2018 National Championship Week 1 Report
By: William S. Smith
Generally when a barren stand is credited in field trial competition it typically does not produce a good result, but there was an occasion in field trial history when two such instances quite possibly saved a business relationship, a friendship, and a career.
The 1967 edition of the Dominion Chicken Championship was contested on the spacious prairies surrounding Gainesboro, Saskatchewan in mid-September. The Dominion was the last of the Canadian prairie championships of the season. Well-known and respected judges Joe Hurdle of Holly Springs, Mississippi and Paul Treadway of Berkley, Michigan were chosen to arbitrate the event. Both having judged on the prairies previous to this occasion.
There were fifty-seven entries; fifty-four pointers and three setters. The roster included: Carbide Imp, Paladin’s Royal Heir, Wahoo’s Arkansas Ranger, The Hurricane, Red Water Rex, Flush’s Country Squire, Satilla Virginia Lady, White Knight’s Bullet, Sugarshack, Precise, fresh off his win in the All America, Riggins White Knight, Highway Man, David of Caddo, Safari, et.al.
History would be made here if Safari, handled by John Rex Gates, were to be named the winner. She and Warhoop Jake had both accumulated nine championships in their respective careers. If Safari could capture this crown she would be the first ever to win ten open championships. The Texas Ranger’s win record credited him with ten championships but one of them was an amateur title. If Safari was successful her ten open titles would be unparalleled in field trial history. This prestigious goal was something that Safari’s owner, S. H. Verdenburg of Montgomery, Alabama and her handlers, John S. Gates and his son, John Rex Gates, had hoped to achieve for their consistent performer. John S. had started Safari and he had handled her in her early years of development and competition but because of health issues John Rex had taken over the handling duties
It was a competitive trial with ample bird work and sufficient races but the judges could not agree and a second series was ordered. Safari, as she was known to do, laid down a far-reaching scorching race and was credited with three flawless finds in the first series. The other call back dog was The Hurricane. Hurricane also ran a true all-age prairie race and scored four times on chickens. These were the only two called back but there was a problem. John Rex had handled both dogs in the initial series. In the 1902 National Championship James Avent had handled two dogs in a second series simultaneously for the first and only time in history. That feat would not be reenacted here. It was decided that Colvin Davis would handle Hurricane and John Rex would pilot Safari.
Colvin was raised in south Alabama and he was a product of the outdoors. From an early age he had been around hunting and hunting dogs. He often accompanied his Dad when his Dad took many of the local residents on quail hunts. Quail were abundant during that era and Colvin reported that the saddle bags were usually stuffed with quail when the hunters returned from an all-day hunt. Some of these hunters were doctors and Mr. Davis would barter quail hunts for medical services if those services were needed. Colvin’s experience as a trainer began when the desire to have a quality bird dog was the impetus for some of the hunters to send their dogs to Colvin for training. Colvin had an affinity with these dogs and with his success he began to think of training as a career.
John S. Gates, fondly known as Cap’n John, also hailed from south Alabama. He and Colvin’s Dad had been friends for a significant part of their lives and had even double-dated on occasions. From this connection Colvin contacted Cap’n John and inquired if he could make the summer trip to Canada with the Gates camp. This was the first meeting between Colvin and John Rex Gates. He and John Rex would develop an unwavering friendship in the coming years. Cap’n John asked Colvin what he expected for pay and Colvin replied that he just wanted to go and did not expect any pay. The Cap’n told Colvin that he could not do that and he would pay him $500.00 for the summer if he was willing to work throughout the training season in Broomhill, Manitoba, the location of the Gates’ camp. Colvin didn’t have to think twice about it and jumped on the chance to go. That first summer was 1964, Colvin was 25 years old. He would return to the Gates’ camp in Broomhill through 1974 employed by Cap’n John.
Colvin was allowed to take two paying dogs to summer camp. The two happened to be setters and they were worked almost every day as Colvin wanted to prove to everyone that he could break these two dogs this summer. Colvin wanted these two dogs to be the best in the camp. As the summer wore on, both dogs began to be less and less interested in finding and pointing chickens. Colvin went to Mr. Gates for advice and before he could ask Cap’n John said “I know what you’re going to ask.” He told Colvin to put the dogs up and quit working them until about a week before they closed the camp. When Colvin worked the dogs again he was amazed at their desire and intensity. Cap’n John told Colvin that he had overworked the dogs. That was a lesson Colvin never forgot.
In 1967 Colvin had been employed by Cap’n John for four summers. He had been provided room and board in the Gates camp. He had been given the opportunity by Cap’n John to pursue his goal to become a professional trainer. He had been introduced to the prairies and he had been tutored by Cap’n John. He had spent four summers in the Gates’ camp. He and John Rex had become close personal friends and now he was to handle Hurricane in the call back against Safari, his employer, and his friend. Colvin was in a hard spot. The talk that night was; “You know ole Joe could beat Judy.” Colvin knew that Hurricane could beat Safari. Colvin had handled Hurricane in the All America just a few weeks prior. The question that Colvin pondered was; “What will happen if Hurricane wins?” The words “ole Joe could beat Judy” kept running through his mind. Although it was possible that Safari could be beaten no one in the Gates camp told or insinuated that Colvin should do anything wrong. On the contrary he was told to do his best.
When they broke away in the call back, Safari raced ahead seeming to know what was at stake. Hurricane went into a strip of cover and shortly thereafter Colvin saw him on point. At this time no one had seen Hurricane except Colvin and he knew that if he called point and flushed a bird that the dogs would be ordered up. But he didn’t have a choice. With reservations he raised his cap. It was a long ride to the statuesque Hurricane. Colvin attempted to flush but was unable to put a bird to wing. The relocation was not fruitful. Colvin was told to continue. Only minutes later Hurricane was standing again. The same negative thoughts crept through Colvin’s mind again as he rode to Hurricane. In his thinking there was no doubt that Hurricane had birds this time. As Colvin walked in front of the intense Hurricane he wrestled with his mixed emotions because he expected birds to lift at any second. But they did not; there were no birds. The relocation was unsuccessful and because this was Hurricane’s second barren stand the dogs were ordered up and Safari was declared the champion. The time had been less than ten minutes for the entire scene to unfold. The “what if” question would never have to be answered. Dave Fletcher reported the trial and he said this about Safari in the call back: “Safari rolled to a hilltop from the breakaway and made perhaps the most spectacular cast of the season. She hunted her way to clumps fully a mile in front, and had we not been on a pronounced rise we could not have seen her move forward until a speck.” (Am Field, Oct.7, 1967, pg. 348) It took some time for John Rex to finally get a rope on her. Safari would be retired after her history-making performance.
Safari had won the National Championship the year before in 1966 at ten years of age. It was the eighth time she had competed for the title of National Champion. John Rex handled and, at that time, became the youngest handler to ever win the National at twenty-five years of age. She was eleven years young when she recorded her tenth open championship. A remarkable feat because of her age and by her winning she quite possibly saved a business relationship between Colvin and Cap’n John and also possibly a friendship with Colvin and John Rex.
Colvin ran shooting dogs when he was in the Gates’ camp and the Gateses ran all-age dogs. Colvin had a dog in his string that his father had bought and given to him. The dog’s name was Blue Monday. Mr. Bill Allen, famed reporter for the American Field, had owned the dog at one time and had sold him for $2500.00. The new owner had fallen on hard times and Mr. Davis purchased Monday for $1500.00, a considerable amount of money in those days. Colvin said that you couldn’t call Monday white and black because he was mostly black with white markings. Some on the shooting dog circuit called Monday a “blue ticked hound.” Regardless of his looks he was a bird dog. In a trial in South Georgia he once carded 13 flawless finds in an hour. When Monday became a consistent winner the criticism of his markings disappeared. He was Colvin’s first “money” dog and he literally put food on the table during some hard times.
