Training day for Ed
The radio went off in the bedroom easy listening music from the local radio station began to play. It was morning, and although the sun would not rise for two more hours, it was time for Ed to begin his day. Billy's ears raised up when he heard the music. He laid on his side his eyes open.
Billy was feeling a little better this morning, he had been eating his apatite grew a little more each day and had been slowly returning to the normal during the last week he ate dog kibble the other dogs were eating. Ed got to his feet, looked down at Billy sitting beside him, he rubbed the dog's head as he was leaving the bedroom. Then Kaye left the bed after she heard Ed's shower stop. She too got down on her knees, gave the dog good morning pats glad that he was sitting up and taking an interest in his surroundings. She gave a last pat on his head then left the bedroom.
He was getting to his feet with little more ease each day. Although his body still ached and his neck stiff he managed to get to his feet and stretched himself out. He wondered out of the bedroom then slowly down the stairway to the first floor Benny and Dodger greeted him in the kitchen, morning sniffs and tail wags exchanged. They needed to go outside and do dog stuff. Kaye smiled opened the door the three musketeers darted out. With his bandages off he was able to run a little bit, it felt so good to run free. Kaye watched through the kitchen door window, Ed joined her at the door, watched them play a dogs form of play, Billy doing a little better the Huskies avoiding to be tagged.
“He seems to be coming along nicely I see his limp is gone now too; you did a good thing Kaye, I'm proud of you.”
“You helped too Ed… well after you came around to the idea. Kaye said. But you did, I couldn't have done it without you. Kaye said and kissed his cheek. She left the window hearing the tea kettle whistle to make Ed his coffee and her tea.
The dogs were done there morning snow frolic and ran to the door; Ed let them. Billy was the first through the door, Dodger behind followed by Bennie. Billy surrounded by new friends that seemed to accept him as part of the family. They ate their breakfast that Kaye had left for them. After they went over to the corner laid on the old blanket that was their bed. As he drifted into a peaceful sleep, his mind went to another time a different kitchen and an old man that he still loved.
Billy had a keen interest in Ed. He was now familiar with Ed's routine, watching the kitchen door for Ed's return at lunch time and again at supper. He followed him to the door as he left the house in the mornings. The Collie would sit and pant as he watched the door as it closed. Ed leaving him behind yet again. He was a little confused why he was not taking part in this man's farm duties. Glancing over at Kaye whining a little then take his place back on the dogs bed off in the corner of the large kitchen.
During one of his trips to the yard, he had spotted a ball that he saw laying there and brought it back into the house and dropped it at Kaye's feet. Kaye picked up and rolled I in the next room Billy was after it and brought it back dropping it at her feet again. She smiled realizing he wanted to play. She tossed it this time, and the dog once agin brought it back dropping it at her feet again and again and again. The last time he caught it in mid-air brought and dropped it yet again.
“Well, aren't you the playful one she said to him.” Kaye had things to do and placed the ball on the table ending the morning fetching. Billy followed her from room to room as she made the beds washed laundry and began to prepare dinner. There were a few scraps of meat that she had cut. She held one in her hand telling Billy to sit which he did, followed by lay down roll over play dead, sit pretty and speak.
Billy had heard Ed's truck driving into the yard; He hopped up on the window ledge looking for Ed as he turned onto the walkway. The dog began to get excited once again his tail flipped up and curl like a feather like across his back like a plume in a Musketeers hat. The excited collie let out a short bark just before Ed entered the Kitchen and then sat watching him carefully.
“Oh look Billy, Daddy's home!” Kaye said excitedly The dog barked twice more joining Kaye's excited Voice. Ed looked over at her shaking his head as he removed his hat.
Ed looked at Kaye, a little puzzled “Daddy?... Kaye?” he said.
“He adores you, Ed, haven’t you even notice how he stays by you while you're here constantly,” Kaye asked.
Ed thought about this and didn't want to hurt her feelings just before supper so he thought he would just make light of it without hurting her feelings.
“Not really, Well I see him there, I guess I just ignore him like I do the other two I don't think about it much.
