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2009 Free-For-All Championship
By Kent D. Patterson
A topaz moon against an opaque sky seemed his only companion this night as he mumbled aloud, "What is it I'm supposed to do?" Ruby, a mixed breed terrier, lifted her head off the center console with ears cocked askew looking to see if she needed to answer or if his question was metaphoric in nature. He was talking to himself a lot these days. He pushed in the clutch and downshifted hoping the temporary brake wiring job done at the last gas station would stop the rig by the time he reached the 4-way stop up ahead. The trailer brakes were just another brick in the wall crumbling around him as he rode the field trial carousel. It seemed the street sign at every cross road was either "Had Enough" or "What's Next". He got the rig stopped in the middle of the dirt road intersection, sighed, rolled down the window and drew in a deep breath of night air. He longed to smell the Mississippi magnolias but the only tangible "southern comfort" he could find in Dixie lay in a bottle on the seat beside him. Since leaving summer camp in September, he'd been plastered to an emotional pendulum that swung hourly from "why on earth am I doing this" to "does it get any better than this". He'd gotten his start training hunting dogs and word spread fast that he had a good hand for the work. Dr. Peavey stopped by one day with a big strapping white dog that could drag 3 men across a plowed field and his world changed in an instant. He'd never been to a field trial but if this was the type of animal those "hollerin folk" liked, he needed to see more. Jake was his name and the big dog had every quality he loved except, somehow.someway.. someone had genetically distilled all the good stuff into a smooth elixir that held 3 times the potency of nose, dimension, power, guts, and brains. Overnight, he became a great trainer. Jake broke out quick and Dr. Peavey gave him a walking horse by which he danced through the country killing birds over a rigid and stylish powerhouse. He won the first trial he entered and it was like setting a treble hook on a largemouth bass. He was in the game, like it or not. It had crossed his mind that coming in at the top left only one direction but he was sure there was going to be another great one just around the corner. As he drove farther south, he pushed his cap back, rubbed his forehead, and thought how could one dog..one dog cast him into a life that seemed 110 degrees in the shade at times. A suffocating sport or the most exhilarating game he had ever experienced. A carousel with seemingly no "off" button.
Like an hourglass turned over, dog years go quick with the great ones but with shoe-leather, determination, desire, and persistence they go.. they go to the line, to the winners circle, to the next trial, to summer camp and occasionally home with a multitude of dreams, families, careers, and loved ones riding on the performance of a dog. Against all odds and with a confident, yet defiant, demeanor, they continue to assemble each fall with high expectations and great urgency for life.
The roulette wheel known as canine genetics assures a rollercoaster of peaks and valleys but with a goal in mind and prudent decisions, they put one foot in front of the other to be the best in the game. It is a life built in Lego style with no shortcuts, where success isn't measured by a single season but evidenced over time in multiple waves. If willpower was the only necessary ingredient it would be a simple task, but human, canine, and equine must carry the right stuff when measured against great tests.
He worked, watched and touched hall-of-fame dogs, and is now, himself, a hall-of-fame member. From Marion Junction, Alabama to Canada he traveled with Captain John Gates, then established his own camp outside Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. For 40 years he crossed the border and trained dogs, his children and many an amateur in the splendor of the Canadian prairie canvas. A metronome could be no more consistent than his horse in maintaining a pace for a championship and handlers were expected to ride 50 ft in front and "show their dogs" for, after all, it is a show. I've never been more impressed with a judicial panel but will admit, the DNA that runs through the veins of anyone with the last name of Epp holds an unfair advantage over most in this sport. Few families have seen, experienced, watched, or touched the sport of field trialing as much as this one. The Deep South Brittany Championship was privileged to have them with us for a decade anniversary edition of this endurance championship over Alva Caine's Tara Hill Plantation.
As with most trials, there is a core group of stalwarts that do most of the heavy lifting and this trial is no different. Great appreciation and thanks to Bo Ackerman, Linda Langford and Warren Montgomery for coordinating, organizing, and executing this trial. Lisa and Paul Pollock seem to always be feeding a hungry field trial crowd and the spaghetti dinner was, as usual, tremendous. Everyone looked forward to Ms. Johnson's noon meals along with Tom Ettinger's bar-b-que dinner for the 2008 winner, Just Call Me Roy. This was a special year for Roy as this trial marked his retirement from the game. One of the greatest brittanys in the history of the breed, he will, no doubt, be a first ballot hall-of-fame dog. Congratulations to Tom, Ben, Kyle and breeder Martha Greenlee for giving the rest of us the privilege of watching a great animal and field trial career.