Colvin and Mazie were married in 1974. Colvin did not go back to Broomhill in 1975 or 1976, but he returned in 1977 and 1978 working for John Rex. Matters at home kept Colvin in Alabama for the next three years. In 1982 he returned to Broomhill but this time he went to his own camp established about three miles from the Gates’ camp with fifteen paying dogs. It was the first year of being on his own on the all-age circuit. When Colvin returned to Broomhill in the summer of 2017 it was his 35th time to occupy the same camp he originally leased in 1982.
Sun Browned Honey belonged to Mr. J. F. “Tobe” Stallings of Montgomery, Alabama. She was the first dog of note in Colvin’s all-age string and she was known to have great stamina. In summer camp Colvin worked her one morning but could not catch her when he wanted to pick her up. So Colvin just kept working her and worked her all morning. He was only able to catch her in the afternoon when she came to him for water. She did not point many birds in a workout and when she did she had a level tail. Her demeanor changed in a field trial and when she pointed she pointed with a straight-up twelve o’clock tail. Somehow she knew the difference between a workout and a trial. Her ground effort was always fast and forward. She was called back in the 1986 Free For All on race; a rare occurrence.
Colvin had never lost Honey in a workout or in a trial but in 1987 at the Border International at Stoughton, Saskatchewan he lost her for the first time and he never saw her again. He stayed over for a week looking for her and even chartered an airplane to conduct an aerial search but to no avail. To this day no one knows what happened to her. She was qualified for the upcoming National in February of 1988.
Pink Lightning, call name Sissy, was also owned by Mr. Tobe Stallings. She was a kennel mate of Sun Browned Honey. In 1987 toward the end of the Canadian prairie trial season Sissy became ill while at the Davis camp as they were preparing to break camp for the long journey home. Colvin could tell it was a serious illness and he drove the 2000 miles straight through from Broomhill to his home in Minter, Alabama to get her to his veterinarian. Sissy died on the operating table during the attempt to save her life. She was also qualified for the 1988 National. The Davis banner would not fly in the 1988 National because of the disappearance and death of these two dogs.
The unfortunate loss of Honey and Lightning would allow a previously rejected dog a third chance to redeem herself.
Mr. Tate Kline of Ohio was a friend of Mr. Stallings. When he heard of the misfortune of Mr. Stalling he sent an eight week old puppy as a gift for Mr. Stallings to Colvin via Collier Smith. Mr. Stallings registered the young female as Quicksilver Pink. Her call name was Dorothy. Her sire was Mr. Kline’s multiple champion and 1987 and 1989 National Champion, Whippoorwill Rebel. Her dam was Whippoorwill’s High Ann. The litter was bred by Mr. Kline’s son, Andy.
Dorothy had spent the first two summers of her life on the Canadian prairies, but she did not show any promise and Colvin sent her home to Mr. Stallings. Dorothy was two years old when disaster struck with the loss of Honey and Lightening. Mr. Stallings sent Dorothy back to Colvin to give her a second chance even though she had no field trial experience and because she was the only candidate Mr. Stallings had at the time. Colvin took her back but he really did not believe she would develop into an all-age contender. Every time he went to the kennel to get her, she rolled up on her back with her legs pointed skyward and refused to get up. She would not penetrate briars in a workout and Colvin had to literally drag her into the brambles or she simply would not go. After what Colvin believed was ample time for Dorothy to come around, she did not and he quit her for the second time and informed Mr. Stallings he was through with her. Later Mr. Stallings persuaded Colvin to give her one more chance. Colvin reluctantly agreed with the provision that he could send her to Man Rand for him to force break her to retrieve. Man Rand accomplished the deed and Dorothy was returned to the Davis Kennel. However she was not the same when she returned. For some unknown reason a miraculous make-over had occurred and she began to show promise. She was no longer timid and shy but she had become bold and venturesome. She made the trip back to Broomhill that summer and began to compete on the all-age circuit that fall even though she had missed her entire derby season. She became one of those dogs who had such a desire to find game that neither heat nor cold affected her. She was all or nothing. When Colvin finished her she usually won or placed in the trial. Her two greatest assets became her nose and her stamina. She would go on to record 20 victories on the major circuit in the ten years she competed and attain ten championships and three runner-up championships. The pinnacle of her career was in 1991 when she was crowned National Champion and she also captured the prestigious Purina Award the same year. Had it not been for extremely bad circumstances Dorothy would never have been given three opportunities to prove her mettle. She died on May 20, 2001, just three months shy of her 17th birthday. She would be Colvin’s only National Champion.
An interesting note about Dorothy was her memory. On a workout in Canada one day Dorothy did not come around and the search for her was futile. Colvin remembered that she had found chickens in the old Phillips alfalfa field in another workout and that’s where he found her pointing over a mile away in the same bush as before. Larry Huffman scouted Dorothy in the Hobart Ames Open and the National in 1991; both contested on the Ames Plantation in Grand Junction, Tennessee. Before Dorothy ran in the National Colvin told Larry that if they missed her Larry should look at the places she had found birds in the Hobart Ames Open. On two occasions when Dorothy was out of pocket Larry found her standing where she had scored in the Open a month before. Larry reported that she was almost standing in her month old tracks.
Humor has always been a part throughout Colvin’s career, but many times there is logic in his cryptic responses. A few years ago a client sent a couple of dogs with Colvin for summer training. The client called frequently for information about the progress of his dogs. One day the client said, “My friend would like to have that old dog of mine. I’m thinking about giving her to him. What do you think?” Without missing a beat Colvin said, “He’s not your best friend is he?” When another client inquired about the progress of his dog Colvin told him he needed to look for another prospect because his dog was not going to make the cut. The client responded, “Can you just dispose of him?” Colvin replied, “No. I’m not in the shooting dog business.” Once a prospective client asked Colvin to take dogs on the summer trip with the stipulation that he was not to use a training collar on them. Colvin said he couldn’t take them. The client said. “Well you can take them and just tell me you won’t put the collars on them.” Colvin responded, “No I’m not going to lie to you because that’s exactly what it sounds like they need!” Once while in competition Pleasant Run Dot had been handling kindly but had not been seen for a time. Colvin was puzzled where she had gone but then she appeared to the front. Colvin called her in to water her and discovered her collar was missing. Someone in the gallery offered the use of the collar. Colvin thanked them and said, “I’ll just leave the collar off because if she gets tangled up again she may not be able to slip it.”
Colvin has also used some unorthodox methods in his training that achieved some astonishing results. Farm Boy could not resist running the roads. Whenever he got the chance he would hit the road and be gone. On the way back to camp from a workout one day Colvin put Boy out on a boundary road in Canada that was seldom used and left him. Two days later Boy showed up at the kennel. Colvin took him back to the same section road with the same result. The next weekend Boy won first place in a trial. He had a derby one year in Canada that refused to go forward when he was released. He always without fail went backward. The owner was aware of the situation but wanted Colvin to run him in an upcoming derby stake. Colvin agreed but warned that the results would not be good. Just before breakaway Colvin turned his horse around backward. When the derby was released he took one look at Colvin and went the other way which in reality was to the front. They took second place in the stake for the one and only time the dog ever placed. Colvin and Mazie were working in Canada one day when Lester’s Absolute was a young dog. Colvin told Mazie that there were three coveys of Chickens between where they were and the next boundary road. He said Absolute should point all three and if he does just ride off and leave him on the first two finds. Don’t flush his birds and don’t say anything to him---just ignore him. When he points the third time flush his birds. The scenario played out as Colvin had anticipated. He explained his theory later that Absolute had to learn that he had to stay in front and that he couldn’t point every chicken he found. The result? Absolute went on to win multiple championships including the esteemed Quail Invitational. In a four year span Absolute won the Invitational two times and was runner-up twice and he was named the Purina Top Dog Award winner in 2004.