“Well, he is always there when you walk here or there though the house” Kaye replayed.
“I don't want him here or there; I don't want him anywhere,” Ed said his head was moving back and forth in a slow no.
“Well, he likes you Dr. Seuess," Kaye was referring to the line Ed used from the book, "Green eggs and ham.''' Bennie and Dodger like me but this is different. In the mornings when you leave for the barns, I think he expects to be taking along.”
Kaye wanted needed to be careful here but wanted Ed to take her serious. She had been thinking about this most of the day. Ed went into the bathroom showered and changed. Billy was laying outside the bathroom door when he came out and followed Ed into the kitchen. Kaye smiled as she watched Ed pause and look down at Billy. “He loves you, Ed. I wish I had what you have, its so cute to see. That trust he has for you, just can't buy it.” commented Kay.
Ed looked down at the dog then back at Kaye and replied.
Ed looked at her just gave her a half smile took a carrot that she had just finished peeling chomped on it turned went in the living room with the dog close behind. Ed turned and sat in his chair. Billy sat down in front of him; Ed looked down at the dog that was looking him in the eyes. Billy slowly moved forward placed his head in Ed's lap. The dogs copper eyes had broken through the ice Ed reached down rubbed the dogs head while he watched TV Billy moved in a little closer. Ed's hand slid over and behind the collies ears, Ed caught himself doing it and for the first time in over 20 years he was petting a dog.
Kaye had watched the dog over the last few days. She had seen Billy making many attempts to be a part of her husband's home life. Billy tried again and again wanting to interreact She called to him tossed the ball he caught it then again. She tossed the ball into the TV room where Billy found it he picked it up and dropped it at Ed's feet. Ed did nothing. Billy picked it up again and placed it in his lap, Ed was a little perturbed and just tossed the ball down the hallway. Billy darted after it returning it to Ed's lap. His eyes were closely watching Ed and then back to the ball, wanting Ed to toss it again. He did this time he watched as the dog brought it back.
After 5 or 6 tosses, Ed told him to lay dawn and be good. Billy laid by the armchair resting his head on Ed's feet.
Kaye felt she should talk to her husband about it; perhaps she could talk Ed into taking Billy with him at least once. After all he was a Boarder Collie, maybe he could learn to help Ed with the cattle. During supper, Billy took his place on the pillow with the other dogs. They were asleep. Billy, on the other hand, was very much awake, had his head laying on his paws looking over at Ed waiting for him to finish his dinner. Kaye thought she might make a suggestion.
“Ed when you go the cattle barns in the morning I think you should take Billy with you, maybe he could be taught to help you with the cattle if you started training him slowly you're wonderful with animals. maybe he could help you move heifers to the calving barn tomorrow.”
Ed looked at her and smiled. He knew her little ways and thought about it before he answered her “Well, okay, I will take him, but if he gets in the way, I'm bringing him back. I don't need trouble tomorrow I have to load the bull and haul him back to the Jacobson's farm. The dam thing is always turning on me, so I don't need a dog exciting and getting him riled up. It's bad enough trying to handle the Bull alone."
Kaye was pleased, “Well, give him a fair chance at least, he seems to be healing nicely and no infection, his neck looks much better. He might have been on a farm dog for all we know.” Kaye added.
With that out of the way, they talked about other things. Billy seemed to have changed the mood of the house lately; suppers had been getting very quiet the last few months. The farm debt would come up during their meals. But for the last week things were slowly changing tonight they laughed and joked about some of the things they did while they dated. Ed talked about beef prices and thought they might be on the rise, and this might be a great year if he has just a little bit of luck.
Ed helped his wife with the dishes that wasn't unusual; it just didn't happen very often in the last six months. During that time, he would watch the news and weather in the living room and stew a bit about his day then go to bed. With the dishes done, Kaye fed the dogs prepared a desert for her and Ed. After his meal, Billy followed Ed to where he was and lay down once again by the young farmers chair and drifted off to sleep.