Nutro and Trail Blazin Innovations continue to be loyal supporters of this endurance trial. The Deep South Brittany Championship appreciates their trust and dedication to the standards of this event.
Tara Hill was dressed in her Sunday best with courses in magnificent appointment and for the first time in a decade of running the championship here, she delivered cool weather and hard ground in the same trial. Alva Caine and Kenny Bramlett took credit for all of the above and well they should. It is a special place made for showcasing special animals and it is a sincere privilege for those in the brittany community that return each February seeking the next great animal. The field, as with each year, was comprised of multiple FFA champions, National Champions, and youngsters full of exuberance that infused great drama. For some it was a journey of discovery while others arrive with a palpable focus. Sometimes, a strategy from the heart turns out to the best approach and for the first time in its history, an amateur won the Deep South Brittany Free-For-All.
Ru-Jem's A Touch of Bourbon
If one was to open a Brittany dictionary and look up desire, persistence, tenacity there would be a picture of Ruth and Jerry McGee. They have a commitment to the sport, their animals, and to each other that is rare in this game. Decade after decade, they've brought quality animals to the line that are both well trained and have a special bond with their owners. After a recent bout with cancer, Ruth has emerged stronger than ever. The couple seems more energized and revitalized than ever before, and well they should. Ru-Jem's A Touch of Bourbon(Chug) is a class animal in the prime of his field trial career.
Released along the Caine fence line, Chug maintained the front while probing likely cover to the Coach's Corner where he extended the cast westerly for the Saw Tooth Oaks. He continued a consistent forward and reaching effort over the ground near the Tower of Power and probed the space near the Lost Pasture. He stayed wide to the limestone gully and was seen going over the Tara Hill at 30. As we came over the hill at the lake, both dogs were stopped on a far hill with the judges deeming the work as a stop to flush for both. At 35, his bracemate was statuesque along Safford Road with Chug backing, all manners were in order and both dogs were released to the south. Chug strolled along the Hamilton Place cover and froze underneath a huge oak. Jerry stepped into the broom sedge cover and a large covey exploded in all directions while Chug maintained a lofty posture. This find seemed to fire him up as he began to stretch the courses over the last 15 minutes of the hour. He probed the territory near Camp No Sleep and showed perfectly along the well pasture to the front and going away.
Savannah's Hot Shot
Over the history of the Deep South Brittany Free-For-All, it's been rare for a young dog to place but Savannah's Hot Shot, owned by Sheri Hudson and trained by Ben Lorenson is no ordinary young dog. She has the size, strength, and gait to hold her own with the boys and does on a consistent basis. Her style and composure around game was flawless and she'll be one to watch over the coming years.
Released from Tara Hill, she maintained the tree line to the east then turned west to a flashy cast across the front as we rode into the big broom sedge field. She exploded up the line of cover along the pine mott while strolling effortlessly along the lines that lead to the Suttle 40. She crossed into the well pasture and maintained her speed along the southern edge of the course leading toward Camp No Sleep. Point was called on a distant fence line at 35 near the Hamilton Loop, with Bammer displaying extremely lofty style throughout the contact. She maintained the front while working the likely bird cover over the hill at the Hamilton Place and finished strong in the Sedgefield alley.
Royal Reverend (Luke) - Ben Lorenson
Cedar Valley Bandit (Bandit) - Tom Tracy
A cold, 25 degree morning had everyone bundled up as Luke and Bandit sprinted to the north stretching for the far tree-line. Bandit spent some time in the open breakaway ground as Luke made a flashy cast to the west. Bandit was standing at 8 near Coach's Corner but Tom couldn't produce any game. We had both handlers and dogs to the front as we neared the Lost Pasture. It took some time to pull Luke out of cover near the limestone gully as Bandit handled a small covey of birds with style near the catfish pond. Both continued to show nicely along Safford Road with Luke being out of pocket at time near Hamilton Place.
