2021 National Championship Report

By:

William Smith

Myrtle, Mississippi is a small town with a population of 514 people located about 80 miles southeast of Memphis, Tennessee. The total area occupied is only 2.1 square miles. The settlement was originally named Candy Hill when it was established in 1857. After the Civil War the town applied for a post office and changed its name to Myrtle because of the abundance of Myrtle trees growing in the area. The only notable person identified in searching the history of Myrtle is Armintie Price. She led Myrtle High School to a state basketball championship and she was the Rookie of The Year in the WNBA in 2007. She played 9 years as a professional. She had a very successful career, but Myrtle was still not widely known until 1981 when a fugitive on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list was captured there. Charles Everett Hughes was the 364th person to be identified on the ten most wanted list. His name was added on November 19, 1978. He was wanted in connection with a homicide near Panama City, Florida. He was working in an automobile repair shop in Myrtle when he was arrested by the FBI and local authorities on April 29, 1981. He had evaded capture for three years.

So, what does Myrtle, Mississippi have to do with field trials? Well, there was another person from Myrtle who was not identified as notable and who did not get the recognition that Armintie Price or Charles Hughes did for their exploits, but he was a driving force in the field trial world. To date he has won more National Championships, 11, than anyone else. His name was Clyde Morton.  He was raised on a farm on the outskirts of Myrtle and it is with an almost certainty that his record of National wins will never be eclipsed.  

Morton was born May 8, 1897. There were six girls in the family but Clyde was the only boy. He preferred the outdoors and he was athletic. He played basketball on the Myrtle high school team and acquired the nickname of “Legs.”  He was drawn to dogs and in his early teens he traded his bicycle that his mother bought for him for a pair of foxhounds. His mother’s comment, “I’ve been afraid you might go to the dogs,” turned out to be a prophetic judgement. His first bird dog was a setter he called Frank.

In September of 1915 a pack of hunting dogs lead by a man who worked for Paul Rainey was traveling through Myrtle. Paul Rainey was a very wealthy man who owned 10,000 acres of hunting grounds near Cotton Plant, Mississippi. Rainey was an avid hunter and kept a black bear chained to a tree on the front lawn of his house. The man in charge of the pack was Er Shelley who was a very successful field trial handler of the era. While in conversation with Shelley, Morton inquired as to the possibility of a job working for Mr. Rainey. Morton was 18 at the time. Shelley replied that there possibly maybe could be an opening for an assistant trainer. Cotton Plant was approximately 12 miles from Myrtle but that did not deter Morton when he decided go to Cotton Plant. Morton walked all the way to Cotton Plant to inquire if that position was open. Upon arriving at the Rainey kennels, Morton told Shelley that he had always liked dogs especially foxhounds. Shelley, apologizing, informed Morton that there were no openings at the present time. Disheartened, Morton began the long trek back to Myrtle. Shortly afterwards Paul Rainey stated to Shelley that he liked the looks of the young man who had been at the kennel and asked what he wanted. Shelley replied that he wanted a job working with dogs. Rainey told Shelley to go after him and bring him back. Shelley came to a fork in the road and not knowing the route Morton had taken, chose one in hopes that Morton had gone that way. Shelley had made the right choice and soon caught up with Morton. After a discussion with Rainey, Morton, still in his teens, was hired to work with hounds.

Morton was tutored by Shelley for the next four years while working for Rainey. Then Shelley left and Morton went with him to work for Dr. W. H. Hutchings of Detroit, whose shooting grounds were located in Alabama. In 1926 Morton, at age 29, was offered a position working for A. G. C. Sage on his Sedgefields Plantation near Alberta, Alabama. Morton was reluctant to make a change until Edward Farrior advised him that he should accept the offer. Edward Farrior was one of the foremost handlers of his day. Upon Farrior’s recommendation Morton accepted the offer from Mr. Sage and the legend of Clyde Morton began.

Nineteen thirty-two was the first year Morton competed in the National. His lone entry was Superlette whom he handled to victories in the Free-for-All in 1929, 1931 and 1932. Morton’s victory in 1929 was the first championship that he had ever won. Susquehanna Tom was the eventual 1932 National Champion. Morton would be back in 1933 with another of the Sage dogs, Rapid Transit.

There were fourteen pointers and two setters entered in the 1933 classic. Morton would handle two in the stake, Superlette and Rapid Transit. Transit would compete on Thursday morning March 2 braced with Mad Anthony handled by Frank Cummings. About an hour into the heat Transit was making game and got too close. He stopped when the covey flushed but he was not steady at the shot, but he stopped at Morton’s command. Shortly afterward Transit was pointing again in a sedge field and had the birds located in front of him. He took a step when the bevy was flushed but stopped again at the command from Morton. At about 9:40 Transit tallied his third find with everything in order. At about 10:00 Transit chalked up his fourth find again with no exception taken. Soon after Transit was standing when Anthony went ahead of Transit in view of the judiciary. Morton flushed and shot for the fifth time and Cummins also fired. (Maybe setting an example for what is transpiring today.) Transit would finish his three-hour bid with six more finds the last coming as time expired. There was agreement that Transit had rendered a winning performance, but he had not backed and at that time backing was required in order to win the National. A second series was announced featuring Superlette and Transit. This was the first time that two dogs owned by the same owner had competed against each other. Morton had handled both dogs and he called on J. L. Holloway, retired professional handler, to assist him in the call back. The second series was run on Friday morning March 3 and would test the stamina for Transit since he had run three hours the previous day. Both dogs were running well but they were not together when multiple finds were recorded by each dog. At about 1 hour and 15 minutes into the brace, Superlette was standing near a plum thicket and when Transit spied Superlette he stopped to back with perfect form without a word from Morton. Rapid Transit was the 1933 and Morton’s first National Champion. Probably Morton took home his biggest field trial purse up to that time--$1500.00   

Morton brought Rapid Transit to the 1934 and 1935 renewals but he was not able to defend his crown. In 1935 Morton also brought another Sage entry, Sulu. She had performed admirably and was called back for a second series with the eventual 1935 champion, Homewood Flirtatious. Nineteen thirty-six would be her year to climb to the top of the field trial world. The weather was perfect for Sulu’s bid on that Thursday morning. The action was slow to begin and well into the brace before her brace mate, King Genius, handled by O. S. Redmond, was seen on point. Redmond could not put any feathers in the air but the gallery did when Genius was sent ahead. Sulu got on the board first when she pointed an elusive covey in a deep gulley. Soon after she and Genius notched a divided find. As Sulu toped the apex of a hill a single flushed wild and when another took to wing Sulu exhibited her training when she froze on point. She was ordered to work singles from a scattered covey and she worked several with admiration from the gallery. She was sent on and quickly stabbed another gulley bevy that has not been seen during the trial. With hunting on her mind, she tallied another covey as the time for pick up is nearing. Morton sent her to an area that most handlers tried to avoid. Sulu didn’t appear when Morton thought she should and he went searching and found her in the bottom of a ditch standing on her last covey. The judges communicated for a short time after the last brace before the announcement was made that Sulu was the 1936 National Champion. She was Morton’s second National Champion and he picked up his second $1500.00 check.