When bed time came, Kaye let the dogs out Billy along with them, and they soon returned with the cold night air. Dodger barked twice wanting back in. Dodger and Benny taking their place on were there. Billy paused and looked up at Ed as he was making his way up the stairway. Kaye turned the lights out. Billy followed her up the stairs quietly behind them taking his place on his duvet. Ed came back from the bathroom saw the dog on his blanket “Kay, how much longer is he sleeping here with us.” Ed asked, "I suppose, he should be in the kitchen with the other two but he so quiet.
I don't mind I guess it's up to you. What do you think?” Kaye asked.
Ed looked over at Billy as he sat on the side of the bed removing his socks. The dog got up and sat in front of him, Ed reached out and started to pet the dogs head. Billy came in closer, Ed took both hands and began to rub the dogs head scratching behind each of the dogs ears massaging them with his thumbs. Billy looked up at Ed as if smiling enjoying the attention.
“I guess he will be okay for a few more nights, but he should be down in the kitchen with the other two, but It doesn't bother me much I guess,” Ed said.
Kaye turned out the bedside lamp laid her head on the pillow smiled at Ed's reply, amazed at the changes that were taking place in her home. Ed woke up at about 5:30 the next morning slid his feet out of bed they hit something warm, covered in hair. He looked down and saw Billy looking up at him. During the night, Billy had dragged his duvet to Ed's side of the bed. Billy looked up got to his feet and stretched deeply. He was waiting for Ed at the foot of the stairs and followed him to the kitchen sat beside the food bowl. Ed started the coffee maker Billy whimpered.
Ed got out a scoop of food and dropped it in a dog dish. Billy laid down beside the food and began to eat when Ed sat down for his toast and coffee. Billy finished his breakfast drank a little water went over and laid at Ed's feet. Ed's hand went down and scratched the collies head. When done his coffee Ed and closed the laptop after checking the morning news articles and weather. Ed was about to eat the last bite of toast and considered the dog. Billy was sitting up now looking up at him. Ed tossed the corner of crust in the air Billy caught it easily. Ed smiled at him.
Ed had his back to the kitchen door unaware that Kaye had been eavesdropping and enjoying watching the two new friends. She had to say something when she saw Ed break the cardinal rule of the house feeding the dogs at the table. “Edward Scott, what do you think you're doing feeding a dog at the table.”
Ed turned a little red, he knew he had been caught, turned looked at Kaye then at Billy. He got up quickly grabbed his coat and hat not saying a word and not looking Kaye in the eyes. Pulled his gloves out of his coat sleeve then slid into his boots. While putting his coat on, Ed finally looked over at Kaye, who was still staring at him waiting for an answer, gave her a sheepish grin. Like a kid that had just caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he put his hands out to his side and asked "What?” Ed opened the door, the dog darted out with him gladly. Ed turned around to the smiling Kaye. “Would love to stay and chat about it but we have work to do Kaye.” With that, he shut the door. Kaye called out to him as he was walking off the porch. “Good luck!” Kaye said
She smiled to herself shaking her head; it was after all Ed's rule, not hers. She hoped things would go well today. It was good, for the dog. It would be good for him too if his patients held. Kaye would never have believed what she was seeing her husband opening the door of his half ton truck to let a dog jump in and sit beside him. She watched as they went out of the driveway together Billy sitting up straight looking very dignified as the two of them set out to do their farm chores. Ed looked over at the dog taking in his new surroundings. He had been sitting on his side of the seat and after a few minutes into the drive laid down across the seat and placed his head on the truck seat and dozed off.
Ed pulled the half ton into the cattle pen area. Billy was on his feet before Ed turned off the ignition. He liked the dog but was worried that he might start chasing the cows around, and he didn't want that to happen. Billy hopped out of the truck and looked around. His nose in the air analyzing its orders of the yard. He walked over to the gate with Ed and sat while he opened the gate. Ed looked down at Billy and gave him a warning.
“Now I want you to behave yourself in here, or you will be going back to the house.” The dog sat patiently, Ed slowly opened the gate full of worry that the Collie may do God knows what. He entered, and Billy just sat there looking at him. Ed not knowing what to say or do. Surprised a little, he looked at the dog.
