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Ian, third of our four sons, has wisely quit the advertising rat race in Melbourne, and bought a small farm at Frog Rock, near Mudgee, 180 miles (290 km.) northwest of Sydney. He sent us an email the other day, describing a minor incident down on the farm. It was such a delightful vignette of rural life that we'd like to share it with our internet friends. We asked Ian if we could publish it in this e-book, and he agreed.

Bessie is a six-month-old blue heeler, an Australian cattle dog, and Ian's constant companion. Until last week, she had never seen any cattle. Here's Ian's story:

Bessie has decided that she loves riding on the back of the truck, just like a real farm dog.

I had 12 bales of hay to feed out to the cattle. It was -3C and raining. I was muddy, cold and covered in stinking cow manure.

Bessie was sitting on top of all the bales. When I came to the paddock gate there were 52 hungry cows, 24 calves and one large bull. It's always been my fear that one of them would do a runner when I get out of the truck to open the gate, drive through, then get out and close the gate.

The bull made a run for it straight past me (I didn't try to stop him!). I cursed loudly, with visions of spending a couple of miserable hours chasing the b***** and trying to get him back to the herd. a flash, Bess jumped down off the truck, got in front of him in three seconds and turned him. Barking and snapping at his heels, she ran him straight back through the gate, which I quickly closed. Bess just jumped onto the back of the truck as if nothing had happened.

I was so proud of her that she got an extra Schmacko and a scratch behind the ears.

We farmers aren't allowed to show too much emotion towards our working dogs.

The Australian Cattle Dog has been described as "a tough, hard-working dog with an undying loyalty to its owner... developed from a mix of the Dalmatian, Dingo, Kelpie and Collie. What resulted was an outstanding herding dog that was willing and capable of driving cattle in the hot, harsh conditions of Australia."

Ian's story jogged our memory to recall a classic humorous tale about another canine in the Australian outback - Henry Lawson's Loaded Dog, "a big black young retriever dog, or rather an overgrown pup, a big, foolish, four-footed mate, who was always slobbering round them and lashing their legs with his heavy tail that swung round like a stock-whip. Most of his head was usually a red, idiotic, slobbering grin of appreciation of his own silliness. He seemed to take life, the world, his two-legged mates, and his own instinct as a huge joke."

You can read Lawson's hilarious yarn by clicking on THE LOADED DOG.




Story first posted September 2004

Copyright 2004

Eric Shackle

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