Saturday, April 7, 2012


Johnson Ranch, in Yorkville.
Everything I knew about Yorkville, other than that RESDA was going to have a sheep dog trial at the Johnson ranch there, could be summed up in one statement.  

"If you reach Boonville, you've gone too far." 

And Boonville is just a spot on the map, a quaint little blip of a town-ling that you drive through on your way to Fort Bragg or Mendocino.  Luckily, we saw the ranch in time.  It's a beautiful place, smack dab in the middle of a bigger beautiful place that looks a lot like the next beautiful place... 

Bringing in the sheep...
Jeff and I lingered over our morning coffee so long that we missed the Open Dogs (darn!), but we got there in time for the barbeque (luck!), raffle (no luck) and the Pro-Novice class.  I introduced myself, my husband and my dog to a few folks, and asked how the trial was going. 

Right away, I heard about the sheep:  "gnarly," "real," "wild," "scary," and "straight off the range."   The sheep looked like they could handle just about anything, any time.  In the photo below, a Novice dog is seriously challenged by a (pregnant?) ewe. 

The winner of the Open class was delighted to receive her check (sheep dog people win money!), blue ribbon, and a special "perpetual trophy" painting.  The painting was done by an artist who later dropped dead while penning sheep during a contest.  I kid you not!  Wish I knew the artist's name, I'd love to look that story up on-line.  I heard more than one handler say that it was "the perfect way to go."  The painting looked like it was done back in the twenties or thirties. 

The same handler later took her young dog off the field without completing her Pro-Novice run (she didn't even get the sheep around the pen), because that one ewe really did want to run over her dog.  As she wisely said on her way out, "He doesn't need that kind of action."

We used to get cattle like that once in a while, during cutting horse contests.  Sometimes a winning run depends way too much on the luck of the draw. 

My husband and I enjoyed being around livestock people today.  I heard people bartering for lambs at the lunch table, and talking sheep/sheep/sheep/dog/dog/dog...    My husband said it felt like "the good old days in Utah" when he used to go camping with his uncles and cousins.  He loved the big fire pit, the creek bed, the family feel, and the relaxed atmosphere.  There were no canopies.  People showed out of their trucks and vans (most were beautifully outfitted for it), and only one dog occasionally barked.  It was amazingly quiet, and peaceful. Jeff was quick to point out, on the way home, that he didn't see a single handler running.  "They all just sort of strolled along - or, in some cases, limped.  Perfect for you!"  (I'm not too sure how I feel about that.) He had plenty of men to talk to, too.  Although he's quick to say he enjoys being around women, I noticed he was hanging out with the guys.  He especially appreciated George, who told him how a sheepdog trial is run and scored. 

Riff was a very good boy at the trial.  He couldn't take his eyes off the sheep!  He stayed "glued to the action" all afternoon, but was willing to lay down or sit or walk around nicely, whenever I asked him to.  He got a little snarky twice, though, when other dogs got close enough to sniff his nose.  Where did he learn that?  "Eh eh!"  I sure hope he gets over it.

Here are just a few of the many fine photos Jeff took today:

Dog brings sheep to the panel.

Sheep wonder if they really have to go through that stupid little opening.

Dog says, "Yep!"

So they go.

Riff was very attentive today.  I like to think he learned a lot, just watching.  I know I did!


corgi2bc said...

I love the sheep dog trial atmosphere and I have met so many nice people. And yeah, the prize money is much better than a ribbon. :-)

Tom Trent said...

That's a very nice write-up about the RESDA Spring Trial. The painting was done by Lu Rose. She and her husband were sheep ranchers in Mendocino County in the 1950s-1970s, so the painting was probably done during that time.
Our club is celebrating its 65th year. I'll look forward to meeting you in the future.
Tom Trent, Vice President

Celeste said...

Thanks, Tom! I look forward to meeting you, too...

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