Potato Patch Sue and Matilda Nitchman
National Pheasant Shooting Dog Championship
Oct 15, 1960
Potato Patch Sue, Dr. A. H. Nitchman’s Pointer, Wins Title
Potato Patch Sue emerged from the shadow of her brothers and sisters to grab the national limelight with a smashing and popular win of the 1960 National Pheasant Shooting Dog Championship, the increasingly important titular event held under the auspices of the New York State Bird Dog Association. This was the fourth renewal. It took place over the famed Three Rivers Game Management Area of the New York Conservation Department, situated near Baldwinsville, N.Y. Thirty-three dogs were drawn in the stake, which was run on October 6, 7 and 8. The five-year-old white and liver pointer bitch, owned and handled by Dr. Alvin Nitchman of Cranbury, N.J., came forth in the sixteenth and final heat of the stake at midday on Saturday to deliver a shining hour bejeweled with five pheasant contacts. On only the initial find was there any question, whether a stop to flush or bird otherwise disturbed; the other four were handled immaculately. Potato Patch Sue literally soared over her competition to become the first winner of the Elhew Jungle Trophy, offered this year as a replacement for the Frank C. Ash Trophy which the redoubtable Jungle won for his owner, R. G. Wehle of Scottsville, N. Y., by achieving the title in the first three runnings of the stake.
It is a proud accomplishment to win this stake. Its significance is sure to increase with the passage of time, but already there are remarkable records. There is a generous cash purse, but in addition the champion and runner-up receive beautiful sterling pins designed by Guglielmo Cini. This year the owner of the champion was also awarded a leg on the magnificent new Elhew Jungle Trophy, sculpted by R. G. Wehle and cast by Edward Marshall Boehm, plus a miniature porcelain for permanent possession. The brilliant Elhew Jungle set a mark that may never be equalled when he won the title three successive seasons, getting outright ownership of the Frank C. Ash Trophy for his owner-handler Bob Wehle. Jungle competed this year; his classy going and impressive ground pattern commanded utmost admiration, but the gusty winds militated against bird work of clarity to gain recognition.
Potato Patch Sue came through with a thrilling exhibition of the same stamp as Jungle had impressed in prior years. She traveled swiftly, attractively; she patterned the course in appealing form, hunting promising objectives with intelligence and purpose; her handling response would be difficult to fault, and she capitalized on her game opportunities. Sue had five pheasant contacts, and after a full definition of the first was not obtained, she left no doubt of her ability to handle ringnecks on the next four finds. Sue locates her game accurately, exhibits lofty style on point with character and intensity, and her manners were above criticism. None questioned her right to the crown.
There is a Cinderella aspect to the story of Potato Patch Sue and the charming Matilda Nitchman is the fairy godmother. Some years ago Dr. Nitchman gave a pointer bitch to his friend, Vernon Wimbrow of Oak Hill, Va., which Vernon registered as Oak Hill Dottie. She is noted as the dam of several celebrated winners. Wimbrow always gave the Cranbury dentist a puppy or two from Dottie’s litters, and she was usually bred to Delivery Frank. Dr. Nitchman has enjoyed great success with individuals of this line, perhaps the best known his Champion Magnum, holder of several titles, who is a full brother but a year older than Sue.
Potato Patch Sue was whelped August 15, 1955. When Dr. Nitchman arrived to pick a puppy from the litter it was raining hard. He wanted a male. In the drenching downpour, he simply grabbed one of the puppies in the pen and as he went out the gate, the little female, Sue, got out. He couldn’t catch her quickly, so he put the other puppy in the truck, got out a bucket and Sue came over to it “So I grabbed her up too in the rain and took her along,” for it would be alright with Vernon Wimbrow, Dr. Nitchman knew.
“We tried to sell her as a puppy,” recalled Doc, “but no one seemed too interested. Our boys ran her some in Delaware, New Jersey and Jockey Hollow trials. She might have won the latter but had a lapse in memory in the very last minute of the heat.”
Mrs. Nitchman became interested in Sue, discovered she had unusual game-finding abilities and soon concluded that perhaps she was the best of all the Nitchman dogs when it came to pheasant work. Last spring at Medford, N.J. in an English Setter Shooting Dog Stake, Matilda Nitchman handled Sue and won the event. “I wanted to show Alvin and the boys what she could do,” modestly recalled Tillie. Sue has won since, including a third in the Sussex County Field Trial Club Open Shooting Dog Stake in the spring of this year, and a second in the recent Pennsylvania Bird Dog Club’s Amateur Shooting Dog Stake.
Lee White, who has been prominently identified with this stake since its inception, was disturbed because Sue’s ownership was listed in the name of Dr. A. H. Nitchman rather than that of the Doctor’s wife. “Why you know she’s Tillie’s dog,” he accused Alvin and why didn’t you let her Sue in this stake?”
“I’ll tell you,” volunteered Matilda. “I can’t run nearly as fast as Alvin—his legs are much longer than mine—and you know how these ringnecks can run, so we thought Alvin would have a much better chance of getting the birds up quickly than I.” One concedes the strategy worked.