Colvin along with wife, Mazie, traveled and competed on the all-age circuit for some thirty plus years and in those years they produced over forty championships. The National Championship is naturally on every handlers’ bucket list to win and it was a thrilling and rewarding experience for Colvin and Mazie as a reward for all the long days and hard work of preparation and participation. The Free for All also ranked high on most of the older trainers’ wish lists as a trial to win. The format for the Free For All has been changed recently and many of the trainers in Colvin’s era feel the change diminishes the expectations for the trial. Once upon a time the qualifying stake was one hour and the call back was three hours. Many felt that it was a truer test of a dog’s endurance compared to the National. Colvin won the Free For All four times with: Sun Browned Honey in 1986, Pleasant Run Dot in 1996, Quicksilver Gold in 2004, and White Powder Pete in 2006. Some of the other notable trials Colvin won are: the Southern Championship three times, the Saskatchewan Chicken Championship four times, the Manitoba Championship three times, the Dominion Chicken Championship, the Border International, the Hobart Ames Open in 1991 with a record entry of 106, the Alabama Championship, and the Southland Championship. Colvin won the Biscuit Handler of the year award two times, the All-Age Handler of the year twice, and was the handler of the Purina Top Dog Award winner three times.
Broomhill once served as the headquarters for the trials contested there, but with the demise of the local club the trials ceased. It had been many years since a trial had been held on the spacious prairies of Broomhill. Colvin was determined to bring the trials back and with his guidance the Broomhill Field Trial Club was formed. The year 1995 would see field trials return to Broomhill when the Alabama Prairie was hosted in August by the newly formed club. Colvin also established the John S. Gates Memorial Open Derby Classic in the same year as a tribute to his mentor, Cap’n John. During the infancy of this derby classic Colvin personally guaranteed a purse of $5,000 and he was true to his word. The Pelican relocated to Broomhill from Louisiana the following year in 1996. Now there were two qualifying trials headquartered at the Davis camp. The inaugural of the Manitoba Championship was held in Carmen, Manitoba in 1902 but had not run since 1941. After a 64 year hiatus the Manitoba Championship was resurrected in 2005 in Broomhill due mainly to the efforts of Colvin and today is a much anticipated event by the field trial fraternity and the local communities. It is true that Colvin gained much from field trials but it is also true that field trials gained much because of Colvin’s efforts to promote the sport. He always gave back in measure what he received. In 2006 he accepted the ultimate compliment the field trial community could bestow on him when he was elected to the Field Trial Hall of Fame. Not bad for a career that could have hinged on a lone Prairie Chicken in 1967.
If a survey were to be taken of anyone who had ever judged a field trial probably the one thing that would appear on every bucket list would be to have the opportunity to judge the National at least one time. It is certainly a distinction to be selected but with that opportunity comes much responsibility. The assignment is never taken lightly by those chosen. It is an arduous, grueling task. Days and weeks in the saddle devoting 100% concertation to every entry takes a toll on the stamina and energy level of each arbiter. The assignment is accepted knowing full well the effort that the endeavor will require. Jim Crouse returned from his home in Dixon, Kentucky to mediate for his seventh occasion. Jim has the added responsibility this year as senior judge. Jadie Rayfield of Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina returned for his sophomore year. An unforeseen circumstance was responsible for a vacancy in the third judge’s saddle. Center Director, Rick Carlisle, accepted the request to fill the vacant position for his fourth time to judge this event. All three of these gentlemen have years of field trial experience and are well respected by the field trial community. Ryan Braddock performed the duties of the front marshal while Chris Weatherly assisted as the rear marshal. Both Ryan and Chris are familiar with almost every inch of the Plantation and their knowledge of the courses is invaluable.
Another year has passed us by and we are amazed at the rapidity of its passing. The Apostle James in his Epistle said that “life is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” Many have left these hollowed grounds despondent and disappointed with the vow to return next year but some never get that opportunity for whatever reason. Time is of the essence and taking advantage of the opportunity to achieve the title of National Champion should never be taken lightly. Of course the owners and trainers recognize this fact. If only they could convey it to their dogs! Many of the owners and trainers have labored in the past year to requalify for this year’s running. Others have worked to meet the requirements as a first time qualifier. No matter whether it’s the first time or if you’ve competed here before it is a special distinction to be included in the best of the best. The summer of 2017 was a harsh and brutal summer for the trainers who went north for summer training. Drought conditions in the Midwest caused the cancellation of three of the premier prairie championships last fall. Sparse cover, dry conditions, and the lack of water on the training grounds were huge obstacles to overcome, especially for the younger dogs. Some of the trainers left their training grounds early in order to prevent any negative impacts because of the lack of birds and the barren landscape. But hardships do not define the dedicated trainers and they resorted to other means of preparing and their presence here is a testimony to their hard work of overcoming set-backs and complications. The old adage, “where there is a will, there is a way,” demonstrates the determination of the owners and trainers to be included in the company of those competing for the title of 2018 National Champion. They are to be commended for their efforts.
This occasion marks the 122nd year since the inaugural running of the National in 1896 on the grounds at West Point, Mississippi. This year also denotes the 110th time that the Ames Plantation has hosted the National. The National was contested here for the first time in 1902 and continued through the 1909 running. It returned to the Ames in 1915 and has been contended here without interruption through the 2018 running except for 1964 when the proceedings were cancelled because of the diminished number of quail. The courses are much the same as when Hobart Ames laid them out so many years ago. The historic plantation is synonymous with the National Championship. The mention of either causes one to think of the other.
And then the rains came. Clouds began building Friday afternoon February 10th with the threat of rain becoming a reality during the night. Heavy showers continued throughout the night and into early Saturday morning. Showers, sometimes heavy, lasted all day and into the night again. A brief reprieve Saturday night that was short lived when moderate to heavy down pours returned and greeted the soggy Sunday morning. Recent snow and rains have saturated the ground in the area around Grand Junction and the footing for people, dogs and horses was a concern.
For numerous people the National is THE event of the year. Many travel long distances to attend and a significant number of local citizens frequent the events surrounding the actual running. Some of the attendees do not ride in the galleries anymore, but come to be reacquainted with old friends and to reminisce about bygone days. The yearly pilgrimage is anxiously anticipated by some but for others years have passed before an opportunity to return is realized. Mr. Hal Whitaker owned a puppy out of the 1946 National Champion, Mississippi Zev, and he attended the National with his father in the 1950’s. He said he could remember his father waking him at 3 A.M. to begin the long drive from Clarksdale, Mississippi to ride in the National. Mr. Whitaker is in the eighth decade of his life and it has been a long time since he visited the Ames Plantation. He remembered making arrangements with the horse wrangler to pick his mount for the day. He remembered eating lunch that was served on saw horses with boards for table tops in the vicinity of the Brick Stable and in close proximity to the Manor House. He recalled that he had always wanted to visit inside the manor house but the opportunity had never presented itself. Mr. Whitaker was invited to travel from his home in Eupora, Mississippi to Grand Junction by his friend, Kent Patterson, to attend Mr. Patterson’s induction into the Brittany Hall of Fame. Upon learning of Mr. Whitaker’s desire he was given a special invitation to attend a reception in the Ames Manor House. Mr. Whitaker said over and over, “This is a dream come true.” The Plantation is special in many ways to many people. Sometimes we may not realize just how special a visit to the Plantation or the Manor House can be. Dreams do come true but not always on the green steps at the conclusion of the trial.
Bryan Hall was once again the setting for the drawing to pair the rivals on Saturday night February 10. As usual it was a standing room only crowd with the accepted dress code being anything that would shed water. Center Director Dr. Rick Carlisle again assumed the duties of Master of Ceremonies as he acknowledged the sponsors and gave credit to all those whose efforts make this trial the greatest and most prestigious in the world. The trustees of the Hobart Ames Foundation, Mr. Oliver Spalding, Ms. Augusta Haydock, Mr. Robert Frey, and Mrs. Dian Quinn, were in attendance. This occasion was Mrs. Quinn’s first time to attend the drawing ceremonies and she served her “initiation” when Dr. Carlisle selected her to assist with selecting the competitor’s corresponding number from the squirrel cage. There were forty-two drawn to compete this year—forty pointers and two setters. Seven females qualified and six were drawn in season. There were no issues with the dogs in season and the ceremony was completed rather quickly as compared to recent years.