Morton had two entries from the Sage kennels in the 1937 renewal, Sedgefields Chiquita, and Sulu. Both had multiple finds, but their races did not please the judges. The 1938 National was cancelled because of a shortage of quail. Morton handled Semaphore and Timbuctoo in the 1939 event. Nineteen forty saw Luminary, Semaphore, and Rockabye Baby, winner of the 1940 Free-for-All, from the Sage kennels handled by Morton but their performances were not enough to gain the crown. Nineteen forty-one would mark the beginning of a feat that has not been duplicated in field trial history.

Thirty-one pointers and five setters comprised he roster of the 1941 renewal. Morton would handle three, Ariel, Luminary, and Rockabye Baby. Air Pilot’s Sam was the 1937 champion and his son, Ariel, would replicate that success in 1941. Ariel got on the board early in the heat when the tip of his tail was spied in the tall growth. He stood rigid with his nose stretched as far forward as it could be when the bevy exploded. He would go on to card four more covey finds and one single. He ran to the limits of the course during his three-hour bid with boldness and purpose. Morton handled as if Ariel was on a string. His finish was strong and he was far ahead at the finish. The first time Ariel competed in the National he was Morton’s third National Champion and the first win of an incredible sequence.

There were thirty-five starters in the 1942 edition. Morton would run two dogs, Ariel, and Luminary, who had also won the Free-for-All prior to the National. The trial was supposed to have begun on Monday, February 23rd, but had been delayed for two days because of rain, snow, and sleet. On Monday and Tuesday morning the handlers had been given the option to go or not go. Wednesday morning with freezing temperatures and the ground frozen solid handlers Morton and Dewy English rolled the dice confident their charges could go the distance in those adverse conditions. The conditions called for not only superb conditioning, but for raw courage. Freebooter was handled by English, Luminary by Morton. Both dogs had multiple finds. Both ran strong races, Luminary a little stronger. Both finished well, Luminary the better. Luminary had not torn his pads in spite of the frozen ground and had carded eight finds and a back. Freebooter had given his all, but Luminary’s performance was deemed the better. The judges agreed “that they had seen just about the finest heat either had witnessed at the National or, for that matter, on any course.” (National Field Trial Champions pg. 346)

Tarheelia’s Lucky Strike handled by George Crangle turned in a performance that would have won probably in any other year. The judges could not agree and a second series was called for between him and Luminary. The second series lasted 12 minutes when Luminary scored three perfect finds to Strike’s none. Luminary was not in sight when the brace ended, but was reportedly found standing on his fourth covey when he was found. Morton had now won his fourth National and two in succession.

Morton brought Ariel and Luminary to compete against the other 21 pointers and four setters in 1943. Ariel would render a performance worthy of a National Champion, but so would The Texas Ranger, winner of the recent Free-for-All. A second series was called for. In the waning moments of the call back, Ariel was standing when a covey was ridden up by the judiciary not fifty yards from the statuesque pointer. The question now was whether there were more birds where Ariel was standing. Morton did not hesitate upon his arrival, but went boldly in to flush another covey. Pick up was ordered and Ariel was named the 1943 National Champion. “Was Ariel’s 1943 victory a standout? As a matter of fact, we considered Ariel’s ’43 race a decided improvement over his championship of ’41. We consider it on par with most of those of the past, with the exception of Luminary’s heat and run-off of last year. We have never seen, nor expect to see, those equaled.” (National Field trial Champions pg. 355) Ariel became the 6th to win two Nationals and Morton now had five crowns--three consecutive wins.

An insufficient number of quail caused the cancellation of the 1944 event. Quail had rebounded on the Ames Plantation and the 1945 classic was a go. Morton handled Ariella and Ariel. “It was freely predicted that the hold-over champion (Ariel) and recent winner of the National Free-for-All at Shuqualak, Mississippi, might bog down before the three hours were over. … But the splendidly conditioned Ariel unflaggingly turned cotton-row water into a sea-sled wake and left the wet sedge on distant hillsides smoking. Some even had the temerity or humor to suggest that he didn’t handle any too well. Tut, tut! In 180 minutes he found and pointed ten bevies of bobwhites and a single. A point every eighteen minutes for three hours”. (National Field Trial Champions, pg. 368) For the second time in three years Tarheelia’s Lucky Strike, handled by George Crangle, was called back for a second series. Strike would compete against Ariel. There were thirteen finds recorded in the 1 hour and forty-minute call back; Ariel had seven of them. When Ariel was announced the winner, he joined Mary Montrose, Becky Broom Hill, and Feagin’s Mohawk Pal as the only three-time winners of the National. Morton’s sixth National was significant because of the cancellation in 1944 it was the fourth consecutive National won by Morton. It is the only time it has been done and it is unlikely that it will ever be done again.

Morton ran Saturn in the 1946 classic and he was beaten by Mississippi Zev, thus ending Morton’s winning streak, but the streak would only be interrupted for one year when Saturn returned in 1947. In his second appearance, Saturn would find ten coveys. It was reported that he was never behind, always to the front, and he was seldom scouted. As his father, Luminary, had done in 1942, Saturn was named National Champion. There was no second series this year and Morton returned to the winner’s circle for his seventh National title.

