Friday, February 22, 2013

Labor Day Blues

I wrote this a few years ago. This is based on a true experience. One I hope not to experience again!
Labor Day Blues
by Diane Pagel

Everyone has memory loss...yep, the kind that hits you like...”just when is our wedding anniversary” or “oops, I thought your birthday was next weekend! “   I must have been hit hard as my friend Kathy (who shall be named, as she is guilty) called me up about five days before Labor Day a few years back and asked me when I was going to meet her on Labor Day Saturday.

“Huh” was my intelligent reply.

“Diane,” Kathy says patiently, “Remember you said you would do a herding demo with me at the Longview Highland Games? I asked you a few months ago and you said you could and now we are getting the last minute details worked out. What dog or dogs are you bringing? “

“Uhh” was my swift response, “Can you tell me the dates and times?” hoping to buy more time and perhaps remember more about this.

“This Saturday and Sunday” was her reply.

“This weekend?” The words shot out of my mouth, “As in Labor Day weekend?’“

“Yep” Kathy answered back, a bit annoyed at my dim wit.

“Uh, I was going to go camping with Jeff this weekend“.

“Well, you gave me your word and the Highland Games folks have advertised and such and are expecting us. In addition, I thought you would bring Haig and Tess so between the two of us; we had three dogs we could demo.  I think they will have ducks and we are bringing sheep. They will pay us, of course.”

“Ok, I’ll tell Jeff that I forgot and since you asked me before we made the camping plans, I’ll tell him that I can’t go. Although I’m not sure how he’ll take it”, I replied.

So, off I go and tell Jeff, who, as I expected, was not too amused, but since I told him that I had committed months prior and that the Highland Games folks had Kathy, Marlena and I as the featured herding attractions, he decided to go camping without me.  

I called Kathy back and made arrangements to meet her next to the Appleby’s at the mall at eight in the morning.  “We will met at the Appleby’s parking lot, swing over to Marlena’s house, and be on our way.  I’ll pick the sheep up before I go to Marlena’s.”  We also made plans to pick up some sheep that I had just bought on the way home from the trial.  I live about 90 minutes away so I arrived about 15 minutes early and had coffee and waited for Kathy.

Moreover, waited and waited and waited....8:45 rolls around and no Kathy. I paged her as she is a Doctor and has her pager on at all times. I did not get Marlena’s phone number (Note: this would have been a wise move).

I cleaned out my truck, went and got more coffee, meanwhile paging Kathy every 15 minutes. She had my cell phone number and I figured she would call me right back. 10:00 rolled around and no Kathy. I called her house and no answer. I got worried since she was not answering her pager, no answer from home and I did not have Marlena’s number or directions to her house. I figured that I would wait another half hour and then head home as nothing was happening at the Appleby’s parking lot. Maybe because they all went camping?

Finally, at 10:30 a.m., a minivan rolled up and Marlena hopped out. “Follow me” and she roared off and never gave me a chance to ask any questions.

One would think a mother of many children would drive in a safe and slow manner but Marlena was making up time for the 2.5 hr delay. We arrived at her house and I saw Kathy fiddling around in her SUV. Marlena grabbed my arm, hissed in my ear, “Don’t bug Kathy”, and hauled me into the house. I looked at Kathy and she was frowning; frowning as in big time!!

Since I had no choice but to follow Marlena into the house, (her hand had my arm in a death grip) I followed her like a meek mouse.

“Ok, what’s up? I was waiting for 2.5 hrs and no answer from Kathy? I paged and called her and nothing? “

Marlena answered, “Kathy’s dog had problems. “

“Problems? Such as?” I queried.

“Jill expressed her anal glands and Maya had the runs in her SUV.  Therefore, Kathy is cleaning it all up and she is not in a happy mood. Her pager and cell phone were not working so she couldn’t get a hold of you so she sent me to get you. She got a late start this morning, stuck in traffic, had to pick up the trailer and then both dogs unloaded in the rig so she had to smell it until she got here. She is cleaning the rig and washing the dogs. She didn’t know her pager was dead until she just got here. “

 Well this explained the lack of return calls, so we went and transferred items from my truck to the trailer. Meanwhile Kathy was done cleaning her SUV and the dogs were washed. Her mood was not better.