“Well you coming in or what,” Ed said. The dog entered the large winter paddock taking his place close beside Ed as if he was part owner of the heard. As Ed neared the hay barn, the cattle began to move toward him knowing that it would be feeding time soon. Some of the cattle were still laying down in the winter shed built when Ed first took over the farm. The cattle barn provided shelter from the sleet rain and snowy days and cold temperatures. The long wide structure resembled an army barracks. It was about one hundred feet long and 100 feet wide. It's roof rounded over the entire width. There was never any snow build up to worry about with this design and would slide off easily to the sides. The eve of the roof stopped just above of the barns four-foot concrete wall. The sliding snow became an insulator against the colder winter months. On the inside, Ed had poured a thick concrete floor that allowed easy cleaning of the soiled bedding the cattle would lay down on keeping them warm during the long winter nights.
On the other end of the padlock was a twin building used as a feeding barn. It held large round bails of hay. Bags of grain, salt blocks, and feeding supplement pellets Turned ninety degrees and formed the other end of the fenced in area that held the cattle during December till the end of March. Along the inside of the paddock were troughs here the farmer would feed his cattle Their gains and hay. To the sides of the cattle barn, there were large round hay feeders. Ed would not place loose hay on the ground were the cattle would trample it allowing it to go to waste.
The duo walked over checking on the automatic water bowls. A very important item on the farm as a single cow could drink up to twenty-five to thirty gallons of water each day. There were six of these spaced out beside the hay troughs the full length of the barn. They worked very much luck a toilet tank, as the cattle drank a float would move down causing a valve to open allowing more water to refill the water bowl stopping at the predetermined level not allowing it to flow over. The bowls equipped with electric warmers built in, keeping the water above freezing. During a power outage that year they froze and had to be disassembled defrosting the valves. Ed spent a day and a half thawing out the frozen floats. Kaye was called on to haul water from part of the farm to the cattle barn until Ed had them up and running again.
During the inspection of the water stations, Billy hoped up on the side of one taking a drink from one of them, as if he had been doing so all his life. Ed watched the dogs easy way in which he moved around the pen, the cattle of little interest to him, not that surprised by the dogs behavior, just revealed.
Ed walked over and unplugged the tractor's block heater that helped to keep the engine warm during the long cold winter nights. He mounted the cold steel seat of his old Massey-Ferguson tractor given to him by his dad. He used this to move the rolls of hay from the barn to the near empty steel hay feeders. The engine turned slowly turning over, from sitting in the barn during the cold winter night. The engine coughed a few times then slowly sputtered to life then stopping soon after. Ed muttered to himself, opened a tool box beside the seat and took out a can of engine starting fluid. He hit the ignition switch again as the engine rolled over slowly, he squirted a little starting fluid into the tractors intake manifold, and soon the engine ignited again puffs of black smoke rolled out of the tractor. As it began to warm the old engine came to a steady idle. Ed filled the troughs, and the feeders parked the old tractor out of the way outside of the barn. The sun was climbing slowly over the trees that edged the cattle yard. They provided a wind break against the bitter wind and blowing snow and sleet. Billy had found a place to settle on until Ed was finished filling the hay feeders. The dog watched as he laid on a large round straw bale that had fell over conveniently for the dog to keep warm on while Ed carried out the rest of his duties. Parking the tractor, he whistled Billy to come. Ed wanted to get this over with if the dog was a cow chaser; he would find out in the next few minutes.
Billy hoped down eagerly and trotted over to Ed's side as they walked together into the enclosed barn. There still were forty or so cattle laying down not in any hurry to leave their bed. Ed walked to the back of the barn then would move the cattle forward. He was watching Billy's reaction to this. The dog seemed still very indifferent. Ed was a little disappointed in the dog interest in the cattle. Although he didn't want the collie to chase them, he was hoping for some interest at least in helping to get the cows out. Ed stood there looking down at the dog, Billy sat beside Ed and looked up canted his head off to one side as if in a puzzled look. Ed thought maybe he needs to be asked to help. Ed pointed to the other side of the barn then gave Billy what he thought might be a heading command. “Okay, Billy lets go, come on take them out” Billy not sure of the command looked over at Ed. Ed waved once more at the dog; Billy pounced at the command his head went down in a predator stance eyed the cattle then began sneaking behind them his belly dragging close to the ground.