Morton handled Paladin and Saturn in the 1948 renewal. He handled Paladin in the 1949 and 1950 event. At six years of age, Paladin, in his fourth attempt to grab the golden took home all the marbles when he was declared the winner besting the other thirty-three pointers. The competition was stiff and four were called back for a second series. Sierra Joan, the 1949 champion, tallied five finds and an unproductive or two in the first series was braced with Remember Me who had six finds in the first series. Paladin had four finds initially was braced with Ranger’s Spunky Pete who covered a lot of ground with enough bird work to be considered and was called back for the second series. When the dust had settled, Paladin emerged as the 1951 National Champion. Morton had won for the eighth time and was now tied for the most National wins with James Avent.

Paladin the son of Ariel, three-time National Champion, defended his title in 1952 when he was named Champion. When he defeated the other 35 starters, he became the 7th dog to win two Nationals and the 5th dog to win back-to-back National titles. There was no need for a second series this year. Paladin pointed twelve coveys, a single, and backed his brace mate twice. His race was compared to that of Luminary in 1942. Paladin was only entered in one trial since his win of the 1951 classic and his return to Grand Junction in 1952. He competed in the Free-for-All less than 30 days before he ran in the 1952 event. He was retired from competition after his second win. Morton went ahead of Avent with this victory, his ninth National.

All nine National wins had been with dogs belonging to A. G. C. Sage. No other owner has come close to Sage’s record of ownership. Mr. Sage passed away on February 3, 1952, at the age of 78 before the start of the ’52 National on February 18.  Paladin’s win in ’52 was the last of the Morton/Sage partnership. Jimmy Hinton would be the owner of record for Morton’s last two wins.

Morton handled Furlow for owner F. A. Mallery in 1953. He handled Furlow and Palamonium, a son of Paladin, owned by Jimmy Hinton in 1954. In 1955 Morton handled Mayhem for owner Claud Hinton and Palamonium for Jimmy Hinton. In his third year at the National, Palamonium would best the field of 34 pointers and 3 setters to be declared the best of the best. With only three dogs left in the stake Palamonium would provide a performance that would make the judging assignment much easier. He totaled 7 covey finds during his bid. His application was intelligent, determined, and fluid throughout the three hours. There was no equal to the race that separated him from the field. He was described as “a brainy dog completely capable of the supreme type of field trial performance.” His greatest asset may have been his handling response. Palamonium’s victory was the tenth National title for Morton.

Morton returned to the National in ’57 and ’58 with Palamonium but was unable to win it all. He would come again in 1959 with Palamonium and more history would evolve from the 61st running of the National. A record entry of 52 would move more game on the historic Ames Plantation than ever before. Palamonium was in the waning days of his competition, being 8 years of age. He would have to have one of his best performances in order to top the field. He was credited with 17 finds, thirteen of which produced admiration from those who witnessed the performance. He ran with purpose and intensity. He was subservient to Morton throughout his endeavor. He was described as “a genius in action.” He pointed with elevated tail, head high, and an intensity that was described as lofty and picturesque. The judges thought that he deserved to win the title but he was not without competition. His half-sister, Paladin Sue, scored 19 finds. Paladin’s Royal Heir, Tyson’s Ichaway Lady, Sarasota, Turnto, Cross Smoke, John Oliver, and The Arkansas Ranger all had multiple finds and gave performances that were not quite up to that of Palamonium. He would be the 8th double National Champion and Morton recorded his 11th and final National.

Morton focused mainly on three trials during his career—the National Championship, the Free-for-All, and the American Field Quail Futurity. He was three months shy of his 62nd birthday when he won his historic 11th and last National. In a ten-year span in the running of the Futurity from 1937 through 1946 Morton won 9 times. All nine winners of the Futurity belonged to A. G. C. Sage. Luminary was the Futurity winner in 1938 and Ariel followed him in 1939 to the top spot. Both would go on to become National Champions. Morton won the Free-for-All 9 times, the first in 1929 and the last in 1955. Eight of the winners were Sage dogs. Superlette won three times, Luminary once, and Ariel twice. Luminary won in 1942 and won the National the same year. Ariel duplicated the feat in 1945 when he won the Free-for-All and the National, and Saturn also accomplished the deed in 1947.  Morton holds the record for wins in all three classics. Mr. Sage holds the record as owner of the winners in the three classics with 15.

Morton said that Luminary was the best dog he had ever handled, and that Ariel was the best handling dog that he had run.

Grand Ole Opry star, Porter Wagoner, released a song some years ago that began with the words, “The old hometown looks the same as I step down from the train.” Those words had an eerie association with the Ames Plantation during the running of the 2021 National. Although physically the Plantation looked the same it was quite different than in years past. As you drove by the Field Trial Stables the scarcity of people, the empty kennels, and small number of horse trailers was evidence that things would be different this year. The lights were burning in the Rhea Building to provide access to the rest rooms, but it was not a gathering place as in years past. Bryan Hall, once a beehive of activity, appeared forlorn and deserted; no lunches were served there this year. The table and chairs remained unoccupied during this year’s running. Over at the Brick Stable there was activity as the horses were prepared for the daily running. All social events, including the steak dinner and the Brunswick Stew, were cancelled. The Manor House was closed and the normal practice for handlers and owners of the dogs that had run that day being invited to the Gun Room for a social hour was also cancelled.

If one were to describe the scenes around the Plantation perhaps, they would perhaps liken it to the old TV series Twilight Zone where the normal became abnormal. Rod Serling wrote many scripts for the Twilight Zone series but he did not write the script for this event; COVID-19 was the author.

Jadie Rayfield made the trek from Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina to arbitrate for the sixth time. He has been involved in all phases of field trials for three decades and he relied on all those years of experience to give each entry a fair shot.

Dr. Stan Wint traveled from Gardner, Kansas for the third time to judge this time-honored event. He also has thirty plus years of experience. He began his career in walking dog stakes and won his first championship in 1992. He has adjudicated in AKC trials as well as horseback shooting dog and all-age American Field events. He gave his full attention to every dog and handler.

Tom Shenker, fresh off his win as the handler of the 2021 Continental Derby Champion, journeyed from Hurtsboro, Alabama for the second time to complete the judicial panel. Tom brings a lifetime of experience because his father was a professional trainer and Tom was exposed to bird dogs, horses, and field trials at an early age. Tom manages the Easter Plantation in Hurtsboro. With experience as a handler in the National, Tom knows what it takes to win and he looked for the good and not the bad in every dog.