The First Week
In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail. Vince Lombardi
Monday Morning February 12 the first brace of the 2018 National featured Mega Blackhawk Progeny handled by Steve Hurdle. Korry Reinhart scouted for owner Brad Kennedy who was in the saddle for his entry. Touch’s Game Point piloted by Mark McLean and assisted by Ike Todd completed the pairing. Point’s owners, Dr. Reuben Richardson and Tony Gibson, were not present. It was 29 degrees with a biting north wind when the action began at 8:05. Hawk went to the east edge and carried held it to the north end of the field. Touch went straightaway to the north edge and met Hawk as they went through the gap headed toward the pond dam. They were in tandem across the dam. Both scouts were dispatched at Heartbreak Hill. Hurdle and Hawk were reunited at Joe Woody before crossing Ellington Road. McLean scanned A.T’s before he crossed Ellington where Touch joined him. Hawk was pointed out in the neck on Morgan Field before disappearing toward Morgan Swamp. Reinhart was sent to investigate. Touch held the west line before he too disappeared in the swamp. Neither was seen across the New Basin Dam but both were in the front at L.B. Avent house place. Hawk was pointed out in the Turner Longneck Field in a soy bean strip when he styled up at 31. Hurdle flew the covey and the first find of the 2018 National was in the books. Touch on the west edge and Hawk on the east as they headed for Turner Basin. Both scouts were out through the Turner Pines as both handlers continued to call on their dogs. Touch was pointed out in the Turner Ditch North field before crossing Turner Ditch. Hurdle was relieved to spy Hawk as he went over Govan Hill. McLean called point for Touch at 49. McLean elected to relocate when he could not put anything to wing. Touch did not disappoint with everything in order on his first find of the day. Past Govan Hill both dogs were together past the old Dunn property as they headed for National Championship crossing. Hawk went to the south side of Mary Scott Out Front and then reversed and went toward the second hour breakaway point with Hurdle and Reinhart in pursuit. Touch was standing at 1:07 at the junction of No Man’s Land and the Lowlands. When Judge Crouse arrived, McLean said that a single bird had flushed wild. Judge Crouse told McLean that he had not seen the bird and McLean sent Touch on ahead. They worked through the National Championship fields and crossed Turner Road into the Tennessee Field and headed toward the gap into Morgan. Hawk was pointed out through the Gap. Touch was last seen on the east edge just north of the Big Oak Field. Hawk was standing at 1:38 in the Morgan Field in the west neck in a soy bean strip. Hurdle informed the judges that the birds had gone and fired his pistol. No credit was given here for bird work as the birds were not officially seen. At about 1:40 McLean turned back at the Supermarket Field to search for Touch. He found him standing where he was last seen in the Tennessee Field just north of the Big Oak Field. A tightly bunched covey took wing when McLean stepped in front of Touch at 1:45. The handlers guided their charges through Climmie Clark and Edward Clark South, No Man’s Land, Edward Clark Pines, and the Long Mudhole Fields without benefit of bird work. Hawk was rewarded for his efforts at 2:04 in the Keegan Bottom where he had a flawless find before crossing Keegan’s Ditch. Both Handlers had their dogs through Jim Braddic and Tobe Polk. Touch was out of pocket at Edward Clark North and McLean asked for the retrieval device at 2:23. Hawk made some good moves through Edward Clark North and Pine Hill Cutover. Hurdle turned into Edward Clark Pasture with Hawk not in sight. At 2:25 Reinhart called point for Hawk standing in sage grass just northwest of the Pasture. A nice covey exploded with Hawk standing erect and unmoving at the in shot. Hawk toured Climmie Clark and crossed National Championship into the Supermarket Field and on into the Morgan Field. He crossed Ellington and finished his bid across the pond dam almost back to the morning breakaway field.
Brace number two featured Erin’s Redrum owned and handled by Sean Derrig and assisted by Nick Thompson. Lester’s Jazz Man handled by Randy Anderson with help from Tiffany Genre completed the pairing with owner Dan Hensley also mounted to observe the action. They were off at 1:16 P.M. with the temperature still on the cold side because of the continuing north wind. They took their separate paths through the East Pasture and continued into the Jim Miller Field. They were together as they entered Buster Graves with Man going straight ahead and Redrum going to the south side. Derrig’s cap was in the air at 11 when he spied Redrum standing in a mowed strip pointing into the sage. A covey took wing when Derrig stepped in front of the quiet dog. Everything in order at the shot. Across Ames Road both went ahead into George Kemp East. Redrum was seen on the north edge of the field when he turned to face the sage and brambles and stood erect. He corrected and moved on before Derrig could get to him. He moved about thirty yards to the west and established point again. Anderson, at 27, declaring that Man was on point in the vicinity of Redrum. When the judges arrived Man was standing in the mowed strip, high and tight. Birds flew when Anderson flushed. Both handlers shot. Man was credited with a find and Redrum a back. They made quick work of the Horseshoe and the Chute and were next seen pointing facing each other in the old Hays Crossing Field. Both handlers flushed and both dogs were credited with an unproductive stand and a mutual back at 47. They made the swing past the Strawberry Patch and by Prospect Church down into Turkey Bottom. From there they moved up Pine Hill and crossed the Harris Field and on through Kerry Seven Acres. At 1:43 they were just east of the old Agronomy Shed standing twenty yards apart pointing into the weeds adjacent to the field road. A divided find was credited here. Across Caesar Ditch they raced up Cox’s Ridge and went into Carlisle Corner. Anderson found Man standing in a food plot at the top of Fason Ridge. On the relocation attempt birds were officially seen in the air with the dog moving. Anderson elected to pick up at 2:27. Redrum was out of pocket through Fason Ridge, A.T’s House Place, the Supermarket Field, and Morgan Field. Derrig located him in the first food patch south of Morgan. It was a nice find as the birds quickly vacated the patch at 2:55. As Redrum was leaving a sleeper took to wing and Redrum honored the flight of the bird at 2:56. Derrig sent him across Ellington Road where he finished just past the pond dam in the morning breakaway field.
Dominators Rebel Heir handled by Jamie Daniels with help from Scout Ike Todd was the top dog in the third brace. Owner Jim Hamilton was riding to watch his color-bearer. Erin’s Muddy River piloted by Robin Gates and assisted by Nick Thompson completed the twosome. Owner Tommy Hamilton could not be here today. The mercury stood at 37 degrees at 8:04 when they were loosed. Both went to the east edge of the Out Front Field and carried it to the north end of the field and went through the gap toward the pond dam, River was staunch at 3 minutes unto the brace on the east side of the field. As Gates rode to him, he corrected and went ahead. River kept to the south of Heartbreak Hill and Gates pointed him out as he crossed Ellington Road. Scout Todd was sent out at Heartbreak Hill with Daniels also looking for Heir. Heir was back in the front as we neared the south end of Morgan Field. River was first across Turner Road with Heir AWOL at the time. Scout Todd found Heir standing in a soy bean strip on the north end of the L.B. Avent field at 29. Daniels arrived and put the nice covey to wing—Heir unmoving at the shot. They sped through Turner Longneck, through the Basin Field and moved rapidly into the Turner Ditch Fields. Heir took the north field and River took the south. They were together at the ditch crossing and went across in tandem. River was seen making a cast in the Tom Hert field and Heir made his way over Govan Hill. Scout Todd found Heir pointing again at 53 on the north side of Govan. The flushing attempt coupled with an extended relocation was not successful and Heir was credited with an unproductive stand. River had gone on toward National Championship Drive and Heir caught up just before the road crossing. Daniels had his cap in the air at 1:04 when he saw Heir stacked up just east of the Mary Scott Basin and just west of the entrance to the Lowlands. Birds lifted as Daniels approached and Heir displayed perfect manners at the shot. River was credited with a nice back of his brace mate here. Gates decided to save River for another day at 1:14 and picked him up on the south end of the Lowlands. Heir took in the Lowlands, Locust Turn, the Tennessee Field and the Morgan Field without any the benefit of any bird work and crossed National Championship Road at Kyle’s Barn. Heir was out of pocket in Edward Clark South when the distant call of POINT was heard. Heir had veered off back into the Lowlands where Todd found him standing for the third time. Heir again displayed good manners at the flush and shot. Heir was standing again at 2:29 in the old food patch in Edward Clark North. Daniels could not produce any birds here and Heir was credited with his second unproductive stand. Heir finished his bid in the Morgan Field at the T Piece crossing.