The cattle were not sure what to make of this, so they didn't budge at first. One of the cows turned and walked toward the dog and made a quick charge. Billy well versed in this type of behavior. He moved around the animal quickly and bit at the cows heels. The yearling bucked made an attempt to kick the collie only to be nipped again on the other hind leg. The cow yielded to the dog running gladly out into the yard the others began to follow. The dog moved back and forth in the barn then would lay down watching keenly not allowing any to return. Ed watched in amazement. Billy sat at the entrance of the cattle barn as a guard. He looked over at Ed still in a bit of a daze but very pleased with the dogs performance. Ed remembered the only herding command he knew. It was from the movie “Babe'” he had seen years ago been he was a boy, he looked over at Billy smiling while he spoke. “That will do pig.”
The next job, of course, to clean out and lay down new straw for the cattle. For this, Ed used his skid steer a neat little front end loader that had zero turn capabilities. It made quick work of the otherwise labor-intensive cleaning task. After this was completed. Ed hooked his 250 4x4 to his cattle trailer and backed it back into a loading ramp for hauling the Bull back to the Jacobson's farm. The first task was to lure the bull near the loading gate. Billy was by his side and had been walking close behind Ed. ED thought it best if the dog stayed on the other side of the gate just in case things got out of hand. The dog obeyed Ed, went through the gate and sat on the other side of the enclosure but watched keenly through the fence rails.
The bull or Brutus, the name Ed gave the animal had been placed in a small paddock beside his heifers. He rented the bull for breeding his cattle paying the Jacobson's a stud fee. Now he was more than happy to return the mean-tempered animal back where it belonged. The gate opened inward allowing the bull only one choice. Ed opened the back of the trailer’s doors.
With the cattle prod in his hand, he began walking slowly around to the Bulls side. The bull looked over at him and made no movement. Ed waved his hands and the bull lurched forward and turned his head down in a threatening gesture. Ed backed off a little, moved once again to the Bulls side and walked toward him. This time, the bull moved forward about ten feet in the direction of the trailer and turned once again facing Ed. This little dance went on for about 5 minutes with very slow progress. Ed had kept his cool and felt he was making progress as the large bull now was within ten feet of where wanted him. He waved his left arm and the cattle prod in the other, it seemed as if the bull had to give in to the farmers wishes.
The bull began to walk toward the long narrow gate called the cattle drafter. Which aided the farmers ease of loading the cattle on trailers, once in the gate cattle would not be able to turn they would have no choice but to keep moving forward.
Ed was closing the gap a little at a time not wanting the Bull to turn, refusing to enter the entrance and Ed would have to start all over again. He was about five feet from the animal when it decided to stop yet again. The bull began to move to the side away from the drafters entrance. Ed saw this he lunged forward toward the bull lifting the charged cattle prod to shock the animal forward again. It made contact with the Bulls front shoulder, he lost his footing and went down Ed stuck out his hand to block the fall he heard his wrist snap under his weight and the hot pain flooded his mind and rolled in pain on the ice.
The bull startled by the shock and the man's fall turned in Eds direction lowered his head and pawed the ground he charged Ed. The bull placed his head under him and lifted the man off of ground sending him flying against the side of a fence knocking the wind out of the farmer. Brutus still furious turned quickly and lowered his head getting ready to charge the farmer yet again.
Billy had been watching carefully at the action in the paddock and saw Ed was now down with the bull about to charge the farmer. He ran back and forth pacing in front the gate he barked whimpered searching for a way to get in the paddock. There was a roll of straw that laid against the fence where Ed was laying. Ed was trying to get to his feet. Billy darted for it using it as a ramp with one leap he cleared the fence landing between Ed and Brutus. The dog's teeth were now bared his upper lip pulled back in a snarl, Billy walked slowly toward the Bull his frame almost sideways and was in a crouch position. Brutus walked slowly to the dog, blowing at him and letting out a bellow. From somewhere deep inside the Collie returned an evil growl became louder almost daring the bull to make the first move.