This year celebrates the 125th year since the inaugural running of the National in 1896. The National has been held on the hallowed grounds of the Ames Plantation every year since 1915 with the exception of years 1938, 1944, and 1965 when the event was not held because of a decline in the quail population. The year 2020 brought many changes to the norm because of COVID-19 and social distancing recommendations. Field trials were not exempt. There were 27 qualifying trials that were not held. There were 21 pointers nominated to run this year with only one female in the mix. Only one former National Champion, Dunn’s Tried N True, returned to attempt to recapture his crown. The drawing in normal times is a community affair where friends and supporters gather in Bryan Hall to witness the event. However, that was not the case this year. The drawing was held Saturday, February 6 at 7 P.M. in Bryan Hall witnessed by a virtual audience with only the essential people in attendance to facilitate.  The drawing was conducted by NFTCA president C.F. Bryan and NFTCA secretary/treasurer Rick Carlisle. They were assisted by Pat Bryan who handled the squirrel cage to select the numbered balls. Jamie and Dee Evans operated the live Facebook camera feed and the computer. Kay Carlisle was present to assist with any technical issues if needed. Brad Harter made a video recording of the proceedings. Judges Tom Shenker, Jadie Rayfield, Stan Went, professional handlers Larry Huffman and Steve Hurdle, and your reporter witnessed the procedure for authentication purposes. Tom Shenker’s wife, Melody, a nurse practitioner, was present as a precaution should anyone have needed medical assistance. The fourteen in attendance is probably the smallest number in the history of the National to witness the drawing live.

The 27th Joe Hurdle top dog award was won this year by Miller’s Speed Dial, the 2020 National Champion. He amassed a total of 2725 points to secure the coveted award. He is owned and handled by Gary Lester of Gracie, Kentucky. He was not able to return this year to defend his crown because of a medical condition.

With only 21 entries, it is the smallest entry in the National in the last 75 years with 1946 having only 18 competing and the first time in 75 years that the nominated dogs dictated only one week of competition provided there were no weather delays. The smallest entry ever was in 1902 when there were only two dogs and both were handled by Jim Avent, Sioux, the eventual 1902 champion, and Clip Wind’em. It is the only time in history that a handler piloted two dogs simultaneously. Also significant is the fact that this brace was three and one-half hours, again the only time in history of the National. At the regular meeting of the directors, it was voted that henceforth the braces would be three hours. Hobart Ames judged for the first time and he would continue in that role for the next 29 years. This was the second National win for Sioux and Avent had high hopes that Sioux would be the first three-time winner of the National. That hope was not realized because Sioux was struck by a train and killed the following summer. The record for the highest number of entries was achieved in 1978 when 53 were nominated.

Reporter Joe Walker said it best when he quoted the words of Bill Brown in the 1992 report when he wrote, “you can’t merchandise a failure over a long term of years and the real worth of the National Championship standards is attested by the brilliant success won down through the years and sustained by the popularity of the stake.” Even in hard times the National has prevailed as a quality event.

The Winner

An elusive and much-sought after aspiration was achieved when Coldwater Thunder was declared the victor of the most prestigious field trial in the world. This was the white, liver, and ticked pointer bitch’s fourth time to run for the crown. Although reduced in the number of entries, the competition was still of the highest level. A superior performance leaves no doubt in the minds of those who witnessed it that this performance has set the bar and it will be difficult to beat and that was the case after Thunder had completed her bid for the elusive title. It takes a lot of grit to grind it out for three hours over ground that is rocky, muddy, wet, and cold. She traversed the courses always subservient to her handler and always hunting, going to the likely places. She carded four finds—one in the first hour, two in the second hour, and one in the final hour. She was motionless on each occasion as her quarry took to the air and she stood for the shot.  She exhibited class and courage throughout her 3-hour quest. She ranged over the Plantation course seemingly with ease as her untiring gate ate up the country. Her performance ranks high on the list of previous winners and the announcement on the green steps of the Manor House made it official—Coldwater Thunder is the deserving 2021 National Champion. Thunder is the first female of any breed to win the National in 22 years. Cedar Oak Kate, PF, was the last to accomplish the feat in 1998.

The Running

Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it.”   George Halas

The weather forecast for Monday morning February 8 looked favorable for the first day of the trial. The mercury stood a few degrees above freezing when the brace began but would climb into the low 40’s before the 11:00 o’clock hour. Mostly cloudy skies with a southeasterly breeze would remain throughout the first brace, but the forecast was for sunshine in the afternoon. As always there was an air of anticipation waiting for the greatest dogs in the world to begin the competition.

Brace 1. Game Wardon was handled by his owner, Dr. Fred Corder, with help from Ike Todd. Lester’s Georgia Time handled by Mark McLean for owners Jim Clark, who was mounted to watch his entry, and Blake Hubbard completed the duo. Mark Haynes scouted. The brace began at straight up 8:00 AM. Both went to the east edge of the Out Front field and carried the edge through the tree line and headed for the pond dam. Haynes was sent toward the T-Piece in search of Time and Wardon was seen going toward Heartbreak Hill. Wardon crossed Ellington Road first with Time catching the front in the Morgan field. McLean found Time standing in the New Basin field at 18 on the north side in weeds and briars. A nice covey exploded when McLean flushed with Time remaining solid at the shot. Time caught up with Wardon in the Avent field and both crossed Turner Road. They were both on the west edge in the Turner Longneck and both made strong casts across the front at the Turner Basin field and then both took the old course headed west. Wardon was ahead in the Turner Pines and McLean went west toward Turner North in search of Time. At 49 McLean’s far-away call of point was heard, Time was standing in the woods’ edge and had another bevy perfectly located. Wardon was across Turner Ditch and was standing at 48 on the south side of Govan Hill. Corder put the covey to flight with Wardon remaining motionless for the shot. Time was back and both searched around Govan and headed for National Championship Drive. They were together in the Mary Scott field and both made the turn into the Low Lands. They ranged ahead through the National Championship fields, crossed Turner Road and made quick work of the Supermarket and Avent fields. They were both hunting through the Clark fields and crossed Keegan’s Ditch going to Jim Braddic. Their efforts were in vain through the Clark fields and they crossed in tandem into the Supermarket field. Wardon was standing in a food patch at 2:39 on the south side of the Supermarket field. After a relocation attempt failed to produce feathers, Corder decided to pick up. Time was on point at 2:55 in the Morgan Clear Cut on the west edge. The initial flushing attempt was fruitless and after a lengthy relocation also failed the 3-hour morning brace ended.