The driveway was steep and curved sharply.  She jockeyed the rig around a bit, and had some difficulty backing it around the corner, and down the driveway, without going over the steep incline, but finally got it appropriately positioned. Now, normal people would take the hints from all the delays and would have gone back home but we press onward

The sheep were down below in the pasture, with absolutely no way to get a vehicle close, and Kathy tried to bring them up the hill and load them into the trailer. Ever try to make a sheep do something it doesn’t want to do? Well, these sheep decided a tour of the local cul-de-sac was much more inviting than the trailer so they ran off in three directions.  Luckily for us, most of the neighbors were gone camping (like I should have been) and we tried to round the sheep up. Sheep in gardens, on back decks, in neighbor’s driveways and on freshly cut lawns, and the sheep all left their calling cards. After 30 minutes or so, we loaded the sheep up with no cursing, as Marlena is sensitive to that.

Finally, we hit the road, people, dogs, sheep and our sanity still (mostly) intact. We had about a 2-hour drive so Marlena called her Highland Games contact to get exact directions and times. No answer. We were not worried and kept going. She called several more times and no answer. We pulled into the town and decided to eat, since our demo was in the afternoon and we had plenty of time. Marlena still tried to call her contact. We ate and it was about 1:00 so we headed towards the Games, thinking our demo is about 2:00 or so. Marlena still tried her contact and finally decided that her contact must be at the fair and not answering her cell phone. We were not worried. Marlena had a general idea of where the Games were being held so we drove around and finally found the grounds. Actually, we got lost for about 30 minutes and since it was a small town, we eventually did find the right place.

It wasn’t packed with people and I said so, “a wee bit thin on attendees”. We found the demo grounds and no one was there. We decided that maybe they moved the demo to another site and we need to drive around to find it.  Marlena FINALLY got in touch with her contact, and she founds out that the date is the weekend AFTER Labor Day. This is after a 2-hour drive to get there!

Kathy and I turned to look at Marlena. She quickly responded that she thought it was this weekend.  Since the weekend was shot anyway, we headed towards home. We still had to pick up my sheep on the way back and the drive to the sheep farm is quite silent. I figured since we were down in the local area to swing by and get some sheep that I had bought a bit ago.

We got to the sheep farm and people spilled out of the house to greet us. I was expecting the two owners but there were about 10 people. They told us they put the sheep into the main stall and we can back the trailer up and load them. I left Kathy to back the trailer up, as I am hopeless in that department. We opened the trailer door and yet once again, the new sheep do not go in.

“Have you ever loaded these sheep before?” I asked the owner.


“OK, I’ll climb in and use Haig to load them. How familiar are they with Border Collies?” I asked as I peeled off my coat so I could slide between the feeder panels.

“Never seen a dog and I brought all of my spinner friends over so they could see a Border Collie work.
Now my brain was clicking, fast, as in very fast. The sheep were in a 6 foot by 30 ft stall and never been loaded or worked by a dog. This was a recipe for disaster. I looked at Kathy and she promptly replied, “Haig is much better than Jill in stall work and I’ll man the trailer gate’“. She bolted at sub-sonic speed.

Great, I thought to myself. I lifted Haig and squeezed him into the stall. I told him to walk up and the sheep all backed up, one slow foot at a time. Meanwhile, I was squeezing my body between the feeder panels so I could help load sheep. One thing one must remember, the size you are in High School is not the size you are when you have more years on you. The panel would let a size 4-jean person slip through, but quickly gripped my size 6 jeans in vise grip. I was stuck and was hanging, feet off the ground and my head and arms about 6 inches from the floor. The other folks were at the other end and on the other side of the trailer (thankfully) and could not see my dilemma. However, it would have been nice to have someone push me through the slots.  I decided it would not be a good idea to back out, as my jeans were caught on a nail and I could only go forward at this point. (Note: If I went back, my jeans would peel off and not only does Marlena not like swearing, I think partial nudity is out too!)

Haig, meanwhile, had enough of trying to move the sheep at a snail’s pace, and when they refused to move, he cranked up his power. Several of the ewes decided to charge him. I was in the line of fire and dangling like a stuck pig, squealing at Haig “Lie down” and cursing loudly under my breath. The sheep retreated and I managed to squeeze through, only to fall first in fresh sheep poop. So, Haig decided that since I was busy cleaning myself, he leaped up to move the ewes and they all knocked me down and I yelled at Haig to down.

Someone called to me “How are you doing? We have the gate open so you can load the sheep anytime now.” I knew for a fact that it wasn’t Kathy as she was wise to the situation, and she didn’t want to trade positions.

