Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Duck Wrangling – 2004

Did you ever know that Duck wrangling is a very tough job? Just ask my friend, Ron. (The names has not been changed to not protect the not-so-innocent). He will be more than happy to tell you of his exploits as a fine Duck Wrangler. Then again, he may never speak to me again after I tell you of his exploits. I guess that probably would include my exploits too.

Over the years I have been mainly concerned with running my dogs on sheep. One fine year, say about over eight years ago, my herding pal, Kathy roped me into going back to doing arena type trials (Not AKC). I was running field trials with my Border Collies and had been jaded with arena trials a few years earlier and vowed never to go back.

So I was filling out the forms and Kathy suggested (as in told) to me that I needed to check the duck and cow section of the form and send my money in for that portion. I dutifully did as she told me and checked not only sheep but also ducks and cows. Word to the wise here, do not ever check boxes like these unless you actually have worked said stock prior.

So on the day of the trial Kathy shows up and picks me up and off we go on this grand adventure. We arrived at this arena trial and check in and are given numbers. I see by my run order I am one of the first on cows and ducks. Then I realize maybe I should see exactly what I need to do in this arena course and watch the runs before mine.

I see several of the ducks runs, feather flying, ducks quacking and dogs diving bombing the ducks. Kathy informs me that is not what I should do with the duck but move them in a quiet, controlled manner through the course. I turn to look at my Tess and tell her that but I see her salivating and teeth showing as she is watching the runs. “Hum, I think to myself…this could be very interesting” Tess has never worked a duck in her life and I have used her to chase the herons who are in my ornamental fish pond.

Ah, it is my turn. Needless to say, I kept a really tight rein on Tess and we did quite well. At the awards presentation when I got High in Trial on Ducks, the esteemed Judge spoke to the crowd about my duck handling skills and then turned to me and asked “I saw you are quite good on ducks. How long have you been working on ducks. I want the group to follow your example since some of their runs really needed help”

Gee, I am looking slightly uncomfortable as I answer the question, “Well, this was my first time on ducks”

The Judge turned to the crowd and laughed long and hard…”What a jokester! Ha, ha you are funny.” and I snuck off before he could ask me any more questions.

So, after a few years in these arena trials and always bringing up new dogs to those trials and running them on ducks, I figured maybe it would be wise to get a few ducks and practice. Therefore, I got a flock of about 20 ducks, tossed them in the medium sized pond inside a small pasture.

I would feed the ducks and when as they left the fenced area to get their corn, I would work them with my dogs. They knew the safe place was the pond.

One fine weekend in 2004, Ron came over to work my sheep. I had been thinking of moving the ducks to a much bigger pasture that had two ponds. Of course, when I made this brilliant decision, the ducks were happy in their home pond and refused to listen to me.

Ron and I decided that we would take our two fine Open dogs (Tess and Choc-ko) and herd the ducks out of the home pond to the big pasture. In hindsight, the easier path would wait until feeding time and them move them while they were out of the water.

Note: the operative word is out of water!!

We send our dogs in and they both leap into the pond, listen to our flanks and start to get most of the ducks out of the water. By this time, we are feeling smug since most of the ducks are out of the water and headed to the bigger pasture. We go back to get the last four stragglers. The dogs jump in and lo and behold, these ducks dive under the dogs as the dogs get them close to the shore. This happens time and time again and the look on Tess’s face was “What the heck happened!!”

After a half hour and not getting the last four ducks out of the water, we decided to assist the dogs. Normal people would have called it quits and gone in the house for coffee but no, our pride was at stake. Ron gets a fishing net (which had some holes) and puts on his waders. We send the dogs again and then they bring the ducks to Ron and he scoops them up with his net. Unfortunately, some of the holes are in strategic locations and the ducks escaped. Ron fixes the net and we try again. The ducks having wised up to the net would just swim barely out of reach of the net. Ron wades into the pond to get closer….and he is ah, so close.

I am holding the line on my side and placing the dogs so the ducks swim closer to Ron. Ron takes a step further into the pond and asked me “How deep is this area?”

I shrug my shoulders and answer “Don’t know, never been in the pond myself, but be careful."

POOF, Ron sinks into a large hole, water gushes in over his waders, the ducks swim away, the dogs leave the scene of the major chaos and I answer back “I think it is pretty deep there!!” and immediately sit down and laugh. I am laughing so hard that tears roll down my cheeks. The dogs sit next to me and I am sure they are wondering “what the heck” Ron is doing. He is not trying to say naughty words but if he did I sure didn’t hear them over my laughter. It was a good five minutes before I could even think about getting up. Meanwhile Ron has gotten himself out of the pond and has emptied out his waders. Some days you just can’t win. We call it quits, go in, and watch football.

Ducks: 4
Humans: 0

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