Brace 2. McLean was back Monday afternoon with Touch’s Malcom Story again assisted by Mark Haynes. Story is owned by Alex and Brianna Rickert. Whippoorwill Forever Wild was the second dog in the brace handled by Matt Cochran for owner Phil Witter. Allen Vincent gave a helping hand when needed. The sun was welcomed when the afternoon brace began. The temperature had risen to 46 degrees. The East Pasture was soon in the rear as both dogs turned into the Jim Miller Field. Wild held the edge to the turn toward Buster Graves, but Story took the power line cut and Mclean rode for him in the East Pasture Hayfield. They were independent through Buster Graves and Buster Graves Loop, but were together crossing Ames Road.  Both took the south edge in the Kemp fields. Wild made it through the Horseshoe and was pointed out in Peter Pugh. Story showed at the south end of the Chute and turned toward the Apple Tree Piece. He responded to McLean and turned into the Chute behind Wild. Story was standing at 45 on the south edge of the Agronomy Field. He was standing in a mowed strip. The wind was coming toward him and McLean flushed a nice covey on the opposite side of the strip about 10 yards in the brambles. An excellent use of the wind by Story. Story caught the front at the Strawberry Patch and was out of sight to the front quickly. Wild came out of the Demonstration Plots approaching the Water Truck Field with Story appearing soon after. They were not seen approaching Prospect and down the Terraced Hill. They both showed as they made the turn at the Dairy Barn. Each handler was working hard to stay in touch. Story took the right side in Turkey Bottom and Wild took the left. Story made the turn toward Pine Hill in Alfalfa Bottom and Cochran rode for Wild. He found Wild standing in the southwest corner of the bottom at 1:22. Everything was in order at the shot. They covered Marshal Jack Harris, Tyler Test, and Kerry 7 acres before turning south at the Agronomy Field. Haynes called point for Story at 1:45 in the rough just south of the agronomy Field. He stood statuesque for wing and shot. For the next 1hour and 25 minutes they hunted the remaining course from Jack Harris Cabin field to the L.B. Avent House Place without any more bird work. Cochran decided to save Wild for another day and put the harness on him at 2:47. Story made a big swing through the Morgan Field and crossed Ellington Road at the morning crossing. He was still running through Joe Woody and through the T-Piece. He was in the morning Breakaway field when his bid ended. He had run a strong forward race during his 3-hour effort.

Brace 3.  Two rookies went toe-to-toe in the third brace Tuesday morning. Ascension wore the orange collar for handler Steve Hurdle and scout Korry Reinhart. Ted Roach rode for his entry. Jamie Daniels piloted Miller’s Blindsider with the green collar for owner Nick Berrong, who was also mounted. Jed Carlton scouted. They went east when they were released and worked through the large food patch and went through the tree line headed toward the pond levee. Handlers and scouts were out at Heartbreak Hill. Blindsider crossed Ellington and took the north line in the Morgan field and disappeared into Morgan Swamp. Hurdle brought Ascension from Joe Woody and he made a nice showing hugging the north line in Morgan field. Blindsider came through some rough country on his own and Daniels found him standing in the New Basin field on the north side at 21. No exceptions taken at wing and shot. They crossed Turner Road and raced ahead to the Turner field. Both made a strong cast around the lower Turner field and both took the west edge headed north. Ascension was the most forward and they held the line and faded from view. Blindsider suffered an unproductive stand at 36 in the Turner Basin field. Ascension was ahead through the Turner Pines and Blindsider caught up at the Turner Ditch crossing. Blindsider was pointing again at 50 east of the Tom Hert field just south of Govan Hill. Daniels flew a nice covey with everything in order. No contacts were recorded around Govan Hill and by the old Dunn property and they crossed National Championship Drive. Daniels called point at 1:04 in the Mary Scott Out Front field but waved it off. They entered Locust Turn together and were next seen in the National Championship South field on the west edge working through a feed patch. They were out of pocket in the Big Oak field and everyone was out searching. Ascension came in to Hurdle and he sent him into the Morgan field where he made a huge swing around the field. Blindsider had not returned and Daniels went looking for him at 1:45 and did not return. Ascension continued to run to the front and went to the likely spots but the quail were not moving and Hurdle called it quits at 2:12.

Brace 4 The brace began under cloudy skies with the mercury standing at 48 degrees.  S F Stetson made his rookie debut under the whistle of Larry Huffman with assistance from Nick Thompson. Larry Smith, owner of Stetson, was in the saddle to support Huffman and Stetson. Westfall’s True Grit, making his fifth attempt, was handled by Andy Daugherty and scouted by Allen Vincent. Grit’s owner, Ryan Westfall, could by be present. They were away at 1:13. They both took the south edge and Grit cut across to the north. Stetson was standing at 18 under the power line at the east end of the East Pasture. Grit evidently held the power line and went into the East Pasture Hayfield; Vincent went to turn him. Git was back in Buster Graves and both dogs made the Buster Graves Loop and crossed Ames Road. Both Handlers held up at Ames waiting for the judges to catch up. Grit went to the south edge in the Mounting Block field and Stetson was also there. Grit was not seen through the Kemp fields but Daugherty remained on course with Vincent scouting, Stetson was in the Horseshoe and made a memorable cast around the field. Stetson was in Peter Pugh when Grit appeared in the Horseshoe. Daugherty spied Grit standing in the Mickleson field east of the Mounting Block field. Daugherty could not produce feathers and Git was credited with an unproductive. As Grit was making his way back to the front, he was kicked by a horse and injured. Daugherty picked up at 53 to avoid any further injury to Grit. Some dogs need a bracemate to lean on, but this was not the case with Stetson. He was fast and strong as he hunted through Prospect, Turkey and Alfalfa Bottoms, and on over Pine Hill. He wasn’t tiring as he worked Kerry 7 acres and the Agronomy field before turning south at Wolf Crossing. Just out of the Crossing, he stacked up at the old Gilliam Cemetery on the west end of Marshall Jack Harris at 1:50. Huffman flushed with Stetson high and tight. Eight minutes later in a feed patch at 1:58 he was standing again in the Jack Harris Cabin field. His birds were where he said they were and Huffman flew Stetson’s third covey. Stetson was still rolling when he swapped ends at the apex of Cox’s Ridge looking into heavy Bi Color. His location was again right-on and he stood stately as he watched his quarry fly away. He didn’t slow as he traversed Fasom Bottom, up Fasom Ridge and made a strong showy cast around A T’s House Place. He crossed Ellington Road and turned south in the Tennessee field. He was pointed out in the Avent field and Huffman rode ahead to keep him on course. Huffman’s cap was in the air for the fifth time at 2:43. Stetson was standing at the base of the Avent Big Oak. The birds flushed as Huffman approached the rigid Stetson. He was sent on across the Morgan field and crossed Ellington Road at the T-Piece. At the 3-hour mark Stetson was ahead running a line in the little field north of the morning Breakaway field. Huffman had ridden the middle of the course and allowed Stetson to do his thing for the entire time. Thompson was sent out sparingly, but he was never in contact with Stetson. For the most part Stetson had done it on his own. His performance was pleasing to watch.