Therefore, after a bit, sheep flying, Haig working hard, and I was grabbing onto ewe’s necks, we managed to load the sheep. After Kathy closed the gate, the spinners all clapped. I tried to tactfully wipe off the sheep poop from my chest and act as if it was no big deal. They all asked when we would run at a trial and could they come to watch. Marlena quickly informed them of the demo that we were doing the next weekend. (Note: the next weekend Kathy and Marlena were at the demo as I went on another camping trip with the spouse)

Did I fail to mention when the sheep were not challenging Haig, that they were bouncing off the stall walls like hot popcorn?

We hit the road, thinking we were FINALLY home free. Never assume this. We got to Marlena’s and had to unload Marlena’s sheep that were in front of the trailer (separated from my sheep) and somehow we managed to unload my sheep, unload Marlena’s sheep and put my sheep away. Again, not satisfied with their earlier tour of the neighborhood, Marlena’s sheep went for the tour again. One feisty ewe galloped to the next-door neighbors (who happen to complain about her sheep and dogs), took a tour of their garage, ran across the fresh cut lawn, jumped on the deck and onto the deck furniture and left greeting cards everywhere. I am sure the neighbor was enjoying their vacation somewhere else as if they had decided to stay home; they most certainly would not have enjoyed this. After putting everyone away, Kathy and I headed to my place.

We pulled in at dusk. We unload my new sheep in the upper pasture, let the dogs out of the kennels, and go in the house to relax. We decided to make dinner and all the dogs but Kate and Maya came in. Since they were only about a year old, we let them play with their big ball for a few minutes. About five minutes later, Kathy called and no dogs. She called again and no dogs.  My farm is fenced and somewhat remote and these two dogs are usually quick to respond. We went down and looked for the dogs and they had disappeared. We walked to the pasture and Kate came running up to me, covered in dirt and looking naughty. I looked at Kathy and we raced to the upper pasture. Maya (we assumed) had dug a hole under the gate and her best pal, Kate, and she, went herding. They had only been in there for about 2 minutes.

Bet you did not sheep could swim. One ewe decided to swim back and forth in the pond to evade the dogs. The other ewes were in the corner and had stood off the dogs. We did a quick check on the ewes in the corner and all were safe...just a bit miffed.  The swimming ewe decided she didn’t want our help so swam to the other side. We waited for her to climb out but she figured out safety was in the water and refused to get out. We fashioned a lasso and tried to rope her. (Note. Do not hire us for our roping skills). After multiple failed lasso attempts and trying to grab her and pull her out we sat down and looked at each other. She seemed fine and by now, it was dark. Our one tiny penlight was dying (Jeff took the other flashlights camping) so we decided to go to the store and get a new flashlight so we could try to continue to get the ewe out of the water.

Off we went to QFC, grabbed a big flashlight.  I wrote a check for over $20 so I would have change.  We tried to open the flashlight package. It was sealed in plastic and we struggled and struggled. Finally we asked the guy in line behind us, who opened it and put it together, and tested the flashlight. I think he doesn’t shop there anymore after that night!! We bolted out of the store.  I forgot to get my $20 in change and remembered it the next day.

We raced home and with our new working flashlight, and went to look for the swimming ewe. As we walked into the pasture, we saw her among her pals, soaked but eating grass. We thought all was done when a small bleat stopped us in our tracks. We walked over to the pond and found another sheep in the pond. We had one Doctor and one Engineer and obviously, neither one could count how many sheep were in the pasture. Once again, we tried to get a ewe out of the pond and she swam around the pond to evade us, at least three full lengths, back and forth. We speculated she was the daughter of the big wet ewe. Finally, she swam to the other side, climbed out, and raced to join her pals. Both could give Esther Williams a run for her money….ooops, I mean laps!

Kathy and I were exhausted, went up to the house, and ate dinner. It was late, almost midnight so we figured what else can go wrong?  We both headed off to bed. Kathy was staying in the guest bedroom, which is downstairs. I fell into a sound sleep, dead to the world.

Apparently, very early in the morning, Kathy got up, and went outside in her PJs. These PJs happen to be missing two buttons, one in a certain area.  She claimed she went to investigate a noise. The door shut behind her and locked. Therefore, Kathy was outside, in her revealing PJs and banged on the door to have me open it. You can’t wake the dead so I never heard her. Kathy gave up, removed the guest bedroom screen, and fell back into the house.

Monday, Jeff came home and asked how our weekend was. Kathy and I look at each other and both said, “It was really exciting.” We left it at that.

 I haven’t yet, to this day, told Jeff that weekend was the wrong weekend for herding. I think there are some things you should not tell your spouse in order to have a happy marriage, and this is one of them.

“Ignorance is Bliss“


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