Bert Bromham, from Holbrook, rattled into town yesterday in his old Holden ute — a Kingswood, of course.
With a rickety squeak the back canopy swung open and Danny Boy poked his hairy black nose out. "Come on old fella, out you get," he said. Danny Boy was the centre of attention and he acknowledged his fans with a whimper and a bark.
The old utility was parked in the shade and a few farmers wearing hand-knitted jumpers and old felt broad-brims sat in small, untidy groups under the trees outside a couple of caravans, headquarters for this year's National Sheep Dog Trial Championships.
Mr Bromham led Danny Boy to clear ground at the back of the Hall Recreation Reserve and tried to coax him to behave for the camera.
As a last resort he dug deep in his pocket and found a home-made whistle — a bit of bent tin with a nail-hole at the end — and gave it a toot. But it was a waste of breath.
The primitive whistle and a few whispered commands were all Mr Bromham used to put Danny Boy through his paces during the novice section of the championship.
"He did all right, too," he said. "He's only a pup yet and he's going to be great." But he did not win this time.
Mr Bromham retired last year as president of the NSW Sheep Dog Trial Association. He'd had the job for 13 years and gave it away only after having "a bit of an accident". They gave him a life membership.
Mr Bromham has cut the number of his kelpie kennels al Holbrook. It has nothing to do with the fact that kelpies are -generally used as sheepdogs and that Mr Bromham is a cattle farmer. He is just as keen as he's always been, but it just gets to be a bit much after a while.
He has only 14 dogs now, but still buys Pal by the pallet. Some of the entrants in this year's championships have 100 dogs. Presumably they buy dog food by the truckload.
The sheepdog trials are like a trade exhibition. People who want to buy good dogs look for the results of the trials. The judges' decision is a guide to the quietest, most responsive and efficient dog available.
The finals will be on Sunday and a big crowd of spectators is expected.
Blue blood and the judge's nod mean handsome price tags. Last year Mr Bromham sold a dog to a chap from Queanbeyan for $1,000.
"That's a lot of dough for a dog," Mr Bromham said, scratching Danny Boy between the ears. But Danny Boy is not for sale. "He's a bit special, this little bloke," he said.