It was 52 degrees when Phillips Field Line and Cassique Boss began the competition at 1:12 P.M in the fourth brace. Randy Anderson was in charge of Line and Tiffany Genre was assisting. Line’s owner, Don Stroble, was in the saddle to watch his dog’s performance. Steve Hurdle handled Boss and Korry Rinehart was the scout. Rick Stallings, Boss’s owner, was not present. Both went straight away when they were released. Hurdle sent Reinhart toward Hog Town in the Jim Miller Field and Anderson did likewise to Genre a few minutes later. Line was retrieved by Genre and Line was back in front in Buster Graves. Hurdle was back with Boss at the gravel drive. After crossing Ames Road, both scouts were sent out. Line and Boss came off Cedar Hill and hooked up with their handlers on the west end of George Kemp. Line took the edge in the big field at the top of the horseshoe. Boss was pointed out past Peter Pugh headed toward the Chute. Anderson called point for Line at 44 on the north end of the Chute. The flushing attempt revealed an Armadillo and Line was sent ahead. Line was standing again at 51 in a food patch south of the Strawberry Patch. This stand was fruitless and an unproductive was credited. Boss was already by the Strawberry Patch and Line caught up at the Demonstration Farm. Line was watered at Prospect Church. Boss was a pretty picture at 1:08 standing just south of Prospect. A large covey lifted as Hurdle approached and Boss watched his quarry disappear into the pines. Ten minutes later at 1:18 Boss scored his second find on the south edge of the Lawrence Smith Barn Field; another sizeable covey. They were together in Turkey Bottom. Boss went up Pine Hill and Hurdle informed Anderson that Line was standing in the food patch in the south west corner of the bottom. Anderson was not able to flush a bird and Line was picked up after a relocation attempt at 1:28. In the meantime Boss had gone into the Harris field. Scout Reinhart had not come back from a previous assignment and Hurdle asked permission for Brad Kennedy, owner of Mega Blackhawk Progeny, to assist. Kennedy made a successful retrieval and Hurdle sent Boss into Kerry Seven Acres. At the entrance to the Agronomy Unit Hurdle decided to call it quits and Boss was leashed at 1:46.
There was a mist of rain when Touch’s Adams County and Shadow’s White Warrior toed the mark for the fifth brace. Randy Anderson was handling County with Tiffany Genre performing the scouting duties. County’s owner, Ric Peterson, was in the gallery to observe. Nick Thompson scouted and Robin Gates handled Warrior for owner Carl Bowman who was also mounted. It was 8:06 and 59 degrees when the call to “turn em loose” was heard. Warrior was first to the gap headed to the pond dam with Line close behind. Warrior stayed south of Heartbreak Hill and Gates sent him across Ellington Road at Joe Woody. Genre was sent to check out Heartbreak Hill and Anderson went to look in A.T’s House Place. Anderson was back with County in the Morgan Field and both dogs took the old course toward the L.B. Avent field with both scouts shortly behind them. Warrior was back with Gates as we approached the Avent house. Warrior crossed Turner and was quickly into Turner Longneck. Anderson brought County into the Longneck at the lower road crossing and both dogs were a pretty sight as they rimmed the east side of the large field. County was last seen at about 30 in the Longneck Field and would not be returned to judgment. Warrior took the old course at Turner Basin and Thompson was sent that way. Warrior hunted the Turner Ditch South field and crossed Turner Ditch. He made a swing through the Tom Hert Field and was seen passing Govan Hill and was next seen standing at 56 just south of the old Dunn property. Showers had moved into the area and it was evident that Warrior was feeling the effect of the cold rain. However, no exceptions were taken as to his manners at the shot. Only five minutes later Warrior carded his second find at 1:01 almost to National Championship Drive at the Mary Scott Crossing. He was steady as the shot echoed all around. He went across Mary Scott Dam and turned into Lowlands. Another shower came and this time the rain was somewhat harder. Warrior showed his grit as he continued to hunt and run through the thick cover. Gates crossed National Championship after Warrior had already crossed and he lifted his cap for the third time at 1:18. A large covey took flight as Gates arrived, Warrior was cold and Gates dried him off with a towel before releasing him. Warrior’s determination was evident as he continued through Locust Turn, Turner Longneck, the Tennessee Field and through the gap into the Morgan Field. Conditions had not improved and in fact were getting worse. It was very evident that Warrior was feeling the effects of the cold, wet weather. Gates elected to pick up at 1:41 rather than risk Warrior’s health or an injury.
The sixth brace was drawn to run Wednesday afternoon. The rain had continued all morning and the afternoon running was delayed for 20 minutes because of moderate to heavy rain showers. When the rain subsided it was decided to try to get the brace in since more rain was forecasted for the latter part of the week. At 9 minutes into the brace the conditions worsened to the point that safety was a concern and it was decided to pick the brace up at that time and that the brace would be run the following morning (Thursday). Over 20 years ago the NFTCA agreed that if a brace was picked up in less than 10 minutes the brace would be moved to the next brace. If the brace was picked up after 10 minutes the brace would be moved to the last brace of the trial.
Coldwater Thunder handled by Steve Hurdle and assisted by Korry Reinhart were paired with Whippoorwill Foto Op guided by Larry Huffman and scouted by Nick Thompson. Thunder’s owners Doug Arthur and Rachel Blackwell were on hand to lend support. Foto Op is owned by Ken and Sue Blackman, who were observing from the road gallery. The temperature was 29 degrees on opening morning and at breakaway this morning it was 66 at 8:02 when the action began. They raced to the long feed plot on the east side of the Out Front Field and disappeared through the gap toward the pond dam. Foto Op was seen just south of Heartbreak Hill but this would be the last time she would be seen under judgment. Hurdle went into A.T’s House Place and returned with Thunder and sent her across Ellington Road. Hurdle spied Thunder standing at 15 on the southwest corner of Morgan on the south end of the tree line. Thunder unmoving at wing and shot. She was across Turner Road at 26 and Hurdle pointed her out as she entered the Turner Longneck. Hurdle displayed his confidence in her as he rode to the front and called on her. There is a field road in the north corner of this field and many dogs are drawn to it, but Thunder heeded Hurdle’s call and completed her impressive cast. She went into Turner Basin and Hurdle called point for her again. She was standing on the edge of a food patch intense and looking into the milo stalks. Birds flew as Hurdle approached, Thunder again rock solid at wing and shot. Thunder raced across Turner Dam and went south in the pines. Hurdle sent Reinhart into Turner Ditch North and he searched the south field. At 48 Reinhart called point but Thunder corrected and moved ahead before Hurdle arrived. We crossed Turner Ditch and Thunder was seen as she went over Govan Hill. She was responding to Hurdle’s every command as she hunted the small patches and fields to National Championship Road. Across the road, she took in the Mary Scott Barn Field. She handled the rough country through the Lowlands and went into National Championship North. She wheeled to a stop at 1:22 and notched her third flawless find. She came out of Locust Turn and made a swing around the Longneck field, never leaving the edge, before entering the Avent Field. She was on the north end of the Morgan Swamp when she styled up. Hurdle called point but Thunder moved ahead. She worked the scent out and moved into a small scope of woods where she stacked up again at 1:46. The flushing attempt failed and Thunder’s co-owner, Rachel Blackwell, informed Hurdle that she had seen the covey lift and informed him that the birds had flown to the near tree line. Hurdle sent Thunder to that location and she wasted little time in penning the covey. It was a pretty piece of work and Thunder was credited with her fourth find. She made impressive casts through Climmie Clark South, Edward Clark South and toured through No Man’s Land still strong and running with determination. She was looking for new territory through the Northwest of Pines and the Long Mudhole Fields as Hurdle continued to let her show her stuff. Reinhart was sent out in the Jim Braddic Field and he found Thunder standing for the fifth time. She had hit the scent hard as she skidded to a stop. Her head was bent to her right side just about as far as she could bend it. Hurdle flushed and even in her uncomfortable position, she stood without flinching. In Edward Clark North Hurdle’s hat was in the air again at 2:36 in the old food patch. The birds lifted wild and were not officially seen. Hurdle elected to take Thunder on and not to attempt a relocation. Birds were ridden up by the gallery as they left the area. Thunder made another cast around Edward Clark Pines west of the road just before going over Cut Over Pine Hill. She searched through Edward Clark Pasture and then made quick work of Climmie Clark North. In Climmie Clark South she held the edge all the way to National Championship Road. She was through the Supermarket Field and into the Morgan still running at the pace at which she started and finished her three hour bid going away.
