More Stories from the Quail Championship Invitational ~ Texas Fight
Texas Fight by John Donaldson
Texas Fight was whelped January 11, 1970 in a litter bred by J. C. Meek of Holdenville, Oklahoma. His sire, The Texas Squire, was the 1972 National Champion and 1971 Invitational Runner-Up. His dam, Bar Lane Babe, was a granddaughter of Riggins White Knight. Edwin Brown picked the white and orange pup out of the litter and gave him his early start. He proved to be a precocious pup.
Edwin Brown related that the pup would run and hunt all day — not deigning to come to the jeep for water on even 90 degree days. He would be hard to pick up and could only be caught when he was on point. Taken to John Rex Gates for evaluation prior to the trip to the prairies in 1971, he was given a workout on John Rex’s home grounds. When Tommy Long was able to catch the youngster he looked up at John Rex and exclaimed — “we got a great one here”. Great one indeed, Texas fight won 21 times in the stiffest of competition and was elected to the Field Trial Hall of Fame in 1982.
Texas Fight was an all-age dog. He was blessed with a long smooth stride, seemingly unlimited endurance, and an unquenchable desire to find birds. He was a lot of dog, — often too much dog. He came to the Invitational in 1972 in his first-year form but already a two-time champion and a seven-time winner. He received his invitation when one of the original twelve was injured and could not compete. He ran in the third brace on Saturday morning in a steady rain. He could only log a back and two non-productives on a morning in which there were 8 non-productives and only three productive finds by the six contestants.
On Sunday, Texas Fight was able to log two productive finds out of three stands with a stronger ground race. His performance for the first two days was not sufficient to earn a nod for the two-hour braces but he was asked to be available on stand-by — the judges asking for Rebel Hawk with Oklahoma Flush, Ormond Smart Alec with Mission, and Warhoop Dapper Jack with The Texas Squire.
At the conclusion of the three two-hour braces, the judges James M. Bryan, George A. Evans Jr., and Dr. H. I. Nesheim were not satisfied and asked for a fourth brace of Texas Fight with Bill Possessed. This Brace was released at 3:07 on a cloudy day. Now, for those of you not familiar with Paducah in late November, daylight on a cloudy day is very questionable at 5:07 but away they were sent. As reported by reporter Chuck Hodges:
His chance to compete in the finals came Monday afternoon after the originally braced finalists failed to measure up. And, he ran as if he realized this was a do or die happenstance. To say he was full of fire during the two hours is an understatement. He fairly burst the seams of his course, taking it all in and then quite a bit more, and he dug up his birds out on the proverbial limb on two occasions and scored a divided find on the third when he and his bracemate were found pointing in the same grown up depression by Freddie Rayl scouting Bill Possessed. On the two stands when Gates accepted rabbits as the cause of the points, he was becoming in pose and stature, and each of these was in likely haunts of quail with the dog giving no indication of seeking out fur rather than feathers. He looked in all the proper locations, sailing from one to the next with no hesitation to dig into the heavy, wet, and cold cover, and there was nary a sign of fatigue when ordered up as darkness was blotting out visibility.
John Rex recounts that it had already become dark before the end of the two hours. He had Texas Fight in hand as the end of the brace neared with the scout holding the dog. Judge Nesheim came riding down the trail, whistling to get John Rex’s attention, asking if they had the dog. When informed that they had him, the judge told him to hang on and bring him out at the end of the allotted time. They did so and the championship was awarded to Texas Fight, his third and eighth win.
Texas Fight posed by Wayne Brown and handler John Rex Gates. Edwin Brown, owner of the champion, is sitting on the hearth of the fireplace in the Club House at the West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area.
Now, this story is compelling enough, but it is not what makes the story of Texas Fight one my favorites. The events of the 1979 Invitational are among my favorite memories.
Texas Fight came to the 1979 Invitational nearing ten years of age. Even more impressive, he came to the Invitational with an artificial hip necessitated by the grind of a long career competing at the highest level. It takes a talented handler and dedicated owner to continue the career of a dog with such an impediment — the process of rehabilitation, not just to some level of comfort but sufficient for the highest level of performance, requiring the utmost care and dedication. It also requires a dog of unusual quality, the heart of an all age champion, a quality not possessed by all but only of the most blessed.
The 1979 Invitational was one adversely affected by weather. Late Saturday, rains began, continuing through the night. Sunday morning arrived with rain falling steadily, creeks running bank full, crossings flooded, water standing in all of the fields. When the rains showed no sign of diminishing, the running on Sunday was cancelled. Thus, four days were required to complete the trial.
Texas Fight received his invitation when injuries to Triple Squeeze prevented his appearance. He ran on Saturday in the fourth brace with Virginia Pine, logging a find at 41 and a strong race. On Monday, he was more difficult to keep in hand but again scored on a big covey, his race strong if not always well directed. Called back for the two-hour brace on Tuesday, he had many admirers who believed that he might be successful once again. Off to a rousing start with a find at the first course turn and demonstrating that the wet and muddy conditions would not deter him, he was in a good position to win the championship for a second time. Alas, it was not to be, an extended absence marring his chances. Returned to the front after a long absence, he again disappeared not to be found until after time. So, once again, despite age and an artificial hip, he proved to be too much dog on this day.
What makes this story even more compelling is that Texas Fight is the last member of an unbroken sire line of 13 generations of Hall of Fame dogs, beginning with Fishel’s Frank:
Texas Fight was royally bred with a Hall of Fame sire line and out of a granddaughter of Riggins White Knight. His record 21-39-169, while not trivial, does not match his potential as a contributor. At ten years of age, with an artificial hip, on the third day of the ultimate test of endurance and consistency, under conditions that would deter many lesser individuals, he proved to be too much dog. Truly, we missed an opportunity!
For those of us who love an all-age dog in its grandest expression, the story of Texas Fight is an inspiration and an opportunity lost and that is why it is among my favorite Invitational stories.
First published November 20, 2013