Brace 5.  Lester’s Shockwave was drawn in this brace but he was scratched because of a medical issue. Allen Vincent brought Lowrider Frank to the line for his second attempt at the title. Frank’s owners, Dr. Jim Mills and Steve Lightle were not able to attend. Andy Daugherty scouted. The bye dog, Touch’s Blackout, was moved up. Blackout is owned by John and Jackie Harkins. They could not be here today. Blackout was piloted by Randy Anderson and scouted by Stegan Smith. They were together on the east side of the Out Front field. They worked through the T-Piece and were next seen in Joe Woody. Frank was standing in Joe Woody at 9 in a mowed strip facing a tangle of briars. When the bevy lifted, Frank marked flight. No exception was taken by the judiciary. Frank crossed Ellington Road and held the east edge in Morgan. Blackout caught up in Morgan. Frank was on the board again when Stegan Smith saw him pointing on the edge of the New Basin at 20. Blackout was in the Avent field and Frank joined him there and they crossed Turner Road together. They both made a showy cast in the lower Turner Longneck. Frank then took the west edge and went into Turner Basin. A few minutes later Blackout duplicated the feat. Blackout hooked up with Anderson in the Turner Pines and Daugherty was dispatched to the Turner North field. Vincent raised his cap at 40 for Frank standing in Turner North. Frank corrected and moved ahead as the judges approached. They crossed Turner Ditch and went around Govan Hill on the back side. They were in sight at National Championship Drive and crossed together. They were quickly through Mary Scott and both handlers called point at 1:07. The dogs were standing side-by-side; Blackout was facing east and Frank was facing west. Both handlers flushed and shot when the covey took to wing. A bird lifted between the two dogs. Both mannerly at shot. A divided find was credited here. Frank was first to enter Locust Turn and was pointing again at 1:19. An unproductive stand was credited here. They took opposite sides in the Tennessee field. Blackout was standing in a feed patch on the border of the Tennessee field and the Big Oak field at 1:35. Anderson put the birds in the air and Blackout was unmoving at the shot. They took in the Morgan and Supermarket fields and crossed National Championship Drive at Kyle’s Barn.  They had no luck in the Clark fields or No Man’s Land. Blackout scored again at 1:58 in Mary Scott just east of No Man’s Land. The birds were in front of Blackout and he stood rigid at the shot. This concluded the bird work in this brace. Both dogs continued their search for the next hour but were not rewarded for their efforts. The brace ended in Morgan field. Frank and Blackout both completed the 3 hours.

Brace 6. Coldwater Thunder was the top dog in the sixth brace Wednesday afternoon, the only female in this year’s competition. Thunder is owned by Doug Arthur, Billy Blackwell, and Rachel and David Russell; all were mounted to watch the action. Steve Hurdle handled and Korry Reinhart assisted when needed. The veteran, Lester’s Jazzman, was the bottom dog. He was handled by Randy Anderson and scouted by Stegan Smith. Jazzman’s owner, Dan Hensley was not present. The Temperature was 50 degrees when Thunder took the south side of the East Pasture and Jazzman went down the power line. Jazzman scored first at 6 under the powerline on the east end of the pasture. They were ahead through Jim Miller and Buster Graves. Reinhart was sent to the south in the Mounting Block field and Jazzman was out of pocket. The next sighting was Thunder in the Horseshoe as she made a nice move around the big field at the top of the hill. Thunder was fast through the Chute and Hurdle found her standing at 44 in the rough just south of the Agronomy field. Both dogs were together out of the Strawberry Patch and faded away into the Water Truck field. They were seen sparingly through Prospect and Thunder made the turn at the Dairy Barn headed toward Lawrence Smith. Smith was out looking for Jazzman. They were in Turkey Bottom where Thunder made a strong forward cast toward Alfalfa Bottom on the south edge and Jazzman took the north edge. Hurdle went to the southwest corner and found both dogs standing in weeds that were as high as a horse’s back. Hurdle called flight of birds as the judges rode toward Hurdle. When the judiciary arrived, Hurdle asked if they had seen the birds. When the answer was affirmative, Hurdle shot. The judiciary reported than since both dogs were standing, both were given credit for a find here at 1:22. Hurdle’s call of “there she goes” was heard throughout the brace. Thunder was going places and she was going fast. She was out of sight at times, but she always appeared to the front where she should have been. Thunder made quick time through Pine Hill, Kerry 7 acres, the Agronomy unit and turned into Wolf Crossing. Jazzman was in and out with Smith looking most of the time. Hurdle found Thunder standing the third time at 1:52 in the cut over north of Jack Harris Cabin field. She was a pretty sight as she stood statuesque waiting for Hurdle.  No bird work was recorded through Caesar’s Ditch or Cox’s Ridge. Jazzman made an appearance in Carlisle Corner and stood at 2:11 in weeds on top of the hill overlooking Fason Bottom. They crossed Ellington Road with 30 minutes left in the brace. Thunder was pointed out ahead in the Tennessee field. Jazzman was not in sight. The distant call of point was heard with the judges and gallery in the Avent field. It was a long ride back to the Avent Big Oak field where Thunder was standing at 2:50 at the base of the Big Oak. Thunder finished her 3-hour bid in the morning Breakaway field. Jazzman was out of pocket at pick up but was seen officially at 3:06. It was a fast, enjoyable hour.

The running on Thursday the 11th was cancelled because of freezing rain making the footing unsafe for man and animals alike.

