Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lost (or Ode to a Shepherd's Whistle)

No, I'm not talking about the TV show--I'm talking about my lost whistle. Losing a whistle may not seem like a big deal, but as with many things, we tend to get attached to specific items we own, and in the case of a whistle, sometimes it's more than just an emotional attachment. This whistle I lost was made by Dave Arnold, who is no longer making shepherd's whistles, so in one sense it was irreplaceable. I do happen to have a second, back-up Arnold whistle, but the gap is slightly different and I never liked it as much as the one I used daily. Now I don't have a choice, of course, so I'll get used to the other whistle, and presumably the dogs will too, since it doesn't have quite the same tone (thanks to the different gap) as the old one.

I know Rob Drummond has made copies of the Arnold whistle, and I even have a brass one that I bought while in Gettysburg at the 2007 sheepdog finals. But that brass whistle is a lot thicker than the stainless steel Arnolds I have and it feels really odd in my mouth. Note to anyone who gets a new whistle like that: Don't wait till a really important trial to pull it out and use it for the first time. That's what I did with that brass whistle at Edgeworth last year. Brass whistles are supposed to carry further, and Edgeworth is a big course, with a 600-yard outrun. So I grabbed the new brass whistle and walked to the post. I put it in my mouth, noticed the oddness of the feel, and then proceeded to try to "talk" to my dog with it. On my first attempt, I didnt' even get a sound! Gah! The fact that the whistle was thicker meant that I had to figure out a different way to hold my tongue against it to get the same sounds I was used to from my SS whistle. Standing at the post at a big trial is NOT the place to do that!

If I try using the replacement Arnold and find I can't live with the sound then I may try a copy from Bordercollics Anonymous--but I'll be sure to take measurements of the whistle I have to make sure that what they have is no thicker than what I'm used to.

So what happened to bring about all this angst? I honestly don't know how I lost my whistle. I wear it daily because whenever I didn't do so, there would be a situation when I needed it, so I just made it part of my daily getting-dressed routine. The other day was warm, perhaps in the 60s and I was out walking the dogs on the "back 40." On the way back down the path by the creek, I decided to remove the shirt I had on under my sweatshirt--without taking off the sweatshirt first, of course. The only thing I can fiugre is that my lanyard got caught up in the undershirt and was pulled off along with the shirt. Only I have been over that section of the path repeatedly, and even the path I take around the pasture all the way back to the house and have seen no sign of my beloved Arnold whistle. It's hard to see a well-worn braided leather lanyard among the dirt, grass, and leaves, and at first I thought the SS whistle would stand out, but it's amazing how many leaves have a silverish cast to them as well.

I even went through my hamper and all the clothes I had on that day in case it might have gotten caught up in my clothing, but no joy there either.

I haven't given up all hope of finding it, but it's looking pretty dim right now. And in case you're wondering "Why all the fuss about a simple stainless steel shepherd's whistle?" well I guess it's like any other superstitious sort of thing--I've been using that same whistle for close to 8 years now. It's like a part of me, along with my training stick that was splintered in the middle early on by someone sorting at a gate and then taped back up with green tape. I have a lovely handmade crook and I have other whistles, but none can replace the "magic" of the whistle I lost or the stick with the green tape on it. Just as people in other sports have particular items of clothing they must always wear when they compete,that whistle and stick were my crutches. I finally managed to give up the stick for the most part, but I never realized I'd have to give up the whistle too....


Robin French said...

Aww, i feel your pain! Next time i'm over, take me out where you think you lost it. I have a special gift for finding things for some reason. Ask the 32 people who spent an hour looking for Dean's cell phone at Jeff Hoffman's trial, where i walked out and picked it right up.

Now is the time to learn to finger whistle! ;-)

I know what you mean about those Arnold whistles though - i'm still hanging onto mine even though i was offered $100 for it.

Laura Carson said...

Oh girl, I can totally identify! Remember I just lost one - and just found it!

Hey - wanna hear something funny? SPOTTIE is the one who found my whistle. Robin, I wonder if you transmitted that gift to her?? She literally walked right up to it and nosed it. I'd been looking for it for over a week.

Seriously, though, we can help you look. Losing your "usual" whistle suxxors.

Julie Poudrier said...

I'll definitely take you up on that offer, though the area I think I lost it is muddy, full of leaves, and well trampled by dogs. If your magic works, you'd definitely be my BFF (sorry Laura, but a found whistle would trump--just barely--chocolate-covered ginger!).

It was in the back of my mind that maybe someone with an Arnold they no longer use would be willing to sacrifice it, but I also sort of figured we're all hanging on tight to them. Thank goodness I had a spare!

And I don't think finger whistling is in my future. I'm a finger whistling dunce.

I tried to encourage the dogs to look around for it, hoping they might catch my scent on the lanyard, but they didn't see the point! Good on Spottie for finding yours--maybe she and Robin can both go looking on the path behind the pasture.

Robin French said...

It's a deal! It'll turn up eventually i bet.

If i could find Joan's tiney little medic alert bracelet on my farm, a big old whistle ought to be a piece of cake. ;-)

Too bad you're busy saturday, i'd come over and look around.

Julie Poudrier said...

I hope you're right, I would be ecstatic to find it (or for you to find it). Then again, I can't really be sure where or when I lost it. I know I had it Sunday, and I'm pretty sure I had it on Monday, but who really knows?

RFP said...

Ok sister dear I am saying a prayer that you find the whistle you lost!
God has a special fondness for shepherds ...:)

Julie Poudrier said...

Thanks dear sis. Maybe between Robin's gift and your prayers, y'all will be able to manage what I haven't been able to do, which is find that darn whistle! (And it's so muddy and churned up back there that attempts to search are probably futile.)