Chapter One CITY OF GOD BEDLAM: a place, scene, or state of uproar and confusion -Columbia Encyclopedia Far in the distance, as the morning mists began to clear, I could see a livestock trailer heading west on Route 30 from Salem toward the hamlet of West Hebron. From this hill behind my new house, I could spot visitors approaching from miles away. There were plenty of farms around this quadrant of upstate New York, lots of places livestock haulers might be going, but my guess was that this was Wilbur Price of Bethel, Pennsylvania, delivering a ram named Nesbitt and the ladies, fifteen "dog-broke" ewes. Which meant it was time to walk down the hill. Change was just around the corner, big change. For three border collies, there could be no more meaningful event than the arrival of sheep in their backyard. For me, the change was more complex, but a big transition nonetheless, another midlife crapshoot. I was stepping out of one existence and into another, a shift inexorably linked to these three dogs. We all clambered down the hill as the trailer descended into town. In a few minutes, this farm, known around the county as the old Keyes placesomehow I doubted it would ever be known as the old Katz placewith its listing and peeling dairy barn, an even more askew pig barn, an overgrown chicken pen, and several other outbuildings, would be home once again to livestock. Everyone in the tiny village could look up the hill and see animals grazing, as they had for generations. I was no farmer, and this place wouldn't really qualify as a working farm. I am a dog lover and writer, and this would be, in part, a dog-centric adventure with my border collies. Even before the animals arrived, in the few weeks since I'd moved in and begun preparations, I could hardly believe the amount of work involved just in overseeing forty-two acres and a Civil Warera farmhouse. I could only imagine how difficult and relentless real farmwork was, particularly in brutal winter. My work would be fractional in comparison, and I wouldn't rely on the farm to provide my family's livelihoodan enormous difference. Wilbur, a garrulous man in a giant baseball cap and overalls, was indeed waiting at the gravel driveway with his noisy cargo. We shook hands and chatted about the weather and the drive and his dicey encounters with fog en route. Wilbur, I realized, drove sheep and cows around all day and didn't want to pass up the chance for a more satisfying conversation. I, on the other hand, was eager to populate my farm and get it rolling. After considerable effort and dismaying expense, I had fences up, hay and straw in the barn, and corn and feed stashed in critter-proof containers all over. I was as ready as somebody like me was ever going to be. But I'd learned that country talk can't be rushed. It had to have been a long and lonely ride up from Raspberry Ridge, my friend Carolyn's sheep farm and dog-training center. These ewes were loaners from her much larger flock. We knew these sheep. My elder dogs and I, frequent visitors and herding students at Raspberry Ridge, had taken them to graze in the pasture countless times in rain and sunshine, in deep night and bright day, heat and cold. We'd moved them around during herding trials, chased them during our lessons, retrieved them from the woods when they wandered, midwifed a few of their lambs. We also knewand were appropriately wary ofNesbitt, who'd sent me flying more than once. I could hear them all shifting and bleating in the trailer, probably hungry and thirsty. I heard an asthmatic-sounding bray, too, which meant that at the last minute Carolyn had decided to send the donkey along withKatz, Jon is the author of 'Dogs of Bedlam Farm An Adventure With Sixteen Sheep, Three Dogs, Two Donkeys, and Me', published 2004 under ISBN 9781400062430 and ISBN 1400062438.