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A Distinctly Southern Flair For The 2012 CEB-US Nationals
Posted on 03/15/2012 in Notes From The Field.

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This year’s Nationals were orchestrated with a distinctly southern flair in Quincy, Florida. As El Consuelo Farm manager Daniel Boyd recounted during the reception at the Quincy Garden Club’s mansion, during the 1970’s Quincy boasted the most millionaires per capita of any county in the United States, due to the number of local farmers which acquired Coca Cola stock earlier during the century, when they would renew their farm operating loans at Quincy State Bank. In addition to the physical setting in “old Florida,” as residents of the region refer to the area, the 2012 CEB-US National Conclave will be long remembered for many other reasons.

First, the historic setting in the ecologically unique Florida Red Hills Region was spectacular. Host Guy de la Valdene, his able executive assistant Sherry VanLandingham and El Consuelo Farm manager Daniel Boyd went out of their way to extend southern hospitality to everyone attending. Dr. Galt Allee and Coach Richard Roberts who hosted the liberated trials on the adjoining Shade Farm, also went out of their way to have the grounds and facilities in fantastic shape. (And those donuts and early morning coffee at their hunting pavilion were just fabulous!) While the heavy rains the day before the start of the field trials, and the warm blue bird weather later in the week hampered