I want to thank all the Welsh people who called or wrote after my last column. By Welsh people, I don’t just mean descendants who live around here, I mean people actually from
Mrs. Alice Bushong of Elida sent my column to her cousin, Annie Gwendoline Jones, who lives in Aberhosan, a village in the valley just south of mine, on the other side of Geoff’s mountain. She in turn showed it to a friend of hers, Mr. Emyr Roberts of Machynlleth. He wrote me a very nice letter, and said it was heartbreaking that I was so close and didn’t get to meet them. Someday I hope to make him regret writing that. Our world is not as big as you think.
To Linda from Celina: Everyone we encountered in
spoke English, and most spoke at least some Welsh. We did hear a Welsh conversation in a
restaurant in Machynlleth, but I have no idea what they said---hopefully, it
didn’t have anything to do with food poisoning.
At one stop we made, I did have my own private Welsh tutor, although I’m
not exactly sure what I learned. Wales
Regrettably, we only had two full travel days in
. In the last column, I described what we did
on the first day. Today, I want to tell
about the second. Wales
Our journey began with a stop at “Ewe-phoria,” a sheep and sheepdog education center, just a few miles from Johanna’s bed and breakfast near Corwen. It was run by Aled Owen, a famous sheepdog trainer whose dog, “Bob,” was a three-time world champion. “Bob” is semi-retired now, and we didn’t get to see him. But, Aled had another dog, “Gwen,” who was younger and was used for the sheepdog demonstrations.
For those of you who have never seen a Border Collie herd sheep, their style is not unlike that of a wolf stalking its prey. Actually, it’s exactly like that, only controlled…hopefully.
Most Border Collies have what is called “eye,” a hypnotic stare that they utilize when herding stock. Some dogs are “strong-eyed,” some are “loose.” Gwen was a loose-eyed dog. He did what he was supposed to do, and got the job done, but he didn’t look at the sheep much. Gwen wasn’t a very “flashy” worker.
The downside of a dog that is too strong-eyed is that all they want to do is lay down and stare at the sheep. It’s hard to get them to move, thus limiting their usefulness to the shepherd. Most handlers want a dog that is kind of in the middle, a dog like my own future international champion, “Robbie.”
From “Ewe-phoria,” we set out for what would be the highlight of my brother-in-law Gary’s Welsh experience,
was really into castles and any kind of ruin that resembled a castle. Gary
On the way to Caernarfon, we spotted a ruin near the little town of
Llanberis, which was very close to . We parked our car, and had to walk a short
distance to get to the ruin, or as Cindy, Bonnie’s sister, liked to call them,
“roo-wens.” Along the road we were
taking, we spotted a couple of farmers who were using two Border Collies to
herd a group of sheep into a small pen in the corner of a field. Mount Snowdon
Cindy and Gary wanted to get to their “roo-wen,” but Bonnie and I hung back to watch the dogs. I really liked how the dogs worked---they had the right amount of “eye.” We watched from afar for a few minutes before mustering the courage to get a closer look. The men seemed cautious as we approached, but they warmed up immediately after I introduced myself. Evidently, being “John Jones from
Ohio” opens up quite a few doors in . I don’t know why. Wales
Mr. Owen and Mr. Jones were treating the sheep for “footrot,” a contagious bacterial infection that attacks sheep feet and makes them very lame. Footrot was a problem everywhere we traveled to in
Wales and . Apparently, all the rain is good for the
grass, but bad for sheep feet. Ireland
The farmers were trimming the feet very short and applying a topical medication. I probably violated international veterinary practice acts when I suggested that they also give the sheep an injection of LA-200 as an additional therapy. LA-200, an antibiotic, will remain in the sheep’s system for three days, providing a longer treatment without the sheep having to be re-caught. They had never used this drug for footrot before, but said they might try it in the future.
I also told them how much I liked how their dogs herded the sheep, and I could tell both were pleased by that. Mr. Jones proudly exclaimed that he had just sold the father of one of the dogs for 4000 pounds, which is a little under $8000… I thought they were good dogs.
Mr. Owen was an older man, and much more talkative. He was also a very willing tutor and tried to teach me some Welsh words. He said I had a very good accent; I guess I must have spit on him, such is the nature of the language.
I hesitate to try to reproduce any of the words here because every time Mr. Owen would teach me a new one, Mr. Jones would giggle. I thought he was teaching me things like “How are you,” “please,” and “thank you,” but in case it wasn’t really “thank you,” we’ll just let it go at that.
After a few minutes of chatting with Mr. Owen, I could sense Mr. Jones getting a little impatient; they still had quite a few more sheep to treat. One of his expensive dogs “rolled over” a couple of the sheep while they were waiting. I guess the dog was getting a little impatient as well.
So we thanked them for the visit, and said our “good-byes,” I think, and caught up with Cindy and Gary at the “roo-wen.” Then, it was off to the very massive and well-preserved
. Caernarfon Castle
My only regret about our stay in
besides the short time, was that I didn’t “ask the Welsh.” Wales
Before I started training my puppy, “Robbie,” I had read a book called “
But, I didn’t. It was just one of those “woulda, coulda, shoulda” things that I wish I had done. And, Aled surely would have known him---he was in the book. I guess I didn’t ask Aled because “Ewe-phoria” was his “stage,” and I hated to ask him about another trainer while he was on his own stage.
So, if any of you know Glyn Jones, tell him “John Jones from
” was asking about him. And thank him for the great book. Ohio
At the end of my last column, I compared my two valleys, and I thought my “valley” in
“greener.” It probably is, but there is
something about the other that I just can’t get past---something about it that
keeps pulling me back. Ohio
I also wondered how my great-grandparents could have ever left a place like that. Heck, I don’t even know how I did.
Author: Dr. John Jones, December 2005