water, mess but dry skies. I grabbed coffee and made a quick morning prayer: Dear Lord, please let Zula FIND the sheep; keep Bryce from EATING the sheep and keep Duke under Mach One. I didn’t say much about Duke first run but he was ON FIRE!! Every whistle was a launch code! He would turn and flank so fast, he looked like a spider monkey twisting through trees! It was a hoot and LOTS of fun!!
Zula did indeed find her sheep and laid a great run down, gaining points and a check. Bryce finished the course, missing points by one place. Duke did slow a bit and again finished. I forgot to pray about Quin; she had such a good run the first time, earning a check and another Q. Beautiful second run but I got in a hurry on way to pen and told her to Get Up. She did…all the way to the back leg of the sheep. I went after her so no score. Chance had a rough go so I told Larry he wouldn’t Q that run. WRONG! The other scores were worse so he got 3rd and is now eligible for Finals.
Third go for Open, Zula was a little pushy but I missed the crossdrive panel. Shed was hard to get so took front one as time was counting down. Her score was okay but not as good as before. Bryce had VERY heavy sheep so he had to push, push, push. I thought he would grip (was starting to HOPE he would) so we ran out of time on way to pen. I missed the crossdrive again. Duke had the most amazing crossdrive and we made the panel. Finished the course.
After my last run we were tearing down the rig and prepping for departure. The ground had dried out some and I hoped to get out. We had to wash mud out of most EVERYTHING to get it packed. I hooked up the truck and started to go. Christy opted to stay out and make sure we cleared the mudfloes, so off I drove. Once I felt the tires catch under me, I kept moving till making it to hard pack ground. Christy was chasing me the whole way but I wasn’t stopping!! She climbed into the truck, out of breath but relieved. Off to Brownwood, RV dump and refill water, propane and WalMart.
Check out “Sweetgrass” on PBS @ 10 p.m. tonight, July 5. It is an intense documentary on the dying craft of ranching in this country. It features the use of Guardian dogs, Border Collies and real, dyed-in-the-wool shepherds!
Our Second Annual Wool Festival was a huge success! We had a huge turn-out, great weather, and amazing food! Check us out on SignOnSanDiego here! There’s more excitement and media coverage on the way with Animal Planet this week, so stay tuned!