A steady growth in population continues worldwide. As we grow, urban development paves and permanently changes the ecosystem. Cities and towns, large and small, annex their surrounding natural woodlands, plains, farms and ranches.

It results in city limits that extend miles from the edge of town and a beginning of the assessment imposing real estate housing development taxes and laws on rural inhabitants.

It happened to Mick. He had a 90-acre fenced pasture with a good well and easy access. A subdivision was progressing across the road. One afternoon he loaded his two cowdogs in the pickup to gather a bunch of his cows into the trap. Upon arrival, he crossed the cattle guard and sent the dogs out to gather the cows.

The dogs’ collars bore shock devices to receive Mick’s signals. He was concentrating on his dogs when a pickup with a camper banged over the cattle guard behind him. Mick looked back to see the town animal control officer.

“Whattya need?” asked Mick.


“Sir,” the officer said, “you are allowing your dogs to run loose. It is against the town leash law that prohibits canines to run unrestricted within the city limits. You, sir, are in violation.”

Mick explained to the officer these were working dogs, that they bring the cows into the trap and are under his control at all times. They argued, but the officer wrote him a citation anyway.

Mick refused to pay the fine and was required to appear in court the next Monday. He pleaded innocent. The judge asked Mick how could he communicate with dogs 100 yards away? With whistles? Semaphore flags? A bugle?

“No,” said Mick, “These dogs are very smart and I’ve taught them Morse code.”

“Can you show us how it works?” asked the judge.

“Certainly,” said Mick. He handed both the judge and the animal control officer a shock collar.

“It is very sensitive,” said Mick, “But if you hold it … sure, on your neck is fine, I’ll demonstrate. This means turn left; ‘dot dash dot dot (pause) dot (pause) dot dot dash dot (pause) dash’.

Before the judge had reached the first dot dot, he had fallen off the back of the bench, crash-landed his office chair and was covered in his robe. To Mick’s credit, the judge had fallen to the left. PD