The Manitoba Interloper
It was the third or fourth year I reported the prairie field trials that I was invited by Carl Duffield Jr. to ramble around the Duffield grounds near Elkhorn, Manitoba where the storied Manitoba Chicken Championship was held for many years.
I had heard many tales from old-timers about “genuwyne” yellow legged chickens found there.
V.E. Humphries once told me that his great prairie chicken champion “Young’s Billie” had his premier performance at Elkhorn.
So it was nice just to see the area with the myriad lines and clumps of willow bushes and wide expanses of navigable territory where a dog was nearly always in sight if not stationary.
Let me just insert here one appraisal that grows and mellows in memory. The old hotel offered a colorful pub and the best fish and chips I ever had anywhere including Aberdeen.
First morning out we had the big excitement that is the subject of this piece.
Our “company” consisted of Carl Jr, the fabulous restauranteur George Evans, grizzled old wise trainer John Francis Brown and Lonnie Key, the veteran scout from Fort Deposit, Alabama.
Duffield put down Commander’s Hightone Rambler and he was a gulper of many acres. Later in his life, he morphed into a runaway and Duffield gave him to me when I finished him in an hour of the Texas Championship (with help from Lonnie, John Francis, Ernest Allen and Roy Maroney).
Anyway, Nip sped away and we found him pointing one of those medium size willow bushes along a depression in the bluestem. This was VERY unusual, because this particular setter rarely pointed anything in the first 15 minutes down, unless he was being check-corded.
As we rode up to half-circle him, the almost all white Nip ducked forward quickly and froze, tail straight up.
“He ain’t pointing”, Lonnie cackled. “It’s a booger or a porcupine!”
And then we saw: a liver-headed pointer dog, almost on his belly, in the middle of the willow bush, tail straight level with the ground, kinda trembling.
Then, in a breath, Nip leaped over the scrawny pointer and flushed two adult chicken, kaw-kawing away.
Nip chased one, and “Nameless” went after the other one. Duffield’s crew rarely ran two dogs as a brace unless they were working on a trailing problem, but they now had a brace to handle. Lonnie followed Nip and John Francis and George chased the interloper. Carl and I just looked at each other.
“Whut th’ HAIL id THAT all about ?” I barked.
“Beats me,” Duffield said, with a perplexed smile. “I don’t know where that short hair came from. I don’t know anybody’s got any bird dogs around here. Closest trainer is either John Gates or Bill Rayl, and they’re many a mile or more south.”
Then we were interrupted by the return of Evans. “Hey, y’all,” he huffed, “that ole pointer has flushed two more chickens and run through a herd uv Huns and John Francis is still after him…”
“I bet he twitched and jumped ol’ Nip’s birds the first time!” Duffield mused.
“No, Carl, “I offered. “I love Nip, but The Interloper gets credit for the find.”
“Well,” Carl growled, “I wunt’na eaten any of ‘em….”
Then Lonnie returned with Nip. “I SWEAR,” Lonnie said. “I didden know Nip’d back that way….”
“He was in shock,” I laughed.
It seemed like a very long time before John Francis walked his lathered mount into the group. He said: “After that pointer busted about six bunches of birds, he noticed ME, and then there was no ketchin’ him unless I killed this horse. He headed north on the gravel road ‘yond the next section, tail down an’ jes FLYIN’ !!!…
We went back to work in the willow bushes after a while. We made many inquiries around Elkhorn and at the field trials later but we never saw or identified the speedy, underfed “Interloper” again.