Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rounding Up the Cows - Eleanor Shepherd

After a long absence I am resuming the stories of the adventurous Brittany Spaniel, Beau.  

When a dog becomes part of the family, you can almost image what he is thinking.  It happened to us one day at a farm in the French countryside.  If you drive west out of Paris on the A13 for about 100 kilometres and you find yourself in the centre of Normandie.  The main city is Rouen.  About 20 kilometres before you arrive in Rouen is a village called Fleury-sur-Andelle.  The Andelle is a magnificent trout stream – fishing aficionados come from far and wide to fish in it. It is in this village that The Salvation Army operates a facility called Radepont.  It is a reinsertion program for adult men, aimed at helping them develop job and personal skills.  The program operates out of a chateau, a bequest form a wealthy French industrialist in gratitude for the work of The Salvation Army.  The grounds are expansive with a full operating farm on the premises.  South of the chateau, still on the property is the abbey Fontaine – Guerard (Healing springs) and a wall dating back to the time of the Romans.

It was here that young people from Salvation Army churches around the northwest of France assembled for a retreat weekend.  Glen and Eleanor were the guests for the weekend and we came as a family, including Beau.  John was a delegate to the weekend and Elizabeth, at age 11, was with us. Beau’s exposure to music concerts, band outings and Salvation Army events had provided a good grounding in life in general. On Saturday afternoon Glen and Eleanor had some free time and decided to make the 2 kilometre walk from the chateau to the abbey.  Elizabeth was busy exploring the wall.

About half-way along the route, walking along the crest of a hill that ran north-south from the chateau to the abbey we looked down a field of cows contentedly grazing.  Glen found it boring and carried on.  Eleanor found it bucolic and peaceful and stopped to look.  Beau saw the cows and his hunting dog DNA kicked in.  Running back and forth he barked up a storm as if addressing the herd.  Fortunately for all of us, the fence around the pasture prevented Beau from encroaching on the cows’ territory.  As Glen marched on he was oblivious to the drama of herding being played and barked out behind him.  Only later did he hear the details as Eleanor recounted the events, according to what she believed Beau was thinking.

Beau saw the cows milling around all disorganized in the field and felt that something should be done to whip them into shape.  First he ran around to get the attention of the head cow.  Once the head cow was paying attention to him he gave instructions to the head cow:  “Get those cows to line up properly. They look disgraceful and bedraggled in that pasture. Pick one cow to start a line and have other cows line up behind him.  Once other cows have formed a complete line, get another lead cow and start a second line, and so on.”

He barked convincingly and the head cow got the idea.  He turned to another of the herd and instructed him:  “You hear that dog up there. He wants us to get better organized.  You stand over here and then I’ll tell some of the others to line up behind you.  We can form lines that way and the whole herd will look a lot neater that way.” The other cow understood, and slowly the herd began to get into position.  Task accomplished, Beau was free to run on ahead looking for more good work to do.

Some might find the tale a bit tall – but Eleanor assures us that this scenario explains what happened that afternoon.  And she was there and knew how Beau thought.

Winner of 2011
Word Guild Award
Winner of 2009
Word Guild Award


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