I was soon planning for a stop in the town of Pontelier, the main hub in one corner of the country I had never been to and was bent on exploring: the Franche-Compte. As luck would have it, this region has its very own breed of draft horse, the Comtois. It was to an “exhibition” of this horse that I was heading, although thanks to my lousy French, I was not sure exactly what kind of “exhibition” I was heading to.
Imagine – a beautiful fall day in the Northeast. The air is crisp, the foliage shining red and yellow and orange under a clear sky. Now imagine yourself surrounded by a phantasmagoria of color and texture, a dizzying array of handmade things combining beauty and utility in remarkably unique ways. Add some delicious food to this picture, and throw in a diverse crowd of enthusiastic folks. Mix all of this together, and you have set the scene for the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival.
When I saw an ad in the paper for a sheepherding clinic being held less than a stone’s throw from my front door, I could not resist. Such an event, pre-dog, would definitely have interested me, falling in the category of human-animal cooperative endeavors, as it were. I wasn’t sure if I should dare bring my mangy pound puppy, though. So I signed on as a spectator and arrived a minute before showtime, curious to see, and maintaining the option to bring my dog later.