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Fly Herding Skills

Sat, 21 Sep 2002
written by Teresa

Driving across Wyoming somehow stills the spirit. The yellow, parched, gently rolling land stretches off into the distance broken by occasional bluffs or rock outcrops. Cattle gather around the few copses and lone trees that break up the view and the line of telephone wire and road look unnaturally straight. The sky is bright blue, filled with myriad small white fluffy clouds all hurrying along in their urgency east, casting a theatre of moving shadows over the earth as they go. There is something about this landscape that allows the eye and the mind to become slightly unfocused, carrying you along on a gentle fantasy involving wagon trains, buffalo and tee-pees.

Having written that last sentence, I am reminded of my incredible disappointment in going to Rome at the age of eighteen and finding not a single centurion alive and well in the forum! My Latin teacher had obviously been a little too successful in bringing the "dead" language alive. I suspect that the old black and white cowboy films that were ubiquitous on English television during my childhood might have something to do with the fact that I wouldn't bat an eyelid if the entire cavalry came over the hill in front of us.

Sylvan Lake, in Custer State Park, SD The tightly packed, tall, dark pines at Sylvan Lake campsite in Custer State Park were too much of a contrast after the openness we had been used to at Guernsey. While Sylvan Lake itself is in a rather dramatic setting, we decided to leave the pitch there and come down to Stockade North where we have been holed up the last couple of days. The temperatures have fallen, struggling to get above 50 today and the rain has lashed against the camper. As the afternoon draws to a close, the sun has finally struggled out from behind its blanket and the light is casting shadows through the empty campsite.

The low temperatures seem to belie the need for fly screens, but don't be fooled. I have come to the conclusion that the flies are genetically programmed to loiter outside the door and take bets as to who can get inside. Now you may think this is a gross exaggeration but the truth is we have had at least one fly in the camper on almost every day we have lived in it. It has been the same fly for the last five days and we are now on first name terms with him. Despite our growing fondness for the little chap we have both put our fly herding skills to the test but have failed miserably.

Sterling used to claim a certain prowess in this area, having previously kept lizards that required a daily diet of fresh fly. Given that the local Piggly Wiggly didn't keep them in stock, he developed fly catching skills, as any good pet owner would. Unfortunately these are skills that need regular honing and his lizard keeping days are long in the past. His attempts at catching our winged friend have so far come to naught.

My approach has taken a different tack and is primarily based on techniques learnt whilst watching goat herders in Greece. It involves much waving of the arms, calling of encouragement and positioning of the body to indicate the preferred direction of travel. I can only report that the fly, referred to as Fido, is sitting on the ceiling, watching me with a puzzled eye, as I write this.

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