People around here aren’t hung up on etiquette. We’re usually so glad to see another human who isn’t a member of our immediate family, we don’t care whether you have the social finesse of a rabid coyote. There are, however, certain unwritten rules, and near the top of the list is Don’t Bring Your Dog to My Gatherin’.
A gatherin’ is a Big Deal, and generally happens only twice a year: Branding and Shipping. A gatherin’ requires that you enlist half a dozen neighbors and cousins for assistance, fully aware that you’ll be expected to return the favor. This system has been serving ranchers well for generations.
The trouble starts when they bring their dog.
A good cow dog is a beautiful thing to behold. Unfortunately, about one out of twenty dogs is truly a good dog. The rest are somewhere between mediocre and wild ass out of control. Even more unfortunately, dog owners are not the best judges of their dog’s talent…or lack thereof.
Even a good dog can come untrained when thrown into a strange herd with a bunch of strange riders. Then there’s the livestock. Because we don’t have a working dog, our cows and horses aren’t used to having one underfoot. When a dog suddenly appears there, the results can be rather dramatic.
Such was the case when we shipped our calves a couple weeks back (that’s sending them to market, for those who aren’t familiar). For reasons unknown, my cousin brought his dog. At home, it’s probably a pretty good dog. And there probably wouldn’t have been a problem if my husband had been riding Julie or Vegas or Nico, all of whom have been down the rodeo trail enough to be spook proof.
Greg was riding Hollywood.
Hollywood is not spook proof. Especially when a dog pops up between his hind legs. And even that might not have been so bad if my husband hadn’t been kicked back shooting the bull with cousin Charlotta. The dog nipped. Hollywood blew. Greg lasted one jump, then bailed out when it became apparent that he was going to hit the ground one way or the other, so he might as well do it before things got any uglier.
The dog was smart enough to make itself scarce.
Fast forward an hour. Greg was pushing calves up the steep loading chute and into the truck. The dog, ever-helpful, stuck its nose under the fence and nipped the last calf on the heel. The calf kicked. Lucky for the dog, it was not in the line of fire.
A six hundred pound calf comes up to my chest and packs a pretty serious wallop. It caught Greg above his hipbone, square in the gut. A few inches lower and to the left and I guarantee I would not be discussing this so lightheartedly, if you know what I mean. As it was, he really wanted to puke, but that wouldn’t have been manly.
The dog wisely retreated to underneath my cousin’s horse trailer for the remainder of the morning.
We don’t know exactly how to tell someone, “Please give up a day of your life to work your butt off for us, but don’t bring your dog.” Which brings me to the moral of the story. Which was, um…oh, yeah…
Respect the gatherin’. These are my cows, my ranch. You need to follow my lead. If you do happen to have a really good dog and I think it would be a big help, I’ll ask you to bring it along. Otherwise, leave your dog at home.
The same goes for visiting another writer’s blog. It’s their gatherin’ of words. Their homestead. They built it to showcase their writing. Respect it as such.
Early in my blogging career, I had the unsettling experience of having a writer post a lengthy excerpt in the comments. Something not even vaguely related to my post. More like, “Hey, here’s something I wrote and I hope all of your readers will like it and come to my blog for more.”
I had no idea how to respond. On one hand, I don’t want to discourage anyone from visiting my blog. And comments are like crack cocaine to bloggers. We curl up and die without some kind of feedback.
On the other hand, I felt as if she’d sicced her dog on my cows.
It’s different if I ask readers to contribute a story or an excerpt. Or if I’m having a writing contest. Then it’s like I invited you to bring your dog. Turn him loose and give ‘em hell.
Most of us are here because we hope to someday be published, and we’ve been told we need to start building our readership now. Commenting on other blogs will help draw readers to your own if done in the proper spirit, but there’s a line between participating in the discussion and blatantly promoting yourself. In our fervent desire to rise above the crowd, it’s easy to get carried away, but chances are you will turn more people off than on in the process.
Be witty. Be thoughtful. Be snarky, if that’s your way. Tossing out a short anecdote or a joke is great. But show some respect. Keep your dog on a leash.
Remember, it’s not your gatherin’.
Kari Lynn Dell
Montana For Real
(For the post that generated the best comments ever on my blog, check out “The Will to Die”. Who knew there were so many people suffering from sheep-related trauma? And if that’s not enough, when Janet Reid posted a link on her blog, even MORE sheepiphobes came out of the woodwork. So there you go. Want blog readers? Write about suicidal farm animals.)
Now that I’ve slandered working dogs everywhere, I feel I should share some video from my blog friend Carol Greet at Rimrock English Shepherds in Ten Sleep, Wyoming. Here’s how it’s supposed to work: http://vimeo.com/14916136 http://vimeo.com/3447927