The high temperature of 72 degrees perhaps may have been a sign of foreboding when Strut Nation and Whippoorwill Assault were sent away at 1:20 P.M. Larry Huffman handled Assault with Nick Thompson scouting. Piper Huffman along with Assault’s owner, Jim Bickers, were riding to support Assault. Tommy Davis piloted Nation and Luke Eisenhart assisted. Owner Scott Jordan was also mounted to watch the action. Nation streaked away through the East Pasture and was not seen again. Davis and Eisenhart made every effort to locate him but their efforts were in vain. Davis asked for the retrieval device at 35. Assault was pointed out in the East Pasture just before he disappeared into Jim Miller and he was seen again when he made the turn into Buster Graves. Thompson was dispatched toward Cedar Hill at the George Kemp East Field. Huffman stayed the course through the Horseshoe after sending Thompson to check out the west tree line. Assault was back in the front passing by Peter Pugh and rolled on into the Chute. He was seen in the rough on the east side of the Chute and Thompson went to investigate. Huffman, relying on Assault’s training, continued to ride ahead and his faith was confirmed when Assault crossed the front at the entrance to the Agronomy Unit. Assault explored the likely places at the Strawberry Patch, through the Demonstration Farm, and around Prospect. He was going to the right places but the quail were not home today. Turkey Bottom was behind Assault in a matter of minutes and he headed up Pine Hill. He was out of sight in the Marshal Jack Harris Field and after Huffman and Thompson could not locate him Huffman asked for the retrieval device at 1:42.
Brace number 8 featured Whippoorwill Justified, the first of three former National Champions to compete, handled by Larry Huffman and scouted by Nick Thompson. Piper Huffman was riding front for her husband. Ronnie Spears, Justified’s owner, was not present. Shadow’s Next Exit owned by newly elected Hall of Fame member, Butch Houston, was scouted by Luke Eisenhart for handler Robin Gates. The brace was delayed for thirty minutes to allow a line of rain showers to move out of the area. It was 66 degrees at 8:30 when they were loosed. Justified and Exit both raced to the large food patch on the east edge of the Out Front Field. They were through the gap and were seen headed toward the pond dam. Both scouts were out at Heartbreak Hill. Exit was first across Ellington Road with Justified close behind. Huffman pointed out Justified as he entered the New Basin loop. Gates rode to Exit at the south end of the Morgan Field at 18 when he saw Exit standing. Birds lifted at the flush with everything in order. Turner Road was crossed at 25 with both handlers and scouts looking for their dogs. Huffman was back first and sent Justified into the Turner Longneck Field where Exit and Gates joined him. Justified went into the Turner Basin Field and Gates dispatched Eisenhart at the old course intersection. Gates pointed out Exit in the Turner Ditch South Field and Justified was seen in the north field. They crossed Turner Ditch together. Thompson and Eisenhart were out at Govan Hill and then Gates sent Eisenhart to investigate the Bates Place. Both handlers stayed to the course and both raised their caps at: 55. Both dogs were pointing with a stand of sage grass between them and although they were facing each other it was determined that they could not see one another and a divided find was credited when the covey took to wing. Justified secured his second find at 1:10 in the north field in the Lowlands where he found another covey on the east edge of the field. Exit was ahead when he and Justified crossed National Championship Drive and headed toward Locust Turn. Justified scored his third find on the east edge of National Championship South at the ditch crossing going to the Longneck Field at 1:28. No exception was taken at wing and shot. Exit and Justified continued to impress as they rolled through the Tennessee Field and shot through the gap into the Morgan Field. The temperature had begun to drop soon after breakaway and a north wind had begun to blow. The saturated ground, along with the standing water on the course coupled with the falling temperature were making the conditions atrocious, but Exit and Justified were defying the circumstances as they continued to forge ahead. Justified went into a scope of woods at the north end of Morgan Swamp at 1:44 where Huffman saw him standing. Exit came in to back. The initial flushing attempt did not produce a bird. Gates was allowed to take Exit on as Justified relocated. Justified moved up cautiously and stopped. Huffman released him and this time when he styled up he had them right. The covey flew as Huffman approached and Justified carded his fourth flawless find of the brace. They crossed at Kyles’s Barn and made quick work of the Clark Fields, No Man’s Land, and the Keegan Field before entering Jim Braddic. Both scouts were out when Justified came out of the Bi-color and went down the hill to Keegan’s Ditch. The exhausting conditions had begun to take a toll on Exit and Gates decided to call it quits at 2:22. Justified showed through Edward Clark North and over Pine Hill Cut Over. He was at the junction of No Man’s Land when Huffman called on him and Justified turned into Edward Clark Pasture. He was standing for the fifth time in Climmie Clark South in a feed patch at 2:50. A large covey exploded into the air when Huffman stepped in front of Justified. Justified statuesque at wing and shot. Huffman dried him off as best as he could with an already wet towel and sent him on ahead. Justified finished his three hours in the Morgan Field at the entrance to the New Basin Loop. He was still running strong in spite of the elements and his surroundings. The temperature had fallen to 46 degrees at pick up.
Sleepless in Sacramento came from California to compete in brace number nine along with her handler Sheldon Twer. Jim Wolthuis owns Sleepless and he also scouted for Twer. Dazzling was handled by Steve Hurdle and assisted by Korry Reinhart. Bob Walthall and Thorpe McKenzie are the owners of Dazzling. Sleepless was seen only once at the entrance to Buster Graves before Hurdle informed Twer that she was standing by the gravel drive on the east end of the field. Twer flew the covey and Sleepless had a find in the books at 18. Dazzling was not seen until she hooked up with Hurdle in the George Kemp West Field at 30. Scout Wolthuis found Dazzling standing at the top of Horseshoe Hill on the west edge on a tree line at 35. Hurdle informed the judges that birds were running and he was told that the birds were officially seen. Hurdle fired with everything in order. For the next 48 minutes Dazzling and Sleepless covered a lot of territory as they hunted the likely places. Hurdle and Twer were working hard to give their charges an opportunity to find the elusive quarry. Luck was not with Dazzling and Sleepless today as their valiant efforts were not rewarded. Hurdle decided to throw in the towel in Turkey Bottom at 1:23. Sleepless was AWOL and Twer also called it quits when he asked for the retrieval device also at 1:23.
