Monday, January 3, 2011

Maggie's Story. Part 1 of I-don't-know-yet


She was a semi-rough border collie… classic black and white with a split face. Her black parts were sleak and shiney, with a big white ruff around her neck that was prefect to bury your face in- to muffle a laugh or dry a tear. The very tip of one ear was blue merle… the only merle spot on her whole body, and we called it her “kissy spot.” On the white side of her face she had a thin line of black that formed a perfect eyeliner which even curled up at the outside…. in the style of Gina Lollobrigida. She was patient, sweet, gentle, quiet, fast, protective, and smart. And her name was Murphy.
It may seem odd to begin one dog’s story with a description of another dog, but to fully understand Maggie, you have to first know Murphy. Murph was our first border collie.

The County Fair

It was 1994 and I had been looking for a blue merle Aussie for about a year. Aussies had only recently been recognized as a breed by the AKC and I was excited to have one of these beautiful working dogs. But either there were not many Aussie breeders in Missouri at that time or else I traveled in the wrong circles, because I just never found one and had given up on the idea of getting a new dog.
In the fall of that year we went to rural Missouri for a weekend visit with Grandma and it happened that the local county fair was that weekend. For those of you that have never experienced a real county fair, there isn’t really anything else that compares. Sure, there are carnival rides, but that isn’t where the heart of the fair is. First, there are the competitions… baking, sewing, art and agriculture. Future Farmers of America (FFA) members will parade their shiny black angus or bold charolais calves, trying to earn that coveted blue ribbon. And no one is concerned that these freshly bathed and brushed entries may be the entrees at next year’s fair.
There is always a "Miss County" pageant for which girls have prepared for months. Decorated coffee cans sit near cash registers at every gas station, feed store and restaurant throughout the county asking for "votes" with your loose change. And the daughters of the owners of those businesses always have the advantage as mom and dad remind the patrons to vote for their little sweetheart. The girls show up at the fairgrounds with their hair in intricate updos, wearing southern-belle style ball gowns-often made by mom or grandma-in the hope of winning the rhinestone crown and getting their photo on the cover of the county paper.
The ladies from the Baptist church sell pies and the Lion’s club men BBQ. The Job’s Daughters have a ring toss game, and the High School principal and some of his friends play their guitars on the main stage while people from the audience get up and sing a song or two. And we all know one another… maybe not well, but well enough to say things like “isn’t that Maude and Ed’s granddaughter? When did she get braces?”
But my favorite part of the fair, and that part that attracted us this year, was the rodeo. Not like PBR (professional bull riding) but real rodeo. Calf roping, team penning, barrel racing… real rodeo excitement provided by our neighbors. We settled into our seats early with our BBQ and some goodies from the band bake sale and waited for the rodeo to begin. As they unloaded the calves and cattle from the trailers into the arena, three slender dogs jumped from one truck and began helping sort the cows and load them into the right chutes so that they would be ready.
Team penning, an event where three riders on horseback separate three cattle from the herd of 30 and push them into a pen, was first. At the county fair, the cattle are numbered and three numbers are drawn at random. Also, one of the riders had to be a woman. I don’t know if these are the real rules or not… I’ve never seen a team penning outside the fairgrounds, but that is the way they do it at the fair. Once the cows had been penned or time ran out, the cows were driven back to the end of the arena to begin again. Often, these black and white bullets were turned loose to drive the cattle back and people in the audience often applauded. After the last team ran, the announcer thanked the owner of the dogs and said “if anyone else was as impressed with John’s dogs as I was, they might want to stop over here by the booth, because his favorite stock dog, Lucy, brought her litter of pups with her. And you might be able to talk John out of one or two if you have a few dollars to spare.”
“Oh Momma, can we look? Can we just go take a look at them?” I knew that it was probably a bad decision, but I said yes and we went to take a peek at Lucy’s pups. Five wiggly little balls of black and white fur were in the cardboard box lined with straw. John said he’d take $40 if we wanted one. They were all pretty much alike except for one… a split faced female that caught our interest. They were wormy, dirty, smelly, and adorable. The forty dollars was out of my hand before I even had a chance to think about it. I didn’t have a leash with me, but John threw in a yard of baling twine for free.


  1. Oh, I love this story!
    I can't wait for the next chapter :)

  2. Sighhhhhhh..... ok, now I'm hooked and looking for the next one. :)