The bull now with a new target gladly charged forward at the collie. Billy easily side stepped the attack then turned. The Bull turned and charged the dog again more furious than before; his head went down the dog lunged forward as well sinking his teeth deep into the soft wet skin of bulls nose, refusing to let go. The bull bellowed out in pain. Brutus now furious, his strong neck lifted the dog clear off the ground then side to side trying to shake dog off. Then again a vicious shake of his head slamming the dog on the side of the corral planks, Billy's teeth stayed buried.
Ed was in awe of what he was witnessing; he backed away from the dog and the bull. Ed held his ribs, he had a cut on the back of his head from hitting the fence post. Ed was concerned about the small dog He was still recovering from his injury. Ed looked on wondering in awe of dog's determination. He had never seen anything like this in his life. He called Billy to get away from the bull. Billy ignored the calls and busied himself with his tutelage of Brutus, wanting to be sure the two thousand pound beast understood the ground rules of farming manors 101.
The bull's head went down to rub the collie into the ground and off his face. Billy released his grip then attacked the bull again and again. Blood was pouring from the bull's nose and front quarters. The dog too fast for Brutus had enough and ran to the far side of the paddock. Billy followed in close pursuit, biting at his hind quarters and heels. The bull's back legs raised high trying to kick the dog away from him. Then it was over, the bull was in the corner of the pen, and the collie crouched low waiting to see what the bull may do next. Brutus did not look at the dog again, only turned and stood still facing away from the collie.
Ed by this time had regained his footing and was cradling his injured arm by the fence. He called to the dog. Billy went to Ed's side, the dog's face and the white of his coat spattered with Brutus's blood. He was favoring his right hind leg that had made contact with the fence post during the struggle. He went close beside Ed leaning against his legs panting. Ed kneeled then turned his back leaning on a fence post easing himself down to the ground once again, against it for support. He inspected the dog's leg, Billy flinched at Ed's touch and whimpered. “We will get that leg taking care of Billy” he whispered.
Ed was relieved it was over. He pulled the dog close beside him with his good arm hugged and praised the dog. Billy must belong to a rancher; Ed thought to himself a rich one. The owner would have spent many enjoyable days training him watching him grow from pup to the mature animal that Billy now had become. He had no idea of the cost of such a dog; Somehow he would find the dogs owner. The inevitable loss of his new friend saddened him a bit,
He wondered as he praised the dog how did he end up on his farm, but thankful he had been with him today. Ed scratched the dogs chest still praising him. He smiled and admired the courage that he showed. He smiled thinking how lucky he was to have his wife that opened this chance meeting with someone dynamic. A special someone that walks into your life gives you a new perspective then changes your life forever. Ed looked over at the now passive bull calling out to him.
“Collies rule bulls drool, eh Brutus,” Ed called out.
Brutus's nose a mass of blood. The beast was licking the blood from his nose shaking his head causing the blood to splatter against the side of the barn and fence rails. He was out of the fight now. Ed hugged the collie again then kissed the dog on top of the head. He thought of Kaye and wondered what she might say about that last display of affection, then chuckled to himself. “Billy what goes on in the paddock stays in the paddock,” Ed said then shoot the dog a stern look, Right?
The dog's copper eyes were looking up at him, Billy licked his lips then barked once in agreement. Ed's wrist was swelling and with the adrenaline rush gone the pain was taking its effect. Ed struggled to his feet once again. “I am going to miss you, Billy, now we better take care of my arms fella and have a look at that leg of yours. Let's see Kaye.” They both walked slowly to the pickup, Ed opening the door and Billy barely making the leap to the seat. Ed helped him the rest of the way. He started the truck then put it in gear with his left hand and turned in the barnyard point the half ton homeward, Billy was sitting close beside Ed, leaning against him.