Stories from the Quail Championship Invitational
My good friend Rick Furney once remarked that, at a field trial, there are three trials going on simultaneously — the one the handler sees, the one the judges see, and the one the gallery sees. He was correct insofar as he went, but I would venture to say that there are as many perspectives as there are witnesses to the events and they are generally not the same. I say this as a prelude to some of my favorite stories from the Quail Championship Invitational at Paducah. These are my stories, others who may have witnessed the same events may have different versions but they may tell their own stories in their own time.
I first attended the Invitational at Paducah in 1973 as part of the road gallery so I missed the first ten years. My stories must therefore derive from the years since then. This year will mark the 50th renewal of the trial and my 40th year of participation. Over that span of years, there are many events that are captured in my memory, any of which could become the basis of a “story”. In this accounting, I will inflict the reader with only a few of my favorites — others might be of equal interest but space denies the opportunity to tell all. In the accounts of the events, I will make every attempt not to portray anyone or any dog in an unfavorable manner.
Barshoe Buzzsaw – 1982, 1983
Barshoe Buzzsaw was a classic example of the all-age class of bird dogs. Even in repose, he exuded power and energy and one was never given the impression that he was a shooting dog. You expected nothing less than an exciting performance when he was brought to the line and he seldom disappointed. He was bold, sometimes to a fault.
Liver and white, he exhibited the classic look of the Rebel dogs, his sire was Buckboard, he by A Rambling Rebel and through the sire line to Muscle Shoals Jake nine generations earlier. His dam was Barshoe L’l Bit by Palariel Stormy Pat by Tiny Wahoo back to Muscle Shoals Jake again nine generations previously. Powerfully built, well muscled, with sufficient legs, he was made for the endurance tests — no route too long. He first appeared at the Invitational in 1979 under the whistle of Bud Daugherty and competed in the trial six times.
In 1982, Buzzsaw was 7 1/2 years of age perhaps still at the height of his physical powers. Drawn on the third course on the morning of the first day, he proved difficult to keep in hand with several absences going birdless for the hour. Shortly after the half, on the portion of the course toward the coon club, he got out of pocket and was not seen again until just before the completion of the hour. In that time, I was the “wait-back” marshal and spent a goodly portion of the brace with Dr. Frank McKnight of Somerville, TN., judging the trial with Bert Wimmer, Rockville, IN., and Collier Smith, Hatchechubbee, AL.
On Sunday, Buzzsaw drew the sixth course with Bluff City Mike. On this day, he provided a classic exhibition with three finds, a back, and an unproductive. He was strong, bold, exciting, an all-age dog in the classic sense.
1982 Quail Invitational. Winner Barshoe Buzzsaw with Andy Daugherty; R-U Fiddler’s Bo with Joe Bush. Standing: Floyd Hankins, J. D. Boss, Colier Smith, Eddie Rayl, Linda Hunt and Arthur S. Curtis.
The judges were not satisfied, however, and initially did not call him back for the two-hour heats on Monday. Following the two two-hour braces featuring Sweet Fever with Heritage’s Premonition and Bluff City Mike with Fiddler’s Bo, the judges, still not satisfied, called for a third brace of The Master Craftsman with Barshoe Buzzsaw. Given the opportunity to demonstrate his credentials in a two-hour heat, Buzzsaw responded with three finds, a powerful race, and a strong finish to annex the title.
In 1983, now 8 1/2 years of age, Buzzsaw appeared to defend his title as is the tradition for the Invitational Championship. Appearing in the first brace on Saturday with Nice ‘n Easy. Buzzsaw was gone early. Waiting behind with Dr. Frank McKnight, this year judging again with Bert Wimmer, and with Faye Throneberry, I remarked to Dr. McKnight that this seemed like “déjà vu”. His response was that it would be a long way back this year. Buzzsaw was absent most of the hour appearing with handler and scout with only about five minutes remaining in the hour. On Sunday Buzzsaw drew the 5th course with K’s High Rise. Given the opportunity to perform over the showy second afternoon course was an opportunity made to order for the powerful Buzzsaw. He left no doubt as to his all-age credentials with a powerful race punctuated with two finds.
His performance was sufficiently convincing that the judges requested to see him again in the first brace on Monday with Builder’s Free Boy. Again he left little doubt as to his all-age character and with a spectacular find was named champion for the second consecutive year. To win the Invitational Championship with a birdless day on the score sheet was and is not without precedent. To do so after being essentially lost on the first day two years in succession required a dog of special qualities. The Quail Championship Invitational with its requirement of four hours performance and without a requirement that the dog be seen at the end of each hour the first two days is perhaps the only trial that could have been won in this manner.
