“Scott and the Magic Lead Rope” by Sean Barrett

It was one of those moments, Scott just put down the phone to a tour bus operator.  He walked outside looking over towards his farming land and scratched his head with frustration.  Casually he patted his new Kelpie, Ted, on the head and asked “What the hell are we going to show these tourists boy?”

Usually the buses came later in the year and the tourists enjoyed the views of fresh crops sprouting from the ground and Scott could discuss the techniques of farming and show off his wealth of knowledge to the eager tourists.  This was not to plan this time as the crops had not even been planted and to look at an empty field was not exactly riveting viewing.  “No boy” he said to Ted “I have got no idea what we can show these people, I mean look at this place.” 

They cast their eyes around the farm and the fresh green shoot from the early spring rains was now shrivelled and brown from the early morning frosts of the past few days.  “Can’t win a bloody trick at the moment Ted.” Scott said as he donned his infamous terry towelling ‘bucket hat’.

He walked over to the dog kennels to put Ted away in the palatial quarters that he had built for his new mate.  As he walked past the other dogs, all waiting for their chance to catch the affection of their master’s eye, Scott’s heart began to beat strongly.  He threw his head back and laughed at the sky.  “Of course, I’ll show them some of the best livestock handling they have ever seen, won’t we guys?” he said looking back at his loyal team.

Scott’s step had hastened considerably as he knew the buses were on their way and what he had planned was bound to dazzle even the worldliest tourist.

He had grown a bit sick and tired of South Australian tourists coming and whinging that he was personally responsible for sucking the Murray River dry whenever they saw the pivot irrigators running on his crops.  He tried his best, like all farmers, to feed and clothe a nation and here were these misinformed, brainwashed city-folk accusing him of single handedly destroying the nation’s largest river system.  The fact that the nationwide drought had finally broken made people a little less testy about water, however, these were still the same people that were complaining during the drought, that they could not wash their car or driveway, or water their garden or lawn. It still got Scott’s back up as anyone of the Wednesday Bonshaw bench-sitters will attest to.  At least with the dogs and the cattle he won’t have to listen to the same complaints.  “Bloody Crow-eaters” he chuckled, referring to the South Australians.

“Dog water.”  Thought Scott “I will have to have some ready in case the dogs need a drink during the demo.”  The day was heating up nicely and the expected top was 30degrees Celsius.  Just another beautiful spring day in what he called his personal heaven.

The livestock were nearby, some weaner cattle that he had purchased recently from the local saleyards and educated with his team of Kelpies.  “Better fuel the ATV it would be embarrassing to run out of fuel in front of a bus full of witnesses.” he indicated to his three legged dog.  Looking at her he began to smile as he recalled the story Sean had told at the recent Bonshaw clinic.  The story of a weaner educator in the Northern Territory who was carting his dog on the motorbike and the dog slipped and put his back foot on the brake disc slicing it off.  Of course that was not the funny part, but as the story goes the dogs name was Dick, and the bloke used to ask sheila’s if they would like to pat his “Dick”  But now the dog had lost a foot he could only show them  his three foot “Dick.”

“It’s hard to compete with that, girl; you better sit this one out.” Scott said as he reached down and gave her an affectionate pat on the head.  “Come on Ted, if you are going to be in this team it’s time to step up.”

With the team assembled and the bike ready, Scott started to make his way around to the area where the demonstration would take place.  “Just in time guys.”  Scott remarked to his dogs.  As he was riding out the familiar sign of dust rising from the dirt road indicated that the buses were nearly at the usual meeting point.

Greetings were made to the tourists as Scott proudly welcomed them to his family farm.  He told them about the lack of crops due to the time of year and made the suggestion of doing a working dog and low stress stock handling demonstration instead.  The group were not too sure what this would entail but they were keen to see something.

Scott showed the group how a dog would follow him while he was attached to the lead rope, and then he explained what David had said at the clinic that we need the lead to become invisible but the dog still follows as if attached.  “And if you can’t get that with your dog, you may as well quit before you start” Scott told the group.  “If I am any good with animals, I should be able to go out and put those cattle over there on a magic lead rope and “pull” them around to wherever I want to go.”

With that, Scott sent the dogs around his cattle as he took up a responsible position of leadership.  The crowd were standing in silence as Scott rode in the lead and pretended to attach an invisible rope to the herd.  Then slowly moving off in the lead the cattle, with gentle coaching from the Kelpie team, followed Scott faithfully knowing that life was more comfortable if they stayed with him.  The crowd were now in awe as everywhere Scott went the Dogs Put the Cattle On to the Handler. There were no commands uttered by Scott, only encouragement and praise to his team.  Perhaps those stern but well intentioned words from David: ”Where, in the brief for this exercise, did we mention for you to stand facing the lead of your cattle issuing commands to your dogs?” only a couple of weeks ago, at the Bonshaw school, had paid off and now handler, the dogs and the livestock were achieving harmony.

Looking back at his livestock Scott could see that they were sweet enough in the mind to risk having a go at the second part of his plan.  A sharp note rang from the plastic sheepdog whistle pursed in Scott’s mouth.  “All dogs to me.”  They came off at once, no swearing, no chasing.  “Righto’ then hop up.”   The dogs bounced up and jockeyed for a position nearest to their master and mate.

This time the crowd was astonished as they witnessed Scott riding his bike at the lead of his cattle as they walked steadily around the paddock for 500 metres with none of his talented Kelpie team guiding them.  He had earned the trust of his livestock and now, effectively, had them attached by the magic lead rope. 

Truly a great pub story and Scott has only owned real working dogs for 18 months…..Legend.

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5 comments on ““Scott and the Magic Lead Rope” by Sean Barrett

  1. Blackdog says:

    Thanks Jan that is a real compliment coming from you. Unfortunately most of my stories would not see print. lol Sean

  2. Jan Lowing says:

    Gee Sean, you should write a book! Bet you’ve got plenty more good stories…. Jan

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