Brace 7 Whippoorwill Justified, the 2016 National Champion, suffered an injury last season and the rehab was rather lengthy. For a time, the prognosis for a full recovery was in doubt. After an evaluation of the footing conditions on the course, owner, Ronnie Spears, and handler Larry Huffman decided to scratch rather than take a chance of aggravating the old injury. Marques Armed Robber was handled by Lefty Henry for owner, John Ivester. Korry Reinhart assisted when needed. Mr. Ivester watched from the road gallery. It was 28 degrees when Robber went to the east in the Out Front field. Robber was not in sight at Heartbreak Hill and Henry and Reinhart were both out. Henry found Robber standing at 13 in the A T House Place field. Henry lifted a nice covey that Robber had located perfectly. He took the west line in Morgan and disappeared to the front in the New Basin. Reinhart found Robber standing in a mowed strip at 27 in the New Basin field. Everything was in order at wing and shot. Robber was through the Avent field and crossed Turner Road. He made a wide swing around the lower Turner Longneck and then went up the west line toward Turner Basin. He was out of pocket in the Turner Pines but he was back with Henry after a 15-minute absence. Robber ate up the course through Mary Scott and the Low Lands. He made a nice showing in the National Championship South field and crossed Turner Road into the Tennessee field. From the Tennessee field all the way to the Keegan Fields, he made some nice moves and he hunted the likely spots but lady luck was not with him today. Henry decided to save him for another day at 2:26 and picked up. Robber’s tail was covered in ice and his collar also. The elements had taken their toll on him. The temperature remained below freezing—in the 20’s. He had given a courageous effort. He did not quit in spite of the cold and wet conditions.

Brace 8 The mercury stood at 26 degrees when the brace began and there was an icy, biting wind that made the chill factor even lower. Luke Eisenhart piloted Touch’s Red Rider in his second attempt at the National. Tommy Davis scouted. Rider is owned by S. Tucker Johnson. The second dog was Westfall’s River Ice handled by Andy Daugherty with help from Allen Vincent. Brad Calkins, owner of Rider, was not present. They were off at a fast pace as they sped down the power line and into Jim Miller. They made the turn into Buster Graves and they were together through Buster Graves Loop. Both handlers toweled their dog off at Ames Road. There was a lot of standing water on the course from the rain, sleet, and snow from yesterday making it tough going for the dogs. They were not seen through the Kemp fields and Daugherty called point for Ice at the top of the horseshoe at 32. The initial flushing attempt was in vain and the relocation likewise. Daugherty decided to pick up at 35. Rider was still out of pocket. Eisenhart stayed the course and Davis was scouting. There was no sign of Rider through the Chute, the Agronomy field, or the Strawberry Patch. Eisenhart asked for the tracker at 56 ending the days running.

Brace 9 When the temperature does not rise above freezing for a full day and night it is extremely cold for the residents of west Tennessee. Such was the case on Friday and Friday night. It was decided to delay the first brace of the final day of running for one hour on Saturday morning in hopes of at least a little warming. Even then it was a challenging and demanding assignment for the handlers and dogs in this next to final brace. Touch’s Gallatin Fire for owners Alex and Briana Rickert was the top dog with the orange collar. Alex was mounted in spite of the frigid conditions. Fire was handled by Mark McLean and scouted by Mark Haynes. Dunn’s Tried N True, wearing the green collar, was guided by Luke Eisenhart with Tommy Davis, himself a former wining handler of the National, helping. Will and Rita Dunn, owners of True, also braved the elements to observe the action.  The temperature was 22 degrees when they were loosed at 9:07. True went to the Ellington Road edge and Fire went straight away. They both made the turn at Heartbreak Hill and crossed into the Morgan field. Both showed well as they headed for the New Basin. McLean raised his cap at 27 for Fire standing in a feed patch in the L B Avent corn field at Turner Road. McLean flushed and fired when the bevy rose out of the milo. True was credited with a pretty back here. They took a tour around the lower Turner Longneck and were seen approaching Turner Basin. McLean and Eisenhart both pointed out their dogs at the Turner Ditch Crossing. They were around Govan Hill with True in the lead. Both dogs went into the old Dunn field and both were back with the handlers as they approached National Championship Drive. Both dogs went down National Championship and both handlers rode for them. McLean was back first and Fire was sent ahead into Mary Scott Out Front. Without any bird work and because of the treacherous footing, Eisenhart picked up at :60. Seven minutes later at 1:07 McLean picked up as it was obvious the conditions had taken a toll on Fire. 

Brace 10 Miller’s Storm Surge handled by Gary Lester was assisted by Korry Reinhart. Owners, Tommy and Bonnie Hamilton braved the artic temperature to support their entry.  Dream Chaser was dawn as the brace mate to Surge, but he was scratched. Andy Daugherty was to handle Chaser for owner Brad Calkins. Surge ran as a bye dog. The temperature held steady at 22 degrees when Surge was released. He started in the food patch on the south side of the East Pasture, but crossed over to the power line at the pines. At 7 minutes into the brace he was standing in a food patch in the Jim Miller field pointing into the hedge row. This not before seen covey boiled out of the milo when Lester flushed. Surge remained high and tight at the shot. Lester sent him down the power line and Surge covered a lot of ground before joining Lester in Buster Graves. Surge made a nice cast in the George Kemp east field. Lester sent him toward Peter Pugh in the Horseshoe. Surge met Lester at the entrance to the Chute.  Lester pointed him out at the Cedar tree at the north end of the chute. Lester sent him east in the Agronomy field and he was next seen in the Water Truck field. He was next seen in Turkey Bottom as he made a nice swing and headed toward Alfalfa Bottom. At 1:30 Lester called point in the wood’s edge in the Marshall Jack Harris field. but Surge corrected on his own and moved ahead. From there he hunted through Kerry 7 acres, the Agronomy field, Wolf Crossing, Jack Harris Cabin field, and Cox’s Ridge without the benefit f bird work. Judge Shenker rode out to Lester in Carlisle Corner at 2:10 and after a brief conversation Lester picked up ending the 2021 National Competition.

Brad Harter returned for the 34th year as the official videographer of the National. If there is a performance that you would like to see, Brad’s Pleasant Hill Productions can provide you with a DVD going back 33 years, and this year’s action will be available soon after the completion of the trial. Brad has kept the historic performances of past National Champions available for viewing through his efforts of videoing. Brad records the action from horseback with assistance from mounted riders, Ryan Braddock, Larry Garner, and Rick Carlisle. Ken Blackman will film from stationary positions along the course. 