Barshoe Buzzsaw last appeared at the Invitational in 1985 at 10 1/2 years of age!
1983 Quail Invitational. Winner Barshoe Buzzsaw with Rod Smith; R-U Builder’s Free Boy with Joe Bush. Standing: Don and Cindy Faller, Andy Daugherty, Freddie Rayl, Sandy and Bob Napier.
Fiddler’s Pride and Addition’s Go Boy – 1985
The weather at the Invitational is often a significant if not major part of the story. The West Kentucky Wildlife Area lies close alongside the Ohio River and therefore well within the Ohio River Valley – the mixing zone for winter weather in the mid-continent. The Invitational is held each year on Thanksgiving weekend, in the period of transition from fall to winter weather. As a consequence, the Invitational weekend usually features a variety of weather conditions and can vary across some interesting extremes. Such was the case in 1985.
The weekend began innocently enough with blue-bird weather on Saturday — temperatures in the 60’s with bright sunny skies. Sunday conditions began to change – low, threatening clouds, temperatures falling, winds increasing, later, light rain falling on already wet ground, sleet, spitting snow. Monday for the two-hour heats — cold! Bright skies but temperatures beginning about 15 degrees not increasing beyond the low 20’s as the day progressed. Winds out of the north about 15 — 20 mph with higher gusts. Frozen ground, skim ice on the puddles, wet areas crusted with frozen mud — difficult conditions for man, horse, and dog — conditions that any bird hunter would know would not result in a banner day.
For the two-hour heats, the judges, Keith Severin, Howard Brooks, and Faye Throneberry, had asked for Flatwood Hank with Barshoe Buzzsaw and Fiddler’s Pride with Addition’s Go Boy. Cast away at 8:30 the first brace began with the dogs displaying energy and enthusiasm. The conditions, soon began to have an effect however, particularly the icy footing. Barshoe Buzzsaw, the grand old warrior, began to suffer from the treacherous footing and was taken up short of the hour. Flatwood Hank continued on with an unproductive and a find just short of the hour. Into the second hour it was apparent that the conditions were taking their toll on Flatwood Hank and, even though, he tried valiantly he could not find the energy for a convincing finish.
I had suggested that we needed to have spare horses available for the second brace — in my opinion the severity of the circumstances were such that even the horses would be unable to continue in a satisfactory manner. I also realized that we would be working with handlers on fresh horses since Fred Rayl and Garland Priddy did not ride the first brace. Changing horses between braces was an unpleasant chore — frozen mud, as much as an inch thick, covered the rigging, cold fingers, frozen feet, miserable! Two more hours to ride — two more hours of frozen feet, unlikely prospects for exciting performance, an ordeal for all involved.
For the second two hours, the course begins at the start of the normal #3 course, traveling generally north for the first 30 minutes. Cast away, the dogs began with energy and enthusiasm even though they had performed for two consecutive days and both had run on the afternoon of the previous day. Fiddler’s Pride, liver and white, somewhat larger and longer built than Go Boy with a lofty, long-strided way of traveling — Addition’s Go Boy, also liver and white, somewhat shorter coupled with a shorter stride but equally attractive in motion. Cast away, the dogs did not know that they faced two hours of effort in frigid temperatures, over frozen ground, with a strong wind from the north. Being veteran performers, they probably understood that scenting conditions were not favorable, that they would need to check closely but the desire to find game was paramount. Being veteran performers, they might have understood that they need try to avoid the frozen puddles and attempt to find firmer footing, but the desire to please their handlers made them heedless of conditions.
Addition’s Go Boy
After the first portion of the course, the next section tends south for about 20 minutes to and across Ogden Landing Road. Still going well, the dogs have not encountered game and the cold, wet conditions have begun to sap their energies. The West Kentucky Wildlife Management Area is generally not well drained with substantial areas designated as wetlands. Even in a dry year, there will be areas that remain damp to wet. In a year such as 1985, the majority of the ground is wet with frequent standing water, the cultivated portions with deep heavy mud. By this point, both dogs had bloody tails and frozen mud covering the lower portions of their bodies.
