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Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Vespa Cowboy Rides Again

Those who read this previous post may recall that a Vespa is not entirely useless as a mule wrangling accessory. Well, I'm here today to tell you that it's not a bad shepherding tool either.

This morning on my way to work I passed the hapless teenaged Bedouin shepherd from that previous adventure... once again chasing after his donkey. This time I arrived on the scene right after the donkey had bolted (he was still in sight), and simply shook my head at the kid's misfortune. Either he was the worst shepherd in the history of the trade, or he had one of the more willful donkeys.

Unfortunately, I couldn't offer much assistance in rounding up the wayward jackass this time because instead of running off down the newly paved roadway (as he'd done last time), the donkey had instead headed up the rocky hillside to my right, following the track made in the soil by the run-off of last winter's rain, and the shepherd had run off after him

I probably wouldn't have stopped at all this time, but as I approached the scene of the escape, I couldn't help but notice that his large flock of sheep and goats was amiably wandering into the roadway, forcing me to swerve onto the opposite side of the smooth, two-lane blacktop in order to avoid hitting any of them.

Luckily I wasn't going very fast, and at that early hour there was no other traffic coming in either direction, so I was really more annoyed than alarmed at the woolly incursion into my lane. But as I slowly putt-putted over the center line to avoid the animals, I noticed something neat. Rather than getting spooked and bolting in all directions at the sight/sound of the scooter as I expected they'd do, they started moving in unison back out of the roadway just as casually as they had wandered into it.

I don't have much experiencing estimating the size of flocks, but I'd have to guess there were at least 50 animals in the mixed mass of shuffling, bleating (and smelly) sheep and goats. And as I slowly passed them, they moved agreeably back onto the shoulder just as smoothly as if an unseen hand had straightened out the edge of the flock to match the line of the dirt and gravel shoulder.

Glancing in my mirror I was so impressed with the effect of my passing that I had to stop and look around to see if the teen-aged shepherd had seen my nifty little trick. He hadn't. He'd just caught up with his donkey and was busy screaming Arabic obscenities at it and pulling it (none-too gently) back down the hillside by its head-rope.

I was a little disappointed that he hadn't seen me use my scoot to guide his flock back out of the roadway. But it wasn't like I'd discovered cold-fusion or anything... so I did a mental shrug and got ready to head on towards work.

Unfortunately, as I peeked back to ensure nobody was coming before pulling out, I saw that the flock was once again starting to swell into the roadway... and a couple of cars had come into view maybe a half kilometer behind me down the road. Seeing that the shepherd was not going to make it back in time to chase his charges out of the roadway, I turned around and slowly putt-putted back the way I'd come, hoping that it would have the same effect on the flock as before.

It worked like a charm. It was almost magical the way they flowed easily out of my way and back onto the shoulder. My children should be so manageable!

For the next ten minutes or so, I cruised slowly back and forth next to the flock, using the proximity of my shiny red Vespa to 'push' the woolly tide back onto the gravel whenever it started to flow onto the blacktop.

No other cars came by during that time, so strictly speaking, my mad herding skillz weren't essential to the occasion. But it was a little bit of an addictive power trip to be able to control all those animals so effortlessly with just my slow passage back and forth.

When the shepherd and his donkey finally made it back, he show me up with an even neater trick:

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of tiny pebbles which he proceeded to toss, one at a time, just beyond the periphery of the swelling flock. As each pebble landed with a soft' pop', the animals instinctively crowded together and moved back towards where he was standing. With only four or five of these casual tosses, he was able to re-establish control of the entire flock and start the whole group moving up the hillside and away from the road.

After seeing how effortlessly he was able to exert control over the animals, I felt a little less proud of my own herding chops. But I was still pleased to have added something to my scootering repertoire that few others have experienced.

Sadly, as I pulled away to continue my commute, my rear tire fish-tailed a little in some of the copious sheep and goat droppings scattered in the roadway, and for a horrible moment I thought I was going to lose control. Wouldn't that have been a hoot... in the course of trying to do my good deed for the day, I'd end up laying my scoot down in a humiliating glissando of sheep sh*t?

But almost instantly the rear wheel chirped back into traction and I headed off down the road in that stiff-necked, self-conscious manner familiar to anyone who has ever stumbled embarrassingly in a public place.

Oh well... just another chapter in the continuing saga of the Vespa Cowboy.

Posted by David Bogner on October 21, 2010 | Permalink

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David - You should copywrite the post's title :-)

Posted by: Jameel | Oct 21, 2010 3:15:36 PM

The only thing missing from this post is pictures...although I must admit that your writing always conjures up some pretty clear pictures for us!

Posted by: orieyenta | Oct 21, 2010 5:43:41 PM

I've got the entire picture in my mind. No, I've got the video in my mind. David, you are a gifted writer!

Posted by: Mark | Oct 21, 2010 7:21:15 PM

Gifted or not... pictures would really be appreciated! :)

Does that fancy dancy helmut of yours have a brim by any chance???!! :)

Posted by: val | Oct 21, 2010 8:47:00 PM

As a former dairy-man, I bristle at your adopted moniker. If anything you are the Vespa sheepboy. Not so cocky now, are ya?

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Oct 21, 2010 8:59:40 PM

Hey, Vespa Cowboy, that 'head-rope' on the donkey is called a halter.

Posted by: antares | Oct 21, 2010 11:32:29 PM

In an unintended twist, the "You might like.." box under this post recommends The Cutest Puppies of 2010 on Marthastewart.com :) Want to wrangle some cuddly puppies?

Posted by: RaggedyMom | Oct 22, 2010 1:50:21 AM

Sheepish ending averted.

Posted by: Ari | Oct 22, 2010 5:47:29 PM

Like a Vespa Cowboy
Riding out on a vespa on a lonely Judean road
Like a Vespa Cowboy
Herding those sheep and goats to the side of the road
And tires slidin' over the dung

Oh, like you could have resisted if it were someone else's story? ;)

Mad skillz or not (compared to the kid's stone tossing tactic), it's still pretty darn cool.

Posted by: Alissa | Oct 25, 2010 1:56:50 PM

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