However, the following year, Matilda Nitchman found her legs!
National Amateur Pheasant Shooting Dog Championship
Oct 21, 1961
Potato Patch Sue, and Her Fair Handler, Matilda Nitchman, Annex Title
Mrs. A. H. Nitchman poses Potato Patch Sue. From left to right, front row: Mrs. Perry Gray, Mrs. Gail Hamilton, Mrs. and Mr. Fred Hill, Leslie R. Tichenor, and Miss Leslie Anderson. Second row: Gail Hamilton, Howard Parker, Perry E. Gray, and W. Lee White. Rear: Perl Trumble and Bob Haggerty.
A celebrity in her own right since her important triumphs of a year ago, Potato Patch Sue, white and liver pointer female, added to her prestige with a smashing victory in the fifth renewal of the National Amateur Pheasant Shooting Dog Championship. Thus she has gained equal status with the best-known winning members of her family. Sue is owned by Dr. Alvin H. Nitchman of Cranbury, N.J., and was piloted to this significant title by the lovely Matilda Nitchman, his devoted wife. A year ago Potato Patch Sue rocketed to national fame with her victory in the National Pheasant Shooting Dog Championship under the guidance of her owner, conceded to be one of the top amateur handlers in the country. But it should be remembered that it was “Tillie” Nitchman who handled Sue when she made her initial winning in a Setter Club stake at Medford, N.J., in April, 1960, and Mrs. Nitchman’s faith in this honest, purposeful performer as a superior pheasant dog has been amply justified.
The sparkling hour of Potato Patch Sue elevated what might otherwise have been a drab and disappointing stake. The fifth running of the National Amateur Pheasant Shooting Dog Championship, under the auspices of the Amateur Field Trial Club of America, took place over the Three Rivers Game Management Area at Baldwinsville, N.Y., on October 8-9. It followed immediately after the New York State Bird Dog Association’s championship and the latter had a record-starting list, 49 drawn, so it was a deep disappointment when only seventeen were named to go in this feature. But this much can be said: the stake, despite the short entry, did not lack for quality. This was evidenced when the judges named a runner-up in the stake, for a performer had to be good to deserve such rank after Sue’s scintillating exhibition. Mr. Rock ’N Roll, white and liver pointer dog, owned by Hoyt R. Parker and John Wall of Dearborn, Mich., handled by the former, racked up an impressive bird score, eight contacts in all, to merit runner-up laurels.
The winner of the title is purportedly representative of the highest type pheasant shooting dog. To the victor goes not only national recognition, but the name is inscribed on the beautiful W. Lee White Trophy, a perpetual award…
Potato Patch Sue, delivering her hour in the seventh brace which was run on Tuesday morning, October 9, resolved any doubts as to the winner when she had completed her performance. The six year old demonstrated that she is at the peak of her powers, gave convincing evidence of her abilities as a pheasant dog, scoring five clean finds in the course of her heat, backing her bracemate in proper form on several occasions, and sustaining her hunting zeal throughout.
Sue has a reputation and noteworthy record; hence it may be wholly unnecessary to review her background. Readers will likely remember that Sue was a member of a litter bred by Vernon Wimbrow of Oak Hill, VA., whelped in August 1955 and that Dr. Nitchman got a male puppy as well as Sue from this litter. But the Cranbury devotee never became enamoured of Sue; he was busy with Magnum and others of the same breeding, and it was not until Matilda interjected emphatically that she believed Sue “probably the best pheasant dog we’ve got” that the hard searching female got the attention she deserved. Neither Dr. Nitchman nor Matilda deceived themselves that Sue could match strides with her bolder going brothers, that she stretched out ambitiously, but both discovered Sue had a real flair for handling pheasants correctly. Mrs. Nitchman, as alluded to previously, handled Sue in her first placement, other wins were scored, then came the fine triumph in last year’s National Pheasant Shooting Dog Championship, at which time some of the human interest story in connection with this canine Cinderella was recounted. She now has seven wins.
National Amateur Pheasant Shooting Dog Championship
Oct 20, 1962
Potato Patch Sue, and Mrs. A. H. Nitchman Win This Title for Second Consecutive Year
Potato Patch Sue, pheasant dog par excellence, added another jewel in her crown as an ace ringneck shooting dog when she captured the National Amateur Pheasant Shooting Dog Championship for the second year in a row. It was the second title for Sue in the space of a week, for she had annexed the National Pheasant Shooting Dog Championship of the NYSBDA just two days previous. There was no doubt of Sue being the victor or of the quality of her performance deserving the title, although the support accorded the stake was even more disappointing than in 1961.
The sixth renewal of the National Amateur Pheasant Shooting Dog Championship was held for the second successive season over the Three Rivers Game Management Area, scarcely three miles from Baldwinsville, N.Y., and when only thirteen starters were drawn, and exactly a dozen dogs competed, the event was concluded in a single day, on Monday, October 8.