After Ogden Landing Road the course turns west under a power-line leading to the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The power-line, on this day a seemingly interminable stretch of ice-crusted mud with frozen standing water puddles — a challenging portion of the course under favorable conditions — today brutal! Beyond this portion the course follows the normal first afternoon course for a time trending in a southerly direction so not facing the cold wind. Into the second hour now, the fourth hour for the dogs for the weekend — beyond that normally encountered in even the most demanding endurance trials. Continuing on with feet raw and sore from the frozen ground, continuing on with muscles sore from the previous days’ efforts, continuing on with energies draining from the effects of the frozen mud covering their bodies, continuing on with every breath freezing the delicate tissues on which the dogs depend to detect the elusive scent of their quarry, continuing on!
One may ask and, indeed, should ask how could these dogs continue to perform under such conditions. After all, they do so for no more than a warm, dry place to sleep, a bowl of food, and a kind word and gentle pat on the head. They do so in response to the genetic urges provided them from generations of breeding for the highest expression of the qualities of the class bird dog. For Fiddler’s Pride from his sire Fiddler through Strongman, Lem Ripcord, Flush’s Ripcord. Paladin’s Royal Flush, Paladin’s Royal Heir, Paladin, Ariel, Air Pilot’s Sam, Air Pilot, Muscle Shoal’s Jake, and ultimately from Rip Rap — from his dam Rosemary’s Cloud, through Miller’s White Cloud, Riggins White Knight, Major Lexington Boy, Lexington Atomic Boy, Lexington Village Boy, Lexington Jake, Jake’s Stylish Doctor, Muscle Shoal’s Jake and again ultimately from Rip Rap.
For Addition’s Go Boy from his sire Builder’s Addition through Builder’s Risk, Highway Man, Llano Man, Tyson, Titan, Spunky Creek Boy, Village Boy, Seaview Rex, Tarheel John, John Proctor and ultimately from Rip Rap — from his dam Nell’s Rambling On through A Rambling Rebel, Rambling Rebel Dan, Newman’s Delivery Dan, Fast Delivery, Delivery Boy, Bobbitt’s Stylish Jake, Jake’s Riga Rap, Muscle Shoal’s Jake, Ferris’ Jake, John Proctor, and again ultimately from Rip Rap.
Continuing on, the pace unrelenting, no opportunity for respite gained from finding game. Pride more consistently forward but both dogs responding favorably to handlers’ urgings. Turning north again, the north wind undiminished, the gusts equally fierce as before, the energy to withstand them flagging. The ground like a “woodfile” to feet now bruised and bloody. Past the normal end of the two-hour course — continuing on!
Past the normal end of the two-hour course, if time remains, the course turns up the power-line going backward to the normal direction. The power-line, the mud in places hock deep on the horses, 15 more minutes — time interminable. Just before beginning the trek up the power-line, Fred Rayl called point for Pride to the left of the course, but quickly waved the point off as he rode to re-establish contact with the dog. Fred was riding a black walking horse that could canter about the same speed as he could walk. Returning to the front with Pride at heel, Fred had the horse in a canter but in his slowest speed going up the left side of the power-line. It took him most of the length of the power-line to regain the front before he sent Pride forward. In the meantime, Garland Priddy had sent Go Boy straight up the power-line. At we approached the end of the power-line Scope Renfroe riding in the gallery remarked that the winner would be the “last one still on his feet.”
As we reached the end of the power-line and the course once again turned north into the teeth of the wind, the handlers whistled their charges forward. Pride having the benefit of the respite gained from being roaded to the front, responded in classic fashion with a strong cast to the front finishing well ahead in the woods lot north of Ogden Landing Road. Go Boy responded bravely but could not match the effort of Pride. Champion — Fiddler’s Pride; Runner-up Addition’s Go Boy.
On a day that seemed unlikely to produce a memorable result, the courage of these dogs produced a memory that will live on well beyond their time. The essence of the all-age dog is not simply how far and how fast they can run but the unflinching courage and unyielding endurance to face any conditions in search of game for their handler. On this day Fiddler’s Pride and Addition’s Go Boy were the epitome of the all-age performer.
1985 Quail Invitational. Winner Fiddler’s Pride with Joe Bush; R-U Addition’s Go Boy with Wallace Reichert. Standing: Larry King, Dan Bonaguidi, Bob Warnicke, Freddie Rayl, Garland Priddy, Howard Brooks, Keith Severin, and Arthur Curtis.
Classic Editions and House’s Rain Cloud – 1989 and 1998
This story is one about judging, two events ten years apart each with a requirement for a judgement beyond the ordinary. It is not a story about the judges so they will remain anonymous in this telling. Others who were present may remember who occupied the judicial saddles but it is an unimportant detail.
