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Tom Word


The Collars

He had long been obsessed by the fraud he felt sure his neighbor had imposed on him. But he knew he could not prove it, and so he tried, without success, to keep it out of his mind. Then he read the announcement in the American Field about required  DNA proof of paternity, and his obsession intensified.

The fraud was this. The neighbor, John Beard, had brought his pointer bitch Mary to his farm to be bred to his Sam. He was to receive two pups from the litter if five or more pups resulted, one pup if less. He personally had supervised the mating. John had also been present. Fifty days later he had inquired of John and been told Mary had not caught.

Three years after that he saw in the Field a picture of a pointer belonging to John Beard announcing its win of a Canadian prairie derby stake. It’s registered name was Beard’s Brawny Boy. It was the spit image of his Sam. Over the following six years the picture of Boy reappeared in the Field regularly, proclaiming its placement, usually first or Champion, in major all-age stakes. Each time he saw it his blood boiled. The announcements showed Boy as out of Mary by a sire belonging to John Beard and the whelp date of Boy six months after the date Mary had been bred to his Sam. That had been twenty years ago.

Boy had become a multiple champion, including winner of the National Bird Dog Championship and the National Free-for-All Championship. He had also become a notable sire and after his death at age ten a member of the Field Trial Hall of Fame. Today pictures of his descendants appeared regularly in the Field, proclaiming their field trial placements. Boy had sired ten champions of record and a total of one hundred sons and daughters with field trial placements. He kept a copy of the Field’s announcement of Boy’s election to the Hall of Fame tacked on the wall of the harness room in his barn, next to the collar of his Sam, the best gun dog he had ever owned.  His blood pressure rose every time he noticed the announcement. He had never participated in field trials but kept up with their news through the Field because of his neighbor’s avid participation and his own appreciation of good bird dogs.

He had accused John Beard of the fraud right after Boy won his first championship and its announcement appeared in the Field. John had cooly denied it, and that had been that, except that he and John had not spoken, much less bird hunted or attended trials together, since. When they met by accident, at the nearby country store or in town, they ignored one another. Their wives remained friends, ignoring their estrangement, which aggravated him and John Beard as well.

Collars_bigIt was now the second Saturday of December and he walked the half mile from his farmhouse to his mailbox. In it was the Christmas issue of the Field. He thumbed through it and a photo of John Beard caught his eye. Beneath it appeared an announcement that John was donating a collection of collars worn by his champions of the past to the Bird Dog Museum in Grand Junction. They would be hung in a shadow box frame on the wall beside paintings of champions, including Beard’s Brawny Boy. The name of each dog appeared on a bronze tag on its collar, according to the announcement.

During his walk from the mailbox to his house he called his vet’s office on his cell phone. The vet said he did not know but would inquire next week of one of his vet school professors who was an expert on DNA science. The word came back yes, a testable sample of DNA should adhere indefinitely to a dog’s collar assuming only one dog had worn it and worn it a good amount of time.

He sent Sam’s collar from his harness room to a DNA lab identified by his vet’s professor as equipped to make the analysis and received the report on Sam’s DNA from his collar a month later. John Beard traveled to Grand Junction for the National Championship and the Hall of Fame induction ceremony where he was introduced by the master of ceremonies and presented the collar collection to the Museum’s curator. He read a report of this in the Field along side the photos of this year’s Hall of Fame inductees.

How would he get possession of Beard’s Brawny Boy’s collar for DNA testing? The problem obsessed him for weeks. Finally his lawyer put him in touch with a Memphis private detective who bribed the Museum’s janitor and made a copy of the janitor’s key. The detective also obtained the code to push on the keyboard to disarm the Museum’s alarm system. He drove in late May to Grand Junction. At 3 AM he entered the Museum, disarmed the alarm system, removed the shadow  box frame from the wall and in its place taped a typed message on paper, Removed Temporarily for Repairs. He left undetected, having reset the alarm system.

He Fed Exd Boy’s collar to the DNA lab along with his Sam’s collar. He gave specific instructions about how the collars should be photographed together and referred,to in the report so as to leave no doubts of what the test proved: his Sam was the sire of the one dog that had worn the collar with the brass plate engraved Beard’s Brawny Boy. The report came back perfect, complete with photos and narrative linked on the same pages.He drove back to Grand Junction and again at 3 AM returned the shadow box frame with the collars to its place on the wall. It’s absence had apparently not been noticed.

He made an appointment to see the Albany lawyer Ben Reach. He told Ben his story and showed him the DNA lab’s report. He asked for advice on how he might expose John Beard without exposing himself to litigation, criminal or civil. Ben made a copy of the lab report and set another appointment for a week later. He asked permission to consult his friend Sam Nixon MD which was granted.

At Millie’s the curmudgeons mulled the problem. Their conclusion, tell the client to forget John Beard’s fraud. The dangers to the client associated with the Museum break in were too great. Then Ben got an idea. They discussed it and concluded the risks might be acceptable to the client.

The client, who had been about Ben’s and Sam’s age, died a year later, suddenly of a heart attack. His story appeared a week later as a post on a website devoted to pointing dog field trials. The posted message had been lodged with the site sponsor earlier with instructions to post “in the event you get word of my death.” In less than 24 hours it went viral. The client’s estate consisted entirely of property held as tenants by the entirety with his wife who survived him and had long been so held. John Beard came to see Ben who said he could not represent him, but gratuitously told John how the client’s assets had been held and that John might consult another lawyer with experience with estates.

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ABOUT STRIDEAWAY

Strideaway is an online publication founded in 2008. We are dedicated to promoting the great sport of American pointing dog field trials, in particular American Field sanctioned trials for pointers and setters. Our objective is to present the voices and ideas of experienced trainers, handlers, breeders and other knowledgeable participants and enthusiasts from the past to the present — amateurs and professionals alike. Whether All-Age or Shooting Dog, Horseback or Walking Trials, we place particular emphasis on wild bird field trials and the dogs that compete in them. We present richly illustrated articles and stories, podcast interviews and other types of media on a regular basis with the hope of providing an ever expanding, searchable archive of information relevant to pointing dog field trials.Read article

This website is dedicated to our ever faithful friend and Strideaway contributor, Bill Allen, whose book The Unforgettables and Other True Fables we published in 2010.

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