There may be those who will attach too little prestige to Sue’s triumph because of the slim starting field, and in truth there should be much stronger support for a national event under the auspices of the Amateur Field Trial Clubs of America. But in field trials quality has always been more important than quantity. And there in no gainsaying the effectiveness of Sue’s technique. She chalked up eleven contacts in her hour and the majority of these were examples of superior pheasant work. It was a distinguished effort. As Arthur Bean, the Carolina professional volunteered, “Put her down in a pheasant field and she certainly proves she is a remarkable ringneck shooting dog.”
What is there to be said about Potato Patch Sue that is not already familiar to followers of top shooting dog competitions? The seven-year old champion, gaining her second inscription on the W. Lee White Trophy, is acknowledged a superior ringneck dog. Her bloodlines are well known and in the case with many in her ancestry, Sue is not the flashiest in gait, nor yet an exaggerated stylist on point. However, she moves with wide, ground covering stride, assumes a positive, attractive point, but it is her overall excellence that has made her a standout in recent seasons—ever since Matilda Nitchman gave this “rose” of the Nitchman kennels a chance to blush before the entire bird dog world. Her glory is no longer hidden behind a kennel fence.
Sue’s forte is an uncanny ability to find and handle pheasants. She exhibits an appealing, intelligent hunting pattern, her handling response is well suited to the requirements of the stake, and she has a sharp nose and a positive sense of location. Left to her own resources, Potato Patch Sue is unlikely to make any mistakes on game. She may not be as impetuous, dashing, swift and reckless as the top thrill-givers, but Sue knows what she is about and accomplishes it efficiently, effectively, properly. In this events she had eleven pheasant contacts, and how many dogs can you think of which could come through such an exhibition as relatively free of serious error as Sue?
In this stake, she was under the whistle of Mrs. Matilda Nitchman, whose husband, Dr. Alvin Nitchman had piloted Sue in the NYSBDA titular event. There were many who figured to get a rise out of Doc, one of the country’s most able amateur handlers by ribbing him that Tillie in a sense “had worn him out!” It is only natural that there would be comparisons between Sue’s races in the two stakes. Frankly, although she had many more pheasant contacts in the amateur, her effort in the previous championship was a great deal more impressive exhibition, which must be recorded even if Matilda will hate us for it. Which we know she won’t. Because Potato Patch Sue is the apple of her eye, and as she says modestly, “really a delight to own.”
The 1962 champ now has four titles to her credit with other significant wins. And Dr. Nitchman believes that she is a strong enough bird dog that had he run her in the Continental Championship at Quitman, Ga., last January, she would have acquitted herself admirably. If all goes well with her conditioning this winter, it may very well be that Sue will cross lances with the Continental challengers next January.
Matilda handled two additional dogs in the 1962 amateur championship, Copperhead and Sugar and Cream, both sired by Sue’s littermate Ch. Magnum.
Potato Patch Sue went on to win the National Pheasant Shooting Dog Championship again the following year and placed first in 1964 when the title was withheld. She finished her career with 25 wins including 5 championships and 11 first place wins in open and amateur shooting dog stakes and classics from New York to North Carolina and Georgia. Potato Patch Sue is perhaps most renown as the dam of Dr. Nitchman’s Ch. Smart (Ch. Elhew Sundown x Ch. Potato Patch Sue) who, in turn sired Ch. Pork Roll (Ch. Smart x Proud Pat) and Ch. Guard Rail (Ch. Smart x Nell’s Rambling On) both who went on to become important producers whose names are found in many pedigrees of dogs competing on the grouse, shooting dog as well as all-age circuits. Smart (1989), Pork Roll (1994) and Guard Rail (1986) were elected to the Hall of Fame along with Dr. Alvin Nitchman (1980).
Son Alan Nitchman recalls:
Mom and Dad were a “Team” in the Field Trial game. Mom was a full time participate in the selection of pups and training of the dogs as well as an accomplished and recognized scout and handler. There is no doubt in my mind that Mom’s interest, dedication and hard work was a key to their success. While Dad was at his dental practice, Mom kept the dogs and horses conditioned and sharp in their training. I recall many times Dad would instruct Mom to roadwork dogs to get them ready for upcoming trials. He did not have the time to leave his practice to assist her. Rain or shine, hot or cold, Mom would go to the barn, brush her horse, saddle up and get at least two dogs out and put them in the harnesses. It was not an easy send off as our home in Cranbury, N.J. backed up to the school ground, which meant Mom had to lead the animals out through the back gate before she could mount and go. No one was there to hold the horse or the dogs so they really had to know what “whoa” meant.
As well as participating in the training, Mom was Dad’s right hand women at the trials. She was a wonderful scout who, on numerous occasions, found dogs on point. If dogs went astray, she knew how to bring them back to the front so they appeared to have made a beautiful cast. And, of course, Mom successfully handled dogs—Sue in particular—in trials and won.
Yes, they were truly a “Team” and as a young boy I was always proud of their accomplishments.