The second half-day delay of the trial occurred Saturday morning when a heavy band of rain and thick fog made it impossible to compete in a fair and equitable manner. Heavy rains had been forecast as a 100% possibility and it looked as if the weather man had been correct in his calculations. It was decided to cancel the morning program and to evaluate the conditions at noon to determine if the running could continue that afternoon. The noon evaluation revealed a line of showers that would move out of the area by approximately 1:30 P.M. and that all other conditions were favorable to resuming the competition. The handlers were notified and the tenth brace was away at 1:30 in the East Pasture with light showers continuing. Erin’s Longmire controlled by Robin Gates for owner Brad Calkins was the top dog. Luke Eisenhart assisted Gates. Cole Train owned and handled by Dr. Fred Corder was the bottom dog. Ike Todd scouted. They both went to the south side of the breakaway field and then both crossed over to the hedge row and moved ahead toward Jim Miller. Longmire was next seen as he entered Buster Graves. Corder brought Train in from Jim Miller and Train and Longmire crossed the gravel drive together and crossed Ames Road into the Mounting Block Field. Both scouts went toward Cedar Hill in the George Kemp East Field. Both Handlers continued up Horseshoe Hill and Longmire was pointed out in the large field at the top of the hill. Corder showing Train as he passed Peter Pugh. Longmire went into the Chute and Corder went toward the Apple Tree Piece. Longmire went by the big cedar at the Agronomy Field and Gates called point at 43. The wet weather did not affect the flying ability as the birds exploded just in front of the poised pointer. Released, Longmire flew away toward the Strawberry Patch. Train caught the front at the Strawberry Patch and Will Dunn took over the handling duties in Corder’s absence. Corder returned and at 59 he called point for Train standing in the Water Truck Field at the dry pond dam. Longmire was a pretty picture as he honored his brace mate a full thirty yards away. The circumstances were hard on the people, tough on the horses and brutal for the dogs, but to give credit where credit is due no man or animal was willing to admit defeat. However, there is a time when discretion is the better part of valor. Train had not been seen past Prospect, the Dairy Pasture, or The Lawrence Smith Field. Corder asked for the retrieval device at 1:21 and Gates decided to pick up also at 1:23. The first week’s running ended in Turkey Bottom.
The weather this year has been one of the wettest that anyone can remember during the National. A full day of running was lost the first week because of rain and unsafe conditions caused by the rain. The forecast for the second week looks very similar. It is hoped that there will not be any more delays. If there are no more delays the competition will end after the morning brace on Saturday the 24th. Twenty have played out their hands and twenty-two more waiting in the wings to compete for the title of National Champion.
Did You Know?
Settlement of western Tennessee became possible when the Chickasaw Nation agreed to sell their land to the U. S. Government for $300,000 in 1818. These lands became available for occupation in 1820 and land speculators took advantage of the opportunity in hopes of making windfall profits. The year 1824 saw the first pioneers establish homesteads in this wilderness known at the time as the Western District. Many years later in excess of 20,000 acres of the land developed by these early settlers would become the holdings of the Ames Plantation. Hobart Ames initiated the process of establishing his plantation when he purchased 400 acres and a house in 1901 from the descendants of John Walker Jones, who was one of the first to settle in the area.
John Walker Jones’ story began in northern Alabama near Huntsville. Micajah Moorman, his wife, Ester, and their family had relocated from Campbell County, Virginia to the Huntsville area prior to 1824. John had also migrated to the area from Virginia. It is known that John married a daughter of Micajah and Ester, Martha. After the marriage Micajah and John made an agreement that Micajah would purchase land in the newly opened Western District and that the two families would then move to the area and establish a plantation there. Micajah purchased 1971.5 acres in 1824 from Samuel Polk, a land speculator, at $3.00 per acre for a total sum of $5914.30. The land included where the manor house stands today and from there goes almost straight south to the base of Cox’s Ridge. Going east from the manor house it included the afternoon breakaway field, Jim Miller, Buster Graves, the George Kemp Fields, the Horseshoe, the Chute, the Agronomy Fields, the Strawberry Patch, the Demonstration Fields and then south to approximately Caesar’s Ditch. This expanse encompasses the first and second hours of the afternoon course and a portion of the third hour. Micajah and John took slaves and journeyed to their new lands. Their purpose was to build the necessary structures that would allow them to bring their families to the new plantation that would be called Cedar Grove. The building project and preparations for the transfer took almost two years. Before the move could be completed Micajah died. John then became the head of the two families. John moved Micajah’s widow, Ester, and her children to Cedar Grove in 1826. John and his wife, Martha, moved into a two story log home on the plantation. The exact location of this structure is not known. However, it was in close proximity to where the manor house is today. There are two details that substantiate that fact. First, Martha reported in her diary that she watched the progress of the manor house being built from her porch, therefore she had to be close to the site. Second, the first born son of John and Martha passed away in infancy and was the first interred in what would become the Jones Cemetery that is adjacent to the manor house today. Since family cemeteries were always located near the family residence it is another testimonial that the original house was near this spot. This deceased child is the oldest recorded birth in Fayette County Tennessee being born in 1827. John’s wife Martha died in 1862 and John remarried. John, Martha and her mother are all buried in this cemetery. There are also seven children of John and his two wives interred here.
Although Micajah died prior to 1826 his estate wasn’t settled until 1831. In the settlement Micajah’s property was divided between Ester and her children and John Jones. Also E. W. Harris was bequeathed land that is today known as the Jack Harris Fields (second hour on the afternoon course). Mr. Harris had married another daughter of Micajah’s whose name was Ann Eliza. This made John and E. W. brothers-in-law. Ann Eliza died during child birth in 1828 at 29 years of age and is buried in what is known as Harris #1 Cemetery. Later Mr. Harris remarried and relocated to a house he built on Govan Hill (first hour on the morning course). His second wife, Celestia, passed away of unknown reasons and is interred, along with the couple’s three young children, in Harris #2 Cemetery in close proximity to where her house once stood. Mr. Harris liquidated his holdings after her death and moved to Mississippi severing his ties to the Ames land base.
Over time John Jones acquired ownership of the entire original Moorman tract from Micajah’s widow and children. He did not purchase land in his own name until 1841. He became a very wealthy land owner. In an 1860 census his assets were valued at over $600,000. His wealth was based on cotton farming using slave labor that numbered 250 slaves. An Agricultural census in 1860 valued his farm at $52,000. The census also revealed he owned 16 horses, 56 mules, 12 oxen, 100 cattle, 120 sheep, and 600 swine for a value of $12,000. The census disclosed that his farm produced 800 bales of cotton, 500 bushels of sweet potatoes, 50 bushels of Irish potatoes, 32 bushels of wheat, 75 bushels of rye, and 12,000 bushels of corn.
John had two sons who fought in the Civil War. John Jr. was killed in the Battle of Murfreesboro. His death was witnessed by his brother, Caleb, who was also wounded. Caleb survived the war and later owned a fair amount of land adjacent to and nearby his father’s holdings.
Twenty-one years after establishing Cedar Grove John built, in 1847, the house that is today known as the Ames Manor House. After Mr. Ames purchased the property from John’s survivors he renamed the property. The Ames Plantation would eventually grow to contain 24,000 acres. If you look closely in front of the house today you can still see the evidence of an old roadbed. This was once a stagecoach road to Memphis from Hickory Valley, Tennessee via Mt. Comfort, through the Ames Plantation to LaGrange, Tennessee. The stagecoach stop was where the mule barn is now located. The smaller brick building in the Manor House yard closest to the road was built as a passenger station for the stagecoaches and today serves as an office building for plantation staff.