Jamie Evans is the Senior Research Assistant on Ames Plantation and he wears many hats. He coordinates the day-to-day operations of the Ames. In addition, he is the official photographer and he stays busy fulfilling that responsibility. You will find him at the morning and afternoon breakaways taking pictures of the dogs, their handlers, and their owners if they are present. These photos along with Brad Harter’s are sorted each afternoon after the running and then some of the photos are added to the web page every night. Jamie, along with his wife, Dee, are responsible for the daily updates on the web page. Along with the photos, they include the synopsis of every brace. Many who cannot attend in person rely on the daily updates to keep up with the action. Their service is appreciated by many.

Sidelights and Recognitions

Rick Carlisle and Ryan Braddock, shared the duties of Marshalling the courses. Rick served as the front marshal and Ryan had the responsibility of the rear marshal. Normally Chris Weatherly served as a rear marshal with his main duty to assist a handler to find a missing dog but a delicate operation on one of his neck vertebrae curtailed most of his daily functions.  He is still rehabbing due to the operation and is expected to make a full recovery.

The planting of the food patches was completed in July. Grain sorghum, white grain sorghum, pearl millet, and teosinte were planted in each of the patches. There are 170 patches on the morning course that equals 125.9 acres. The afternoon course has 153 patches that equal 133.5 acres. Last year the total number of patches was 259, this year the number swelled to 323 for an increase of 64 patches and an additional 76.2 acres.  The bird release program was completed in September with 6200 birds released with an equal amount on the morning and afternoon courses.

The barn crew is an essential cog in the wheels that run the National. They begin their day before dawn feeding the horses and preparing them for the morning running. They do not leave that afternoon until all the horses are groomed, fed and in their stall.  Chris Weatherly’s medical restrictions would not allow him to be mounted, but his knowledge of the activities served as a valuable asset as he oversaw the barn operation in conjunction with Ryan Braddock. The rest of the crew was Steven McKeen, Jacob Lay, Jeremy McAlpin, Matt Meyer, and Mark Yearwood.

Southern Eatery of Holly Springs, Mississippi provided sack lunches from 11:00 until 1:00 PM to be picked up at Bryan Hall and eaten elsewhere. These hot soup and sandwiches lunches were welcomed by staff, workers, and the general public who chose to take advantage of the opportunity for the noon meal.

All social events were cancelled at the Bird Dog Museum this year. The cancellations included all of the Hall of Fame inductions, the Kick Off Dinner, and the Catfish Dinner, however, the museum was open to the public with social distancing in effect. Tonya Brotherton extended the hours of operation to seven days a week during the trial. Sissy Pierce is the only part-time employee. Tonya is eternally grateful to all the volunteers who give of their time during this extremely busy time. Without their help all the functions at the Museum would be severely lacking. Purina provided snacks and light fare at the Museum in view of the cancellations of the social activities.

Purina is celebrating the 128th year of continued service to the agricultural community and pet owners. They furnished a year’s supply of Pro Plan to the winning handler and a sample to each participating handler. The Purina Logo is conspicuous throughout the field trial arena—from coast to coast and border to border. Purina supports and sponsors field trials all across the United State and Canada. They also sponsor Ross B. Young’s oil painting of the newly crowned Champion and they contributed a monetary gift to help defray the cost of this Championship. They also provided a one-of-a-kind National Championship cap to the handlers, owners, and club officials for the 34th consecutive year. Purina was represented by Greg Blair, area manager in charge of the entire Bird Dog segment. Purina also presented jackets to the judges, officers, and directors of the NFTCA which were very much appreciated by all who received them. Purina’s generosity and sponsorship of this event is very much a reason for the success of the National.

Sunshine Mills, manufacturer of Sportsman’s Pride Dog Food, headquartered in nearby Red Bay, Alabama renewed their sponsorship this year.  They also provided a year’s supply of Sportsman’s Pride Dog Food to the winning handler. Sportsman’s Pride also made a monetary donation to help offset the cost of this event. Representatives David Brown and Brad Kennedy supplied gloves, lanyards, and mini hand sanitizer bottles inscribed with the Sportsman Pride logo while the supplies lasted at the Rhea Building each morning, Regrettably, the Brunswick Stew sponsored by Sportsman Pride was cancelled.

As we look back at the year 2020, we are saddened by the difficulties and losses that occurred. The National Championship and the Ames Plantation suffered a great loss with the passing of Catherine Bowling Dean. You may not have been associated with Catherin and did not know who she was. She was the owner of Me and My Tea Room Catering. For over 20 years she and her staff prepared the noon lunches at Bryan Hall. She also catered all the functions at the Manor House during those special occasions. Every year the University of Tennessee sends students to Ames for a hands-on experience in veterinary services and agriculture practices and Catherine provided the meals for those students. She was a friend to everyone she met and will be remembered as someone who brought pleasure by her delicious meals made possible by her gifted culinary skills. Her role will be difficult to fill. RIP Catherine.

Aubrey Green, head of security for the 40th year, oversees the security teams that patrol the grounds and assist with traffic control at the road crossings. Paramedic Greg Tapp rides every brace and his services have benefited those who needed medical assistance. Other members of the security team are: Kelly Green, Joe Thompson also serving for the 40th year, Chris Kelly, Zack Parsons, Kerry Kimmery, Jacob Jenkins, Mike Kee, and Johnny Pattat. Moses Allen is employed by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department. They provide protection for the dogs, horses, and people at the road crossings. Ken Blackman records the number of gallery riders each day. All of these folks provide a valuable service. Thanks also to Sheriff Bobby Riles and his deputies for their assistance throughput the trial.

The roster of the members of the NFTCA reads as follows: Charles F. Bryan, president, Dale E. Bush, vice-president, and Dr. Rick Carlisle, secretary/treasurer. The directors are: Nathan Cottrell, Dr. Jack Huffman, John Ivester, Bobby McAlexander, Dr. Terry Terlep, Dr. Fred Corder, Jadie Rayfield, William Smith, and Douglas Vaughn. It is the responsibility of this body to operate this trial per the stipulations of Mrs. Ames’ will.