I feel very differently about this time of year than I did when I was a kid. In grade school we wore dresses every day and walking to the school bus up our long lane was a chilly affair. I wore knee socks because I hated tights and I refused to wear a hat. Brrrrrrrr! January and February drug by, the dates ever-so-slowly changing in the upper left hand corner of Mrs. Whitworth’s chalkboard. Spring seemed forever away.
Now I relish every day of January and February. It’s not that I don’t like calving and the start of a new production year; I’m just in no hurry. I like all these hours of darkness, cozied up with a book in front of the woodstove or tackling a project at the computer. It’s the only time of year we have that most precious of commodities – time.
As I write, Mark is cleaning another saddle, his fourth so far this winter. He set a wooden saddle rack on an old flannel sheet in front of the woodstove where he works. Tonight he’s listening to Buck Owens, Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson . . . I think he enjoys it – the results of it anyway, for sure.
He and his new Border Collie, Nan, attended a two day dog training clinic with master handler Jack Knox, of Butler, Missouri, formerly of Scotland. I watched for a few hours marveling at the spectacle. Jack stands in a ring with three plump sheep. One by one the tentative owners lead their dogs into the ring, then Jack takes over. Attached to their owner they might be, but Jack is in immediate control. He alternately urges the dog on to pressure the sheep, and firmly gives his “lie down” to slow the dog’s pace. Within four lessons he has every dog much more focused, settled a bit, and willing to work.
He admonishes his students, “give your dog the freedom to make mistakes. Correct the wrong and the right will happen.” He says dogs are just like children, they learn when they make mistakes and they need lots of room to make plenty of them.
We’ve been lucky to learn from some of the greats in the many varied fields that ranching encompasses, cattle handling, horsemanship, soil health, grass management, even economic analysis. I’m ever thankful for a partner in Mark that shares my love of lifelong education. Let’s see, what learning opportunity is next?
|Jack helping Anita's Rob get it right|
|a mild January morning|