Jay Hawk's Georgia Girl (GiGi) - Tom Tracy
Ru-Jem's Touch of Bourbon (Chug) - Jerry McGee
Pistol Pete (Pete) - Ben Lorenson
The Rock II (Rock) - Tom Tracy
Pete and Rock had their sneakers on leaving the Well Pasture and going deep into the northeast corner then disappearing as the course turns back south. Neither was seen until we reached the next field with Rock popping out along a tree-line headed west. He extended the cast past the gap and was rewarded with a beautiful find on a large covey at 14. The judges and gallery crossed the gap to find Ben with Pete at heel from a remarkable and difficult cast that started in the well pasture and led to showing up front at Camp No Sleep. He was released at the gate and shot over the hill to the west. Both dogs were seen infrequently to 35 where Rock was standing near the Hamilton gate on a hard flying covey. Pete was seen streaking down the chute along Safford Road finishing in huge cast deep in the well pasture. Rock was finishing on a line of cover to the south.
One-N-Only (Butch) - Ben Lorenson
TM's Tennessee Twister (Sway) - Tom Tracy
Butch and Sway were cast from the Suttle 40 as the sun began to warm the day into the 40's. Sway stayed on a line of cover to the south as Butch sprinted to the far northern line turning west toward the course. The judges and gallery rode diagonally across the field and made the turn at the big oak as Sway made a flashy cast along cover in a soybean field. We got to the corner just in time to see Butch extending his original cast with a huge move across the bottleneck to Tara Hill. It would be the last time he was seen over the remainder of the brace. Sway continued with well timed casts along the edges below the lake and along the islands of pine and broomsedge that dot course 4. She finished at moderate range along a tree line reaching toward Safford Road.
Savannah's Hot Shot (Bammer) - Ben Lorenson
Dakota Alleycat (Tiger) - Tom Tracy
Bammer and Tiger were away after a southern lunch of fried chicken, rice, greens and banana pudding. The kildeers kept Bammer's interest for a brief period as the gallery moved through the woods cut with both dogs settling in with showy casts as we neared Coach's Corner. Tiger was recovered near the Lost Pasture as Bammer had a relocated find in the sawtooth oaks. The parties were rejoined at the new catfish pond with Tiger making a cast below Tara Hill that would be last time he was seen. Bammer continued with well timed casts behind the lake leading to a stylish find on a small covey near the Safford Road - Sedgefield crossing. She finished strongly along cover near Hamilton Road.
Maxwell's Hit and Run (Roy) - Ben Lorenson
Diamond Hill Deuces Gone Wild (Cooter) - Tom Tracy
From the Bramlett house, both dogs shot to the nearest line of cover and took it up and over the hill. Cooter showed first at the pine knoll as Roy extended his cast along the eastern border of the course and deeper toward the well pasture. Cooter rimmed the Bramlett Loop and was found standing at 17 along a dry creek. A covey of birds were flushed while he maintained his style. Roy was brought up from his well pasture cast and both handlers were together near the Hamilton place. Roy skimmed the right edge below Tara Hill as Cooter went easterly toward the bottleneck. Roy continued his cast along the bottom of the big broomsedge field with Cooter returning at 35. At 40, Cooter nailed a covey out sunning for the afternoon near the island crossing with all manners in order. Upon release he shot toward the Suttle 40 where he had a small covey with Roy backing, at time.
Piney Run Art (Artie) - Ben Lorenson
Eleets Colorado Blue (Blue) - Tom Tracy
Adios Shaq Attack (Shaq) - Tom Tracy
Clyde's Micro-Breeze (Mike) - Lisa Pollock
Another cold morning with frozen ground had the dogs and horses dancing away at 8:05. Both stuck to the fence line in the breakaway field with Mike showing nicely out of the woods cut along the edge at Coach's Corner. Both dogs were in and out of pocket to the Lost Pasture as Mike made the flashy cast west. Shaq was recovered near the new catfish pond and where both dogs hooked up and headed south below Tara Hill with handlers and scouts working hard to gather them up. All efforts were unsuccessful and the brace ended early.
