Strangers in the Night
Excerpt from the 1998 North American Woodcock Championship
The sexy redhead in the fur coated seated at the head of the table in the chair reserved for the guest of honor was happily dining on her favorite cuisine of rare prime rib when the waitresses brought on several more bottles of the house’s most expensive champagne. The toast of the town on this special evening of October 7, the lady with the rather suggestive name of “Hustler” seemed oblivious to the cheers of her legion of jubilant admirers who rimmed the long festive table.
Hustler’s rather unconventional escort, William McFadden, entrepreneur extraordinaire of Jamestown, NY beamed proudly as the corks popped and glasses were raised to honor his exciting mistress. After all, this dazzling lady of the wild had earned her right to glory only a day earlier by racing through the thick New Brunswick woods clad only in a ringing bell and necklace and handling to perfection the tricky challenges of four elusive woodcock. This was a performance to warm the heart of an admirer of the arts such as William P. McFadden, Esquire.
The waitress at the classy Fisherman’s Paradise, the premiere seafood restaurant in Moncton, NB were very attentive. They could smell not only the distinctive fragrance of the honoree but also the delightful bouquet of what they surely envisioned as a most generous tip.
Guests were ordering all the fancy drinks and gourmet dishes their little hearts desired, piling onto McFadden’s open-ended tab in tribute to his newly crowned princess. The sky was the limit with “Billy Boy” buying and some of the revelers took that to mean outer space as well. Their tastes suddenly soared from beer and pretzels to Coquilles St. Jacques and Dom Perignon. The only exception to this sudden elevation of palatial splendor could be observed in Kellie Fogg as she wolfed her way through her customary fare of fat cheeseburger and French fries, washed down with a bottle of soda pop. Twenty more like Kellie and Billy’s tab would have cut the bill by at least 90%.
The party roared on well into the night. Fortunately, the guest of honor, despite I believe having lapped up quite a few drinks of her own and gorged quite heavily on prime rib and all the fixings, did not have to use the ladies’ room.
That might have caused a problem. The honoree’s full name was Elhew Hustler and her royal lineage was that of an English pointer from the renowned kennels of Robert G. Wehle in Henderson, NY, a daughter of the famous Elhew Snakefoot ex Elhew Kelly. She had just carried on the tradition of excellence by winning the prestigious North American Woodcock Championship.
Of course canines are not your ordinary guests at the upscale Paradise. In fact, Hustler was the first so honored. Even Movelle’s Gypsy, the runner-up was not invited, although her proud owner, Gerald Movelle (that’s “Gerald” with a hard “G”) seemed quite happy at the far end of the table. I expected to see him light up a Cuban cigar at any instant. Any why not? In addition to claiming his first titular placement as squire of the runner-up, Gerald did not have to pick up any of that formidable tab. “Drink up fellas. This party’s on Bill.”
Excerpt from the 1998 North American Woodcock Futurity
The Big Party! “Strangers in the night, exchanging glances…”
It seemed like a line straight out of that classic love song, but I’m sure Frank Sinatra never envisioned the kind of glances being exchanged at the Scenic Motel in Moncton, NB on the eve of the Woodcock Futurity. Jack Mayer, our genial host, said he spared no expense securing our accommodations. Based on current events, I would have to say his boast was entirely true.
The trialers were sleeping soundly following a festive party thrown earlier that night at the Fisherman’s Paradise by Bill McFadden to honor the crowning of his pointer, Elhew Hustler as the North American Woodcock Champion. Little did they know, the wildest fun and biggest thrills were just about to begin.
“Come on sweetie, let us in,” one of the ladies of the night shouted as she pounded on Eddie Vanidestine’s door. “You’ll never regret it!”
Groggy at 3 am, Eddie made the grave mistake of cracking his door open and the ladies tried to charge for the sack like a pair of NFL linebackers. “Wait a minute! Hold it!’ Eddie stammered. “Get out of here. Can’t you see my wife’s sleeping right in the next bed?”
There was a large bulge under the blanket in the adjoining bed from which the steady drone of snoring filled the room. When the girls saw it, they made a hasty departure. No way did they want to mess with a field trialer’s angry wife.
But little did they know the snoring bulge under that blanket was none other than Larry Mahar of Baring, ME who had ventured to New Brunswick to run his Futurities. Larry never missed a beat and when finally awakened his first comment was, “What hookers?”
