Originally, the little bitch setter was branded “that possum-tailed rat” by her victims and other detractors of the loosely allied Buddy Williamson/Bill Allen kennels.
When Buddy, (known as Squire R.J. Williamson to the Spalding Road residents in far-north Fulton county and southwest Gwinnet) first showed Lady Speed Girl to Betts and me, she got tearful and I got nearly nauseous.
She weighed about 25 pounds, was a pallid white, black and ticked mop of apparent setter breeding. But, she was a victim of mange and very scrawny.
“She’s registered, Miz Thing,” Buddy said to Betts, as if THAT information would salve her sadness. “…And, looky here! She was sired by Mississippi Zev!”
This was about four years after Zev won the National Championship for Dr. Trapp and Earl Bufkin, who bread and trained Zev.
“I’m gonna call Mister Bufkin,” I said. I did, getting his number from the American Field back pages, and he remembered the mating and the skinny bitch’s breeder.
Buddy was appropriately apologetic about the little gal’s condition, but extremely enthusiastic about her potential.
“I mean, she can fly!” he said. “She’ll set a sedge field afire and put it out in seconds!”
So, fueled mainly by Betts’ sympathy and tender attraction to the very redundantly named Lady Speed Girl, we made a “project” of her.
We had in those olden times, a magic cure for mange. It was a messy, noxious (aren’t all effective nostrums?) mixture of burnt motor oil, copious powdered sulfur, iodine, phenol (carbolic acid) turpentine and kerosene. The oil was the “holder”, the sulphur the active ingredient and the several irritants “drove” the sulphur in and killed interfering life forms.
Our introduction to “Gal” was in the springtime, and by September, she was almost a glistening silky mass…all but her tail, which she snapped and whipped so that it never did have what you would call a luxurious flag. Her reconstruction-cum-resurrection was due mostly to Betts’ dedication.
Buddy’s dreamy purpose in acquiring Gal was to breed her to Raymond Hoagland’s setter Rumson Farm Loch, the last setter at that time to win the U.S. Pheasant Championship. Mr. Hoagland had Loch at the farm in northwest Georgia, retired from competition under Earl Crangle.
“But, I don’t think Mister Hoagland will let us breed unless we have a win on her,” Buddy said. “He never has bred him much, but he likes YOU, and I think he may let us.”
Well the truth is that Gal was never EXACTLY “broke”. She could find birds where even my old “singles” specialist, foot scenting Monk might fail. But she only paused before taking out the wild quail. In those days that was acceptable for a derby. But “broke” would have been nice.
Gal had an entirely different philosophy on planted quail, and we used many of them trying to get ready for two one course trials: the Stone Mountain and the Old Atlanta.
What Gal would do is try to get as close as she could to a planted bird so she could catch it. There was no such thing as a “flight-conditioned” penned quail I those days. They came in two modes: lazy and moribund.
So, we had to be careful. It was best that we not have any game contact on the 15 minute “back course. And we needed to be within reach of her collar in the birdfield.
She was a delight to run, a natural dancing-gaited speedster with the fore of the horses on her mind. Buddy was a master at ingraining “the front” in young dogs.
On the old Snapfinger Creek course with the yawning red clay gulleys, kudzu vine, saw briars and one hedge of sparse privet, she was braced with the best derby around Atlanta, Duration Ann, a hefty white and liver heavyweight handled by a good friend and bitter competitor, Jack Curran.
Gal actually outran the larger bitch on the course, but Ann did more hunting and use of objective. When they got to the birdfield, they were ahead and when we got there, we could not see where they were hunting.
My “scouting” duties done, I edged over and asked Slim Bowden where they were. He indicated the larger of the erosion scars and I signaled the information to Buddy.
Now, I do not know right now where Jack was, or where the judges were. I am not sure that Buddy was as close as I was to what happened.
Duration Ann stood in the center of the arroyo “V”, pointing toward some invading kudzu vine and briars. She was staunch and beautiful…breathtaking, in fact. Gal came upwind, briefly honored Ann’s point from about three feet, then threw her head up, tasting scent and as I hollered “POINT, JACK!!!” and Buddy kinda murmured “Whup!”…Gal very proudly raised her tail rigidly and gracefully tiptoed around past Ann and was about to pounce on the bird (waterlogged from last night’s shower of rain) when the judges and Jack Curran arrived.
Buddy fairly floated down to simultaneously kick at the quail, which fluttered as he grabbed Gal’s collar and shot his blank .22.
Jack was furious at first, but Buddy almost wept apologizing and stuttering. He successfully dodged any more birds in the birdfield. Duration Ann had two more perfect finds and won the stake. Gal got third.
That made her “Loch-Eligible” and though she was an indifferent mother, Betts plied eyedroppers, carnation milk and baby formula to raise the three pups.
Buddy characteristically, named them Lady Loch, Immortal Loch and, I think, Loch Looser (for the lake at Cross Creek Florida where Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote The Yearling, and where Buddy and I caught many bass and bream).
Joyce Burdeshaw, of Hatchechubbee, Alabama ended up with Lady Loch and Herman and Collier Smith developed one of the greatest setters—one of the greatest dogs–of the sixties from a Lady Loch litter…Flaming Star by name.
Back by Popular Demand!!…the second printing of Bill Allen’s The Unforgettables & Other True Fables will be available in the coming weeks.