All winter long, come rain or snow or bitter cold, they're out there. There are two of them, a young woman and a young man. How young, I don't know — maybe 30? 35?
They arrive at 8:00 a.m., they knock off at noon, and they come back at 2:00 for the afternoon shift and, in winter, stay until dark. The woman has been out there every winter for years now. The man replaced another who left last year.
They are the vine pruners. They work for the Domain de la Renaudie. Their wintertime work is pruning the vines — cutting back last year's tangle to make everything ready for the new growth of springtime. I don't know whether to admire them or feel sorry for them for having to work outdoors, every day, in such miserable conditions.
They are dressed in bulky hooded coats, hats, and gloves. They carry little battery-powered clippers that make the work go faster. They chat and banter as they go up and down the rows — sometimes I hear them before I see them — cleaning up nature's mess. And they always wave and shout out « Bonjour ! » when they see me.
They know Callie, but she is afraid of them. Dogs are funny. Callie loves old Monsieur Denis, the retired owner of the Domaine de la Renaudie operation. When he's out there, she runs to greet him, jumping up and kissing him on the face. He loves it. « Elle vient toujours me trouver ! », he told me one day, obviously pleased — "She always comes and finds me!" He's not out there in really cold weather, though.
Callie also goes down the rows as far as necessary to greet Bruno Ledys, another grape-grower who has vines out there and who does his own work. Bruno always comes to work in the vineyard with at least one dog, Max, and sometimes with a second dog too. Callie and Max are old friends now — as are Callie and Bruno Ledys. He shows her affection by rubbing her head.
But Callie acts like she's afraid of the Renaudie employees who spend most of the winter out there working. Maybe it's those hooded coats, or the clippers they always have in their hands. Callie is curious about them, and when they try to make nice she does her doggy thing of running around them in circles, barking and wagging her tail.
When I told the woman I didn't understand why she behaved that way, she said: « Elle veut jouer, c'est tout. » — "She just wants to play." Maybe it's that simple.