In 1989, Classic Editions came to the Invitational under the whistle of Bill Hunt having won the All-America Chicken Championship, the Southwestern Championship, and the Oklahoma Open Championship. On Saturday, Classic Editions ran the third hour in the morning with Mercer Mill Race. In his hour, he ran a strong forward race with one find and a second stand with a bird lifting at some distance away during relocation, the dog not involved. On Sunday, on the second afternoon course, he started well with Dunn’s Fearless Bud. Early in the brace, Editions was observed by the gallery pointing in heavy cover in a fence row — an outstanding find. Shortly before the half he was again observed by the gallery to be pointing alongside a small thicket. In this instance, he was in a lowered position – head up, tail up but his middle close if not touching the ground, facing downwind. Quail flushed all around and very close to the pointing dog. It appeared that he was casting downwind and realized that he was in the middle of a scattered covey.
From the report by H. O. Price in the January 13 issue of the American Field:
Omitted from that list (the call back dogs) was the name of the white and liver pointer Classic Editions which is owned by Steve and Kate Walker of Novato, CA., and was handled by Bill Hunt. Classic Editions had, by all accounts, pointed his fourth covey in lowered position. The degree of his dereliction was not unanimously agreed, some saying that he was flat on his belly, others that he was not, and most thought it was a cautionary move when he found himself in the middle of a huge covey. His supporters, and there were many in this knowledgeable gallery, felt the other three coveys which he pointed admirably had overcome this later blemish but not the judges who came down on the side of absolute perfection and eliminated him from further consideration in even their second tier of callbacks.
House’s Rain Cloud came to the 1998 Invitational Championship having won the previous two renewals. He had won the previous two years in fine fashion displaying power, endurance, and polish around game. His performance in the 1998 trial was more of the same. On Saturday, on the third morning course, he ran a forward powerful race under the whistle of Mike Matney punctuated by two finds. He was clearly the dog to beat. On Sunday he went birdless but again ran a forward powerful race, the lack of bird contact giving little cause for concern.
House’s Rain Cloud
House’s Rain Cloud was called back to run the second two-hour brace with Freddie Fender handled by Colvin Davis. Early in the brace at about 12 minutes in, Matney called point and then waved the call off as the gallery approached the area of the stand. Rain Cloud was observed in motion and then pointed under some large oak trees. As handler approached, birds flushed, dog moved forward then re-established point without caution. Following this incident, Rain Cloud has a second find later in the brace and renders a strong forward race with a powerful finish. Champion — House’s Rain Cloud, the only three-time champion of the Quail Championship Invitational.
From the report by Tom Word in the January 2, 1999 issue of the American Field:
Now, back to Rain Cloud’s first find in the finals. As previously stated, Cloud moved at flush, call it a lunge, a jump, a step — point resumed without command. A critical decision faced the judges. The facts were clear…
They decided the bobble, in the context of a four-hour seamless heat in the ultimate endurance stake, should not disqualify Rain Cloud in light of the overall brilliance of his performance: a great ground race, three other coveys handled with perfect style and manners and accurate location, including a difficult relocation.
1998 Quail Invitational. Winner House’s Rain Cloud with Mike Matney; R-U Miller’s White Diamond with Mike Johnson. Behind: Marshall Loftin, J. D. Boss, Cecil Rester, Dr. Larry Mitchell, David Nutt, Linda Johnson, Gary Lester, Dr. Bryan Givhan and Jim Waddell.
Two circumstances requiring difficult decision — different decisions, one on the side of perfection overriding otherwise brilliant performance, the other on the side of overall brilliance overriding imperfection. The observers of these two circumstances give widely differing accounts of what happened. Nevertheless, events became memories, and in turn become a story.
Redemption’s Reward – 1989
The judges in the 1989 renewal of the Invitational Championship called for Barshoe Vintage in the first brace with Mercer Mill Race and Quicksilver Pink with Chinkapin Bisco Buck in the second two-hour brace. Barshoe Vintage had had two good days and entered the final day as the leading contender. Vintage gave a solid effort with two good finds and an honest, searching, but not spectacular, race to solidify her chances for the title. Mercer Mill Race also had two finds but in the first minutes of the brace suffered an unproductive. During the flushing attempt, the dog perhaps realizing he had erred in his stand sank slowly to the ground effectively eliminating him from consideration, particularly in the context of the judges’ decision with regard to Classic Editions.