One of our confidential sources said he saw the girls running near a portly little bald-headed gentleman’s room, then heard a scream that could have rivaled the war cry of Attila the Hun.
Big Dave Palmer was not exactly displaying nerves of steel either. He awakened to a tremendous banging he briefly mistook for an earthquake as the highly inebriated girls lowered their bags full of beer and pounded in unison on his window.
“Let us in!” one of the girls shouted. “Come on Mister. We know you’re from New York. Open up. You won’t regret it buddy. We’ll have a great time!”
Dave was judging the Futurity and at first glance feared this might be some kind of ill-advised pay-off for preferred treatment in the breeders’ stake. Nice try but no cigar.
Then he thought, New York! What were they talking about? Oh God! They must be confusing him with Bill McFadden. They’d heard about the high spending bash Bill had thrown and now they’d come to cash in on the fringe benefits.
“No, go away,” Dave hollered. “You’re making a big mistake. You’ve got the wrong guy. I’m not from New York. I’m from right here in New Brunswick.”
“Oh no you don’t. You can’t fool us. You’re from New York alright. Come on now big boy. Let us in.”
It was enough to make Dave’s knees buckle as he tried to barricade his door and looked about for some kind of weapon. If they were going to get him, Dave thought, he wouldn’t go down without a fight.
He was about to blow the big one when the girls finally relented and gave up their assault. They were hooting and hollering as they staggered off down the corridor towards the rooms of the Pennsylvania contingent of field trialers including Jack Brown, Joe Cammisa, Bob Friedl, and Roger Neri. Suddenly the ladies disappeared. One could only speculate as to their whereabouts.
When the girls finally returned to pounding on doors and windows, something spooked them so badly they bolted. They abandoned the motel and began to stagger and run towards the safety of the highway.
My source later surmised they had pounded on Kellie Fogg’s door where the six or seven English setters which customarily sleep on the bed with Kellie greeted them with a bellowing chorus of blood curdling howls and growls. That chilling scene would rival Stephen King’s “Cujo” and would surely be enough to scare the pants, so to speak, off any potential invaders.
As the ladies started to flee, Dave Palmer, who had not gotten a good look at his assailants, could not resist the temptation to see what he had turned down. He opened his door just as one of the girls was tumbling into a culvert. A few seconds later he got a good look at their faces. Poor David spent the rest of the night pacing his room and chain smoking Canadian cigarettes, fearful they might return.
“My God,” he told me the next morning at breakfast as we prepared to judge the Futurity, I’m exhausted. I didn’t sleep a wink after those girls left. I knew I was going to be looking at some dogs today but I never expected to see them in the middle of the night.”
As we left the restaurant to head for the trial grounds, I saw headlights flash a signal at the far end of the Irving Big Stop’s parking lot. I snuck around there and found my confidential source, “Deep Throat,” crouched behind the wheel of his pickup truck. “I think I’ve got our boys,” he said.
“Who’s that?” I asked, glancing all around to make certain I hadn’t been followed.
“Dr. Kevorkian and Jack the Ripper,” he said. “They’re the masterminds behind the whole deal.” “Oh my God, not Kevorkian!” I exclaimed.
“And Jack! Don’t tell me the boycott of the Championship that lowered this year’s entries has driven them stark raving mad. Is it possible that they were so desperate for publicity and a boost in next year’s entries that they resorted to hookers to lure everyone back and attract a whole new crowd?” Kevorkian was my code name for Dr. David Calgagni, who is an anesthesiologist but is also president of the club sponsoring the North American Woodcock Championship.
And the club’s CEO, Jack Mayer, is also known as Jack the Ripper. Only a fool would dare to cross these two desperadoes.
“Desperate men will do anything,” Deep Throat asserted. “And believe me, I’m a pal. You wouldn’t want to tangle with David and Jack when they’re on the warpath. They didn’t get the code names Kevorkian and Jack the Ripper for nothing.”
And then with nary another word, Deep Throat fired his ignition and drove off slowly into the dawn’s early light, leaving me cold and fearful as I stood alone and pondered the wisdom of his words and the formidable implications toward the next thrilling chapter in this covert saga of woodcock and men.
Written by field trial reporter Everett M. Skehan, the reports were published in the November 14 and 28th, 1998 issues of the American Field. Everett was by this time likely in the thick of his research and writing for “Fields of Glory ~ Volume One ~ 1874 – 1930” published by the American Field in 2001. He also wrote two books on the fighter, Rocky Marciano. Everett died in his home in Maine on May 1, 2006.