John Hunt was born in Sussex County, Virginia in 1774. In 1828 he moved with his family to the southern part of Hardeman County, Tennessee because of the cheap prices of land grants to settlers who would move to West Tennessee. He was the first settler by the name of Hunt to live in Hardeman County. He was 54 years old at the time, rather old to begin a new life in a very sparsely settled land. He purchased several thousand acres of land some of which bordered John W. Jones’s holdings. Hunt’s original possession was one of the largest continuous parcels that would be purchased by Hobart Ames. The approximate boundaries were Buster Graves on the north and in the vicinity of Turkey Bottom on the south. Hunt also purchased 1000 acres approximately four miles north of Grand Junction, Tennessee. His son, John W. Hunt purchased this 1000 acres from his father in 1845 where he and his wife, Virginia, built the antebellum home Huntland. Huntland remained in the Hunt family until 1936 when it was purchased by Hobart Ames. Ames sold the property in 1957. The senior John Hunt’s daughter, Dorothea Hunt, married Beverly Lafayette Holcombe, son of Major Philemon Holcombe, a revolutionary war veteran. They were the parents of Lucy Holcombe Pickens, who was known as the “Queen of the Confederacy.” She was the only female whose picture graced confederate currency.
Another large parcel that became part of the Ames was the Willow Glen Plantation owned by Robert W. Cotten. Mr. Cotten’s initial purchase of 640 acres in 1826 from Dimpsey Bryan and Louis D. Wilson for $3.00 per acre represents the beginning of Willow Glen. In 1828 he purchased 180 acres from John Jarman Jr. for $8.88 per acre. There are no existing records of future land purchases but ultimately the plantation would encompass 2000 acres. The plantation was divided almost in half by Rube Scott Road. Eighteen hundred acres would become part of the Ames. The Jim Braddic and the Tobe Polk Fields traversed in the second hour of the morning course are a portion of that 1800 acres.
The only woman to purchase and own property that became a part of the Ames was Frances “Fanny” Burton Dickins. Fanny was married to Colonel Samuel Dickins in 1831 who migrated to west Tennessee from North Carolina after the death of his first wife. The marriage lasted nine years before Colonel Dickins’ demise in 1840. Fanny had two brothers who lived near LaGrange, Tennessee. In 1841 Fanny purchased several hundred acres from Binbury Walton and Edward Davis and moved to the area that is known today as Cox’s Ridge (third hour afternoon course) to be closer to her brothers. Her land continued down the ridge into Fason Bottom where it is believed a portion of her slave quarters were located. In 1851 she purchased approximately 300 acres that included land owned by E. W. Harris and what is today known as the Tom Hert Field, Govan Hill and a portion of the Bates Place (second hour morning course). Her house sat at the top of Cox’s Ridge on the eastern edge of her property. Her term as a plantation owner was relatively short. She passed away on August 21, 1852 at 59 years of age. Her entire holdings became a part of the Ames. And now you know.
Preparations for the next National begin almost as soon as the current event is concluded. It is an endeavor that involves over eleven months of planning and effort. A wet spring delayed the burning of the courses for about two weeks. And then because of the above normal rainfall the green-up prevented the completion of the burn program. However, the burn was very successful in the area where it was completed and flat mowing behind the burn is continuing to improve the usability of the courses. Mother Nature is a relentless enemy of the field trial courses as she attempts to reclaim as much territory as possible each year. Young trees are prolific and grow at an alarming rate on the Plantation, especially the Sweetgum saplings. Last March eleven full days were devoted to sapling control over the entire morning and afternoon courses using a 15 foot clipper. Some areas were clipped this year that had not been groomed in many years. Cox’s Ridge is one of the areas that benefited from an aggressive clipping campaign. There is an area on the south west end of Cox’s Ridge where the timber was harvested several years ago and it was proposed that this area be incorporated into the afternoon course. This change was instituted for this year’s running after a large culvert had been placed and other dirt work had been completed to accommodate horseback travel. It is the goal that this change will eliminate crossing Buford Ellington Road in order to finish the third afternoon hour in the Morgan fields and then having to deadhead to the field trial stables. The area will henceforth be known as Carlisle Corner.
Agricultural Manager Ryan Braddock made available the equipment and food plots were planted in four days in June. The equipment included four tractors, two 20 foot disks, a six-row planter, and a Do-All with chemical spray capability. Center Director, Rick Carlisle, and NCFTA president, C.F. Bryan, performed the disking functions. The planting was able to be accomplished in such a short time because much of the disking preparation had been done in advance of planting. Two hundred and forty-two patches were planted; 126 on the morning and 116 on the afternoon course for a total of 161.9 acres. The morning course averages .65 acres per patch and the afternoon .68 acres per patch. In addition there were 85 strips of soybeans, corn, and grain sorghum left standing on the morning course. That equals a total of 211 food sources for quail on 99.6 acres that averages .47 acres per location. On the afternoon course the totals are 215 food sources on 102.9 acres that average .47 acres per location. The grand total of acres of food sources is 202.5 in 426 different locations; the most ever on the Ames. Center Director, Dr. Carlisle, and NCFTA president, Charlie Frank Bryan, cooperated in the effort to do as much as was possible to have quail available for the National. They have high expectations that their efforts will not be in vain.
The pre-release program of quail was conducted in September on the first, second, and fourth Thursdays of the month. A total of 6,200 birds were released. There will not be any other releases during the field trial season. The quail will be fed grain sorghum every 10 to 14 days using a grain buggy and spreading the grain at the release points. High numbers of coveys have been seen during the feeding operation.
Blocking of the courses occurred during the first three weeks in November using a 9 foot clipper. Blocking of the food plots and mowing the center line of the courses was accomplished the week after Thanksgiving and was finished only two days before the start of the Amateur Invitational. The late blocking was in order to allow the quail more undisturbed time in the plots in hopes that they will continue to use the plots during the trials.
Many people play an important role during the National but none are more important than the Barn Crew. Their day begins before dawn and does not end until all the horses are washed, fed, and watered. Steven McKeen, Mark Yearwood, Roberto Garza, Robert Polk, Albert Jenkins, James Morrow, Tyler Searles, and Dillon Goudy are the members of the crew. Ryan Braddock and Chris Weatherly not only supervise the barn crew, they partake of the work. Every morning and at noon the correct saddles, pads, and bridles have to be paired with the correct horses. It is not an easy task since the majority of the horses and equipment are privately owned and unfamiliar to the Barn Crew. Each year the average number of horses assigned to the Brick Stable and the outside corrals is 35 head. The care of these horses is a time consuming and critical task but the barn crew is up to the challenge.
Brad Harter returned this year to video his 31st National. Brad’s Pleasant Hill Production videos have become collector items for many field trial enthusiasts. Long days in the saddle and working into the night are evidences of Brad’s dedication to the sport to provide a quality product that will immortalize the performances of each year’s contenders. It’s not any easy task. Have you ever tried to take a photo while mounted? Brad is assisted by Ken Blackman who videos mainly at road crossings and from stationary positions where the courses allow without interfering with the competition.
Local resident Vera Courtney takes literally hundreds of photos during the running. Her photos are in demand because of the quality of her pictures. She is all over the place and gets many shots that capture the atmosphere and the competition of the trial. She willingly shares her work with anyone and everyone. She has become a true asset to the National and to the local trials she attends.
Senior Research Assistant Jamie Evans and his wife, Dee, are responsible for putting each day’s synopsis of the running on the webpage each night. Jamie, Dee, Brad, and Vera work closely together each afternoon pooling their day’s work to provide an accurate description of the daily events along with pictures of the day’s action. For many who cannot attend the synopsis is their way of participating and staying informed. Along with his photographing duties, Jamie performs many other duties. He coordinates many of the activities behind the scenes, but is seldom seen or recognized for his efforts by the casual observers. My thanks go to Jamie again this year for sharing his research on the people and properties that contributed to the formation of the Ames.
Another behind the scenes worker is Matt Bacus. Matt manages the cattle operation for the Ames. His is the mysterious voice that announces the judges and the contenders at the beginning of each brace. He also assists with duties at the Brick Stable and assists with the transportation of horses when his help is needed.