1991 Southland Championship ~ A Report Excerpt
While researching another article in my stacks of old American Fields, my eye landed on the name of my friend Colvin Davis so I began to read. Two lines and I couldn’t pull myself away. Thanks to John Criswell, for bringing this great field trial episode to life…
Colvin Davis’ jaw was set. His mental conditioning harked back to the days when he rode the prairies with The Cap’n, John S. Gates, where quit was never an acceptable option. He had heard enough gallery gossip about the stake being over, that the leader on the board, Rebel Wrangler, was not movable, that he would be retired when the stake was over and he had his 11th championship.
Weather — rain and flooded creeks — had done nothing to soothe feathers of those who participated in the fourth Southland Open Championship and Derby Classic at the Blue Mountain Field Trial Grounds, tucked away in the Ouachita Mountains near Booneville, Ark. It started November 12 and took nine days to complete.
There had been no running on Sunday and Tuesday afternoon. The four braces remaining for Wednesday included two dogs from the Davis string, and Tuesday evening when talk turned to the depressing thought that it was futile, the taciturn Alabaman who Gates had considered a third son, in a low tone and firm cadence, said, “I’m not through.”
When the maneuvering for course was finished and the roster was considered as it would play out, Davis’ black-marked Rex’s Promise was written off. “I don’t have to worry about him, you’ll loose him on the breakaway.”
William L. Heard, Jr., and Cecil Rester’s 1990 Oklahoma Champion was on the first course, laden with standing water, and Colvin told his wife and scout, Mazie, “I’m going to have him when we make that first turn. I’m going to see which way he goes. Don’t lose him.”
The breakaway, fenced as best a course can be from a road and dense woods, goes a quarter to a service road, crosses to the left and opens into serious hunting. Davis’ concentration was as an Arnold Palmer about to putt for the stroke he needed to win the Masters. He turned “Mike ” across the course in front of him two or three times, and he had him at the first turn.
The tail-cracking pointer took the left fence edge, and only four minutes were gone when Mazie called point. Rex’s Promise found two more coveys, and he ran the fields with strength and obvious purpose. He went the length of the river to the horse bridge, and at pick up he was out of view.
The Davises started the search. The gate had been left open on the west end of the bridge across the boiling, full Petit Jean River, and tracks said he crossed onto the second course. Davis went after him — full tilt. The dog jumped out of the road into cover on the east side. First Davis went as far as water would allow to the north, came storming back past Judge John Thompson, who said the dog had eight minutes left, and Davis urged the black horse faster.
Faintly came the sound of three whistles from somewhere near Road 109. As time was running out, the man with his jaw set, came into view, Mike at heel.
Now, it was over, for the next braces changed nothing, and at the clubhouse Rex’s Promise officially became the Southland Champion. The cashier’s checks were handed out to Davis, and to Larry Huffman for Flamboyant, named to Honorable Mention. Huffman, going on to Conway, also took the check for Bill Hunt and Rebel Wrangler, the runner-up, but not before Davis wrote a note on the back.
Kneeling, from the left: Mazie Davis poses Rex’s Promise, the 1991 Southland Champion and Piper Huffman has Flamboyant, which was named to Honorable Mention. Rebel Wrangler had left the grounds a couple of days before. Standing, from left: President Perry Mikles, Judge Luke Weaver, Colvin Davis, Larry Huffman, and Judge John Thompson.
Report and photos courtesy of the American Field Publishing.