If you want public reactions to a column, write about birddogs or Donald Trump. You may not like what they say, but folks will speak up. In the case of Trump, it will involve those who think he can walk on water, and those who wouldn’t squirt him with a water pistol if he was on fire. With birddogs, they often have similar stories. Like mine, most of their dogs could walk on water.
Jackie Trim, Coach Danny Scott and I saw dogs do things in the early 1970s that were easy to remember. We learned that a smart quail hunter never doubts a good dog. Once Jackie’s Joe, Danny’s Babe, and my Bo pointed in a cornfield in three different directions. There was considerable distance between them, and since Bo was the most experienced and closest to us, we walked in behind him and four birds flushed. When we shot, a similar number of birds flushed in front of Joe and Babe. It was late in the afternoon and apparently they ran right into the middle of a covey which was feeding over an area of about an acre. We should have trusted each dog.
In Kansas many years ago, Keith Mack walked up behind my dog Dan (Danny Boy) on the bank of a creek. Dan was pointed toward a little finger of land about three feet wide that jutted out over the water ten feet below. There was very little cover and certainly not enough for a Bobwhite to hide. “Dog, what are you doing?” Keith asked with his shotgun firmly on his shoulder.
Immediately a lone Bobwhite flushed and buzzed right down the middle of the creek and out of sight. “Well I guess that answers that question,” Keith mumbled apologetically.
It would be hard to place a number on the times I’ve heard similar tales. It usually went something like, “Old Sam pointed out there in the middle of a field where a mole cricket couldn’t hide, and I knew good’n well there weren’t no birds.., but there wuz dang nigh a dozen hid right out there in the open.”
My Dad often said, “Don’t argue with an expert, and a good dog is an expert.”
But Dad also had a dim prophetic view of good dogs. He figured a good dog could get hit and killed by a young’un on a tricycle while a sorry dog could get run over by a freight train and walk away unscathed. Also, he had a phobia about someone offering big money for a dog. “If they show interest in the dog, tell them he’s not for sale before they make an offer. It’s a death sentence if you don’t take the money,” he’d say.
Chan Williams has a good story about Tony Oliver’s Bluetick female coon dog, Kate, who had a bigtime performance at the World Championship Coon Hunt in Green Castle, Indiana in 1977. According to Chan, he, Tony, Bill Parker, Bobby Schwallenberger, and Ernie Stanfield traveled to Indiana for the World Championship Hunt. Chan said one more treed coon by Kate would have probably resulted in her winning the championship that night. Two weeks later she was lost on a regular Tuesday night hunt at the local hunting club, and they found her Wednesday morning. She’d been hit by a car. Soon after they buried her, a hunter showed up with $5000 in cash to buy her. Tony wouldn’t have sold her, but that story mirrored what happened to me in 2001 with Danny Boy after a trip to Montana.
Maxie, my granddaughter’s Brittany, had a good hunt in Kansas several years ago. I have never seen a dog successfully point prairie chickens, but Max pointed five on top of a hill and retrieved three of the four shot down. He pointed several coveys of quail and singles in snow sometimes knee deep. He was an up and coming youngster, and although no one made an offer to buy him, he chased a deer across Hwy 280 about ten days after we returned and was hit by an automobile. Although he wasn’t killed on the spot, we never found him.
Certainly those stories fit right in with my father’s theory about the fragile lifespans of good dogs. But there was more to it. “Enjoy them as much as you can,” he said. “Even if they live a full life, they’ll be gone before you know it.”