The One ~ Part I
They leave early each July from a hundred places across the continent. They drive in a general direction, north — some due, some veering east or west — but all bound for prairie land, U.S. or Canadian. It had been so every summer since the late 1800s, when bird dog men discovered the magic of the vast open acres holding prairie chicken, sharptail grouse, the natives, and Hungarian partridge and pheasant, the imported exotics.
The lands offer training opportunities unrivaled and escape from the merciless heat of the south which in the winter offers the other side of the coin — temperate weather in the quail belt.
At first they had journeyed by train, their employers joining them at summer’s end in their private rail cars to shoot the gamebirds their young dogs had learned on. Then trials for the dogs were organized so the rich men could take home bragging rights and trophies and the trainer-handlers could earn a bit extra from the purses, meager then as now but conferring reputation, always a big thing for them and their employers.
The traditions formed proved enduring and the sport of bird dog field trials grew slowly but soundly, its devotees few but committed, fanatic even, the result of the abiding love of a man (or woman) for a good bird dog, that harbinger of joy for even the most cold hearted. The profession of trainer-handler remains a small guild of peculiar perfectionists, men (and women) who understand how to mold a bird dog to the curious qualities required by the sport — to search far and fast and forward, to point and stay pointed until found, and then to stay put as the birds fly away, as counter-intuitive an act as ever asked of an animal, except that asked of a Catholic priest.
Each summer for a century and a quarter the trainer-handlers have left home with the same thought — will I discover this summer The One — the dog of my lifetime, the super talent that will sweep the competition and make it and me immortal in the tight little world of our sport — a sport 99.4% of mankind will never hear of, much less comprehend. Most never find The One, but for a few who do life is never the same — henceforth they are special in The Fraternity.
Ask any of The Fraternity, and they can, from a list of bird dogs, pick the men who found them or from a list of the men name their dog, The One that got them to the pinnacle. To a few men’s names more than one immortal dog will adhere, but there will be but one who’s name and image leap to our first consciousness.
Here (in no particular order) is a partial list of people and dogs forged together in collective memory:
Ed Mack Farrior (the classiest dog man ever) and Warhoop Jake
His father, Mr. Ed and Air Pilot’s Sam
Er Shelley and Pioneer
Dave E. Rose and Alford’s John
Charlie Babcock and John Proctor
Clyde Morton and Ariel
Bob Armstrong and Mary Montrose
Chesley Harris and Becky Broom Hill
James Avent and Sioux
J.W. Martin and Doughboy
Jack Harper and The Texas Ranger
Earl Bufkin and Mississippi Zev
Leon Covington and Lone Survivor
John S. Gates and Lester’s Enjoy’s Wahoo
Herman Smith and Wayriel Allegheny Sport
Collier Smith and Native Tango
George Evans and Shore’s Brownie Doone
Paul Walker and Fast Delivery
Fred Arant and A Rambling Rebel
Faye Thornberry and Miller’s Miss Knight
Phil Brousseau and Little Frenchman
Howard Kirk and Sierra Joan
Bud Daugherty and Buckboard
Hoyle Eaton and Riggins White Knight
Billy Morton and Wrapup
John Gardner and Miss One Dot
Harold Ray, Sherry Ray (Ebert) and Tomoka
Bill Rayl and Builder’s Addition
Marshall Loftin and Monte Bello Peggy
Bob Lamb and Forty Grand
John Rex Gates and Texas Fight
Pete Hicks and Bisco Big Jack
Bill Hunt and Rebel Wrangler
Tommy Davis and Whippoorwill Rebel
Colvin Davis and Quicksilver Pink
Randy Downs and The Hitchhiker
Ed Husser and Brush Country Specter
Lefty Henry and Marquis Gold Rush
Rick Furney and Law’s High Noon
Andy Daugherty and Bear Creek Bess
Robin Gates and Flatwood Hank
Mike Matney and House’s Rain Cloud
George Crangle and Tarheelia’s Lucky Strike
George Moreland II and Pineland Kate
Ferrell Miller and Miller’s Silver Bullett
Freddie Epp and Blackbelt
Fred Dileo and Funseeker’s Rebel
Rich Robertson and Tekoa Mountain Sunrise
Dave Grubb and Miller’s Silver Ending
There are others. See how many you can name, and which named above are incorrect? For example, of the many great dogs of John Rex Gates, which would you (or he) pick as The One?