Bill McFadden and star of the evening, Ch. Elhew Hustler enjoying the festivities
in her honor at the Fisherman’s Paradise, Moncton, New Brunswick.
1998 Winners of the North American Woodcock Championship. Bill McFadden
with Champion Elhew Hustler, Gerald Movelle with R-U Champion Movelle’s Gypsy.
Judges were Jack Brown and Craig Doherty.
1998 Winners of the North American Woodcock Futurity: 1st. Autumn Memory Bearheart,
Dr. David Calcagni, 2nd. Holy Smoke, Dr. Warren Sims, 3rd. Paucek’s Tokoma, Kellie Fogg
and 4th. Bad Company, Judd Libby. The judges were Everett Skehan and David Palmer.
Home to the International Amateur Woodcock Championship and the Miss Leslie Anderson
Derby Classic, Debec, New Brunswick. A right took you to Harold Hatfield’s grounds,
left to Andy Wishart’s.
Andy Wishart’s grounds in Debec, NB. Many a morning a moose was spotted on
the way to and sometimes on the grounds…spelling disaster to many a field trial contender!
Courses were cut along big open field edges and through tight pine forests and thick alder swales.
The path to my first pointer and FDSB field trials was via winning a silent auction bid of a Texas quail hunt in the late 90s. My boyfriend and I were attending a Ruffed Grouse Society banquet in Maine. I often wondered whether everyone else knew something about the enticingly described hunt as no one else seriously bid on it. The following winter, shotguns and a liver headed pointer in tow, we flew to Dallas/Fort Worth, rented a Suburban and drove westward toward the small town of Jayton. For the previous eight months, I had excitedly pictured our arrival at something akin to a smaller version of the King Ranch. My first suspicion that things were not going to be as I had anticipated crept upon me as we approached Jayton, a small, run-down town like so many across America. Main Street consisted of businesses and stores that had long ago closed their doors for good, aided by the opening of the nearest Walmart an hour away. A convenience/gas station was about all we found to pick up a few last minute necessities along with our hunting licenses. With directions in hand, we managed to find the dirt road we were instructed to take for a few miles to meet up with our “host” one William McFadden. At the designated meeting spot, we waited only a few short minutes before a cloud of dust appeared on the horizon. As the cloud grew in size and approached like a giant tumbleweed, it metamorphosed into a white Ford pickup speeding towards us across the Texas range.
A wide-grinning Bill McFadden got out of his truck, reached out his hand in greeting and I knew within minutes we were in for some kind of adventure, certainly not like anything we’d signed up for. Visions of the mini King Ranch faded into oblivion as we passed abandoned mobile homes and corrugated metal shacks following Bill for several miles to a small, one story 60s style house with various dog accommodation in the front and side yard. Nevermind, ever the optimist…here I was quail hunting in Texas for the first time! The next days were spent following Elhew Hustler, Doctor’s Kit, Howard Elhews, Siobhan and other pointers that thoroughly amazed me, running all over that rough, jumping cholla cactus strewn country, pointing wild coveys of quail the likes of which I had never seen. We never shot at any birds and didn’t care. The days sped by and we flew back to Maine. During that short, wacky adventure on the (now handsomely restored) Patterson Ranch, Jayton, TX, the seed was sown and within a year I had my first pointer pup, Mike.
The characters in the excerpts of Everett Skehan’s hilarious reports of the 1998 North American Woodcock Championship & Futurity were all to become friends and rivals. I did not attend those trials until the following year when I did stay at the infamous Scenic Motel. No need to describe that establishment beyond the cigarette smoke infested carpets, stained synthetic bed covers and paper thin towels! Until my move to Georgia, New Brunswick, Canada was on my field trial calendar most every fall. I ran my pointers in the North American Woodcock and the International Amateur Woodcock Championships, the “Miss Leslie” Derby Classic and the Woodcock Futurity and judged several of those. The people and places of New Brunswick of that era will forever hold some of my richest and fondest memories of field trial competition on wild birds, great times and fellowship. I count myself fortunate to have continued to add many more equally rich experiences and lasting friendships around the country. My gratitude goes to our ever amazing bird dogs who bind each of us to this unique field trial sport we hold so dear.
Mike watching the far-off flight of a pheasant I flushed for him.