In the second brace, Quicksilver Pink was strong, not always forward but attractive and strong. Unfortunately, her effort was curtailed when she broke, flushed, and chased on a covey shortly after the end of the first hour. Bisco Buck did not seem to have full interest on this day and despite a good find and a second stand where the judges did not observe birds was not able to make a convincing statement.
The judges, not completely satisfied, called for a third brace of Redemption’s Reward with Blackbelt Spellbinder. Reward had a good find and attractive race on the first day. On the second day, he again gave a good effort on the ground with a find in a patch of woods. A squirrel was disturbed during the flushing attempt and handler took the dog by the collar to take him on. As they started from the position of the stand two birds flushed followed by the rest of the covey. Handler released his hold on the collar and shot over the mannerly dog. A handling mistake, no fault to the dog, but an opportunity for an impressive piece of work marred by misfortune.
Redemption’s Reward. Orange and white, was sleek of build and very light footed and athletic. He was quite fast, very attractive, quite bold, and capable of spectacular action. All of this was on display during the two-hour heat. He was bold and made a succession of showy casts. Although he had some absences, they did not detract but simply gave emphasis to his unrelenting determination in search for game. He scored three times on coveys and once on a single. His attitude around game was thrilling, particularly the third find. His intensity was such that, in this instance, one thought he might simply explode. If a pointing dog could be said to be breathing fire, then he defined that description. The third find was shortly after the beginning of the second hour. Reward finished the two-hour brace in fine form demonstrating a strong measure of endurance albeit without further game contact.
The two-hour performance of Redemption’s Reward was one of the finest seen at Paducah and clearly the best of the 1989 trial. Apparently, however, he was running for runner-up. One is left to wonder what would have been required to tip the scale in his favor — one more find, two, three — at what point would the scale begin to tip.
Hytest Sky Hawk – 2008
Hytest Sky Hawk came to the 2008 Quail Championship Invitational as the 13th setter to make the field of starters. The list of setters to compete in the Invitational Championship includes:
Flaming Star, 1966
Inspector’s Turnto Man, 1968
Johnny Crockett, 1969
Wiregrass Thor’s Pabst, 1979
Tekoa Mountain Sunrise, 1989
Skidrow Joe, 1992
Hicks Rising Sun, 1994
Desert Rambler, 1995
Tekoa Mountain Patriot, 2003
Tommy B, 2003
Cane Creek Brutus, 2005
Hytest Sky Hawk, 2008, 2009
Prior to 2008, none of these dogs had appeared in the winners’ circle and, indeed, none had even been called back for the continuation.
Hytest Sky Hawk appeared in the fourth brace on Saturday. He showed early that he was in correct form for this trial running a strong race, hunting the likely objectives without scouting or excessive direction from his handler Ray Warren. He had three finds each handled with excellent style, manners and location. On the third find a straggler could have caused issues but not this day — the setter handling the circumstance with aplomb.
Hytest Sky Hawk
On Sunday, Sky Hawk had the first brace with Jackson’s Static Line. Sky Hawk again showed excellent rapport with handler, flowing through the course with little scouting direction by handler. He was bold but always mindful of handler and was rewarded with four well-spaced finds at 7, 27, 47, and 53.
On Monday, Sky Hawk continued with the same form as for the first two days. He scored early in the two-hour heat showing the same style and intensity as he had on the previous 7 finds. As we rode to regain the front, Randy Downs proclaimed “that d___ setter is on the warpath again”. Indeed he was. He had a ninth stand early in the second hour for which handler reported flush of native birds — not seen officially. His tenth stand and ninth find occurred with ten minutes left. He finished strong still clearly working for his handler.
Hytest Sky Hawk is the only setter to run for the full four-hour effort required to win the trial and the only setter champion. His effort was one of the most consistent and smoothest efforts ever seen at the trial.
Jack Elliott, Ray Warren and John Elliot with Hytest Sky Hawk. Sharleen Daugherty with R-U House’s Snake Bite. Behind: Terry Allen, Jim Crouse, Mike Crouse, Jim White, Gary Lester, Garland Priddy, John Russell, Hunter Wilcox, Andy Daugherty and Kathy Priddy.
At the Invitational, as for any trial, there are moments that become etched in the memories of the participants. Any of these may become the basis of a story to be told and retold as long as we gather each fall to test the 12 best of the previous year to determine the “best of the best” at the “dream trial”.