Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sheep Herding at the Fair

From a poem on the uses of feet:  “Your feet keep the ends of your legs from fraying.” –  Edwin Carp.

I got the manuscript of And Then You Dye straightened out.  My long conversation with my editor was more than civil, she was sensible and calm, and things suddenly seemed reasonable and uncomplicated.  It is a value above rubies to have a good editor.

And I think I have the problem with the synopsis of Watered Silk figured out, too.  I hope I’m not turning into a fussy, easily-panicked artist, but I see signs of it – and at my age, it’s not pretty.

I went to the Minnesota State Fair yesterday.  My feet withstood it well, but I walked until my upper leg joints ached.  And I ate everything I wanted to, so I’m up about a pound and a half this morning.  (But it was worth it!)

First thing we went to was the dog trials – border collies herding “herds” of three sheep around and through barriers and then into a very small pen at the end.  One young dog on trial with a very young woman lost his cool entirely and just chased the sheep until one of them tried to leap over the exit gate, at which point the announcer said in his coolest voice, “Thank you,” which means, “Okay that’s enough, you can leave the ring now.” The others did better, but I never before realized how threatening the dog must appear to the sheep as he approaches in a crouch, head down.  Very predator-like.  And how unpredictable the sheep are, poor stupid creatures.  They walk, then dart, looking around constantly – though a good dog can gather their attention – and while they tend to stick together, occasionally one will separate from the other two.  The master uses whistles and gestures to control the dog.  Go left, go right, slow down, lie down, come in, go wide, it’s interesting to watch.  Once it starts, it seems as if the dog, while obeying the master, never looks at him, but focuses entirely on the sheep.  One really excellent team, master and dog, were doing very well, until it came time to get the sheep into the pen.  The man was holding the gate open, his legs wide and his stick out to make as long a barrier on one side – gate, him, stick – as he could; and the dog brought the sheep in from the other side very slowly, lying down often to calm them when they got too nervous, and the first one had actually started into the pen when, for no reason I could discern, they whirled and ran as fast as they could for the other side of the arena.  The audience, already starting to applaud, groaned in sympathy.  But the dog flew after them, rounded them up, and brought them back and into the pen.  Tanya, Ann and I have resolved to do some research on the business so next year we can watch with educated eyes.  And, naturally, I want to incorporate some of what I saw into a book.

Another interesting thing happened at the Fair:  I met some fellow members of Embroiderers Guild of America doing a demo in the crafts building, and one of them volunteers and judges.  She introduced me to an official, and now I might be volunteering myself at the 2013 Fair – all in aid of a mystery set at the Fair!  I've thought about it off and on for awhile, and now it seems I'm going to make it happen.  I don't know any of the story at all yet, but the Fair is going to be a great setting.


Anonymous said...

Congrats on fixing WATERED SILK -- and on the new storyline. May you never, ever run out of plots!

Miss Merry said...

I can't wait for a mystery set at the fair! I am a 4-H fair superintendent myself and just blogged about my experience at this year's fair. Looking forward to the fair mystery!

Miss Merry said...

gHope I am not double posting, I am having trouble reading and hearing your "no- robot - codes!"

I can't wait for a fair mystery! I am a 4-H superintendant at our county fair and just finished blogging about it myself! Can't wait for your book!

Elaine said...

consider bringing in history of the Fair. I volunteer for the Foundation http://www.msffoundation.org/
(and for Needelwork Guild when they demo on weekends); Foundation has an archive category and also cooperates with Historical Society on the History Walk. I'm sure there are plenty of mysterious spots on the Fair grounds!

Judy said...

I always enjoy hearing about your adventures and wonder if I could keep up with Monica.

Betty Hechtman said...

I was hoping to see some sheep shearing this summer for my next book the yarn retreat series, but I seem to have missed all the fairs. I like your idea of setting a mystery at one.
Great that you worked out your manuscript and synopsis. I'm waiting to hear from my editor on my synopsis

Linda O. Johnston said...

Your experience at the fair sounds like fun, Monica, although not for the poor sheep! I'd have loved to watch the dogs, of course.

Monica Ferris said...

Elaine, please contact me through my web site - Monica-Ferris.com - as I have questions for you. Thanks.

Yes, Linda, I felt sorry for the sheep, too, poor confused things. The setting, big and indoors with a dirt floor and noisy, echoing sounds of applause, cheering and conversation, must have upset and frightened them - and it was possibly disconcerting to the dogs as well.