Cash - Leland Dye
Mustang Sally (Sally) - Tom Tracy
From the Bramlett House, Sally and Cash took the left margin of the course and were seen going over the hill. Tom sent his scout deeper to the east trying to recover Sally from the well pasture. This effort was time consuming and he elected to pick up. Cash showed nicely along the edges leading to the Bramlett loop and stopped with style at 15 along the well pasture fence line. A flush and relocation did not produce game and Leland elected to go on. Cash stuck to the edges as we headed back toward the Hamilton place but the ash stobs and ground rose began to take a toll with Leland electing to pick up at 25.
Diamond Hill Reckless Endeavor (Rex) - Tom Tracy
Just Call Me Roy (Roy) - Ben Lorenson
Roy opened the brace with one of his big moves rimming the well pasture while dropping in and out of cover and showing to the front at the crossing. Rex started along the northern edge and crossed over the open ground to the field trial party turning southeast. Rex continued to be a handful and over the first 20 minutes and Tom elected to pick up. Roy continued to set the standard with completed casts that continually led to the front, he had a brief deer encounter in the Sedgefield alley and was far to the front at time.
Early Times (Earl) - Tom Tracy
HiProof Whizki (Whiz) - Leland Dye
From the Safford 40, Earl rimmed cover along the road then took the tree line in front that ended in a well timed cast out into the open space leading toward Tara Hill. Whiz took the tree line headed north disappearing into the expanse of course 1. Earl was standing with excellent style at 7 on a finger of cover in the 2nd field. Birds were flushed and all manners were in order. He continued his edge running pattern up and over Tara Hill. Whiz remained out of contact until we dropped back off the hill then made a big cast toward the pine mott as Earl was standing along an old fence line recording find #2. Earl continued to run a wide race into pockets of course 1 that took some time to pull him out as the course turns south. Whiz was pointed at 30 and then seen moving with birds in the air. Earl was recovered at 38 and was strong in his finish along an island of cover back toward Safford Road.
Dogs Called Back for the Championship Round
(front & center)
h: Tom Tracy; o: Bo and Renea Ackerman
(from left to right)
The Rock II
h: Tom Tracy; o: Paul and Lisa Pollock
Diamond Hills Deuces Gone Wild
h: Tom Tracy; o: Paul and Lisa Pollock
Just Call Me Roy
h: Ben Lorenson; o: Tom Ettinger
Savannah's Hot Shot
h: Ben Lorenson; o: Sheri Hudson
A Touch of Bourbon
h: Jerry McGee; o: Jerry and Ruth McGee
Cold 29 degree morning with all in attendance bundled up.
The Rock II (Rock) - Tom Tracy
Ru'Jems A Touch of Bourbon (Chug) - Jerry McGee
Ru'Jems A Touch of Bourbon(see above). Roc sprinted across open ground to a distant island of cover and stretched the string on down the course. He was seen briefly sprinting toward the pine island and recovered near the Lost Pasture headed west down a long oak tree line. It took some time to recover him from this cast but he did come around as we went up Tara Hill. As we came over the hill at the lake, both dogs were stopped on the far hill with the judges deeming the work as a stop to flush for both. At 35, Roc was statuesque with Chug backing near Hamilton Road, all manners were in order and both dogs were released to the south. Roc wasn't seen much after the Hamilton place find and wasn't recovered in the time allowed.
Savannah's Hot Shot (Bammer) - Lorenson
Diamond Hills Deuces Gone Wild (Cooter) - Tracy
Just Call Me Roy (Roy) - Ben Lorenson
Early Times (Earl) - Tom Tracy
Safford, Al., February 4-6, 2009
Judges: Freddie Epp and Ruth Ann Little
Deep South Brittany Free-For-All Championship
[45 min qualifying heat] [1 hr championship heat]
Ru'Jems A Touch of Bourbon
Brittany Male, by Bourbon XIII
X Mo-Kan Bimbo; Jerry and Ruth McGee, owner, h Jerry McGee
Savannah's Hot Shot
Brittany Female, by Keystone's Double Shot
X Savannah's Vamp Hannah; Sheri Hudson, owner;
h Ben Lorenson