The work crew at Thistle Creek.

Our three herds total approximately 500 beef animals, and about 150 sheep. The work crew on a normal day is George, Leo the stallion, Mac, Finn and Hemp, the border collies. Hemp is retired and Finn is just a pup so Mac does most of the daily cow work. Our herds are each moved one or more times a day to fresh grass, a task made delightful by the dogs' enthusiasm. I wrote the following poem about Hemp and Taff (deceased) after a cold winter morning several years ago.

 

           The Fetch

The Van Gogh colors of fall are gone.

Replaced by the grey tweed of winter.

But, this early morning blanketed by stark, blue white of deep powder.

I shiver on my horse, hands too cold to hold the reins.

A half mile off, three hundred cattle lie like black granite on the distant ridge.

I whistle them out, through trackless snow.

Leaping like bulls from a bucking chute, they lunge toward the herd.

I send Hemp left, Taff right.

Each turn causes an explosion of snow like tiny grenades.

The herd, now stretched over a quarter mile seems too much for two dogs.

Front to back, left to right they work.

Too much passion can burst the heart.

No sound but the muffled beat of many hooves.

The herd approaches, steam exploding from nostrils, forced on by the fetch.

Cows now settled in new feed.

Dogs biting at ice balls between toes.

Tongues hanging, defying the cold. For more than a mile their work is written - in snow.

The arc, the turn, the straight track speak of their passion, their love of the fetch. 

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