April 16, 2018
From the President’s Desk,
As our field trial year draws to an end, I hope that it has been enjoyable on many levels and successful on a personal level. As a commodity broker and speculator for 36 years, I have been able to justify my field trial expenses as the cost of sanity and an escape from the many pressures that have to be dealt with on a daily basis (if not hourly). You are welcome to use whatever excuse works for you. Most field trailers have an innate love for our sport and the canines that become a part of our very existence. My first birddog (Buck) came along when I was 10 years old and he taught me a great deal. My first horse came the same year. In the following 54 years, I have never been without either. For the most part our equine friends come and go and they are beloved for the task they perform. But, a field trial birddog is heart and soul. He or she demands our constant attention, because this is a partnership that is welded over time and tested through competition. This past fall, Angie and I suffered a great loss. Rebel Pride (Jake) missed his evening meal for the first time in his short life (7 1/2 years) and succumbed to acute pancreatitis at the Vet’s office the next day. He was the best birddog that I ever blew a whistle over. Not always the best field trial dog, because finding birds was always paramount to running a showy race. His nose and intelligence would carry him to places no other dog would attempt. If birds weren’t easily accessible on a course after about 20 minutes, he would go to where ever they were hiding and that made either finding him pointed or showing him advantageously rather difficult. No amount of heat or cold or wind or cover or briars deterred him from his quest. One particular memory was when he had 9 perfect finds on wild quail at the Region 16 Amateur All-Age Championship held on the famed Dixie Plantation near Monticello, Florida on a course that was short on birds that year. Of course, he didn’t place, but everyone there wanted to take him home. This added up to the joy of victory or the agony of defeat as Curt Gowdy used to say on the intro to his TV show The American Sportsman. “Jake” will be remembered always. But, the future demands that we look to his sons and daughters to stoke the fire of our ambitions.
The AFTCA has been pleased and honored this year with the participation at our National Amateur Championship events. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in making all of these a success from the judges and reporters, to the host clubs, to the marshals, and the dog wagon drivers. Especially to the land owners and public land managers, whose efforts are never to be forgotten. Successful is defined as reasonable entries along with enough fun to make people want to attend again. Our flagship events have been fortunate to have been held on premier venues and hosted by the best of the best.
The National Amateur Quail Championship was held in March at the storied Ames Plantation near Grand Junction, TN. It drew 48 dogs for the event with 48 starters in the 1 1/2 hour event. A special thanks to our judges, Bill Mason and Frank LaNasa for 6 days in the saddle. Dr. Carlisle and his staff were exceptional. Ryan Braddock helped all participants as front marshal and Chris Weatherly took care of back marshal. Dog wagon driver, Ken Blackman, photographer Vera Courtney, and Aubrey Green manned the road crossings. Gayle Hayneskept all of us fat and happy. Jean LaNasa kept us all laughing. Every aspect was phenomenal except Mother Nature. Record rainfall had left the area a virtual swamp early in the week. I apologize to our Secretary (Piper Huffman) for not being the help that I should have been during the trial. I was fighting a bout with pneumonia (lost) and that left Piper to wear all the hats. She handled it effortlessly. Along with everything else she rode every brace to report.
The National Amateur Shooting Dog and Derby Championship was held in February at Camp Robinson Wildlife Management Area near Conway, Arkansas. Steve Messick and all his crew did a superb job hosting this event. They truly know how to make a field trial a memorable “event”. The new Clubhouse rounds out the exceptional horse barn and kennels. The grounds were as good as I’ve seen them in over 30 years. The judges, Tony King and Tim Penn evaluated 50 dogs in the Shooting Dog and 23 in the Derby. Tony also donned the reporter’s hat. Funds were raised and fun was had. Piper and I had planned on attending, but our schedules were jammed and we only have regrets.
The National Amateur Free-For-All Championship held in February at the Sedgefield Plantation near Union Springs, AL is still on my bucket list to attend. Rumor has it that it is the poster child for field trial fun. Mr. and Mrs. Raymond and Kathern Harbert are to be thanked for allowing Rick Stallings and his crew to host this prestigious Championship on their exclusive venue. Rick Furney and Pat Varner judged the 88 entries for this year’s renewal. Morgan Brewer was scribe. A special thank you to everyone that makes this such a memorable event. For me, maybe next year.
Our flagship events would not be complete without embracing our National Amateur Invitational Championships. All the invitees are winners and to be commended. The format for these 3- day events is genius. After judging 5 Amateurs and 2 Open Invitational Championships, I have become an ardent supporter. I have been lucky enough to participate in the All-Age a few times and to prove an old adage about a blind sow finding an acorn occasionally, I have a couple of National Amateur Gold plaques on my wall. Contestants that can hold everything together for 3 days are to be held in a different light. The All-Age was held in December at the Ames Plantation near Grand Junction, TN. This has been held there for a number of years, but the welcome mat is always out. Dr. Carlisle and his staff make hosting trials look easy. We can’t thank them enough. Michael Shears and Jonathan Burch presided the event and Jim Atchison reported. The Shooting Dog was held again at Round Pond Plantation near Leesburg, Ga. The Walker family and their staff are to be commended for their gracious hospitality and the use of their incomparable venue. Luke Eisenhart and Ricky Furney (filling in for Mark McLean at the last minute) were the esteemed judges. Piper was able to attend and report. We thank them all for their time and expertise.
The AFTCA would like to thank all the other host Clubs for their efforts to bring a National Amateur Championship to a venue near you. One of our principal responsibilities at the AFTCA is to provide our members the opportunity to compete in the best National Amateur Championship field trials that are possible. That includes competing on beautiful and exclusive venues that otherwise would be inaccessible to the average field trailer. Please don’t take these venues for granted. Treat them like the gems that they are and show their owners and staff the gratitude they deserve. None of these Championships occur in a vacuum and require a great deal of effort from a lot of people to succeed. The AFTCA invites and encourages you to be involved in as many as you can. The planning for next years’ National Amateur Championships is already underway.
Be aware of our sponsors and support them as they so generously support us.
I would be remiss, without thanking Piper Huffman for her efforts and support. Her devotion to this organization and our sport is unequaled. Being our only compensated employee demands that she wear many hats.
In closing, please attend and participate in the various field trial meetings that will be occurring in your area this summer. Attend with a fresh outlook and new ideas to make our upcoming season better than the last. Extend an invitation to someone who might be interested in our beloved sport. Be a mentor to a younger prospective field trailer. Contact your Regional Trustee with new ideas or for his. We need to all work together for the AFTCA and this sport to celebrate its next 100 years. Lastly, plan on attending the Purina Awards on June 22-23 in St. Louis, MO. The AFTCA will hold its’ annual meeting in conjunction with the many Purina Awards.
Look forward to having a good time and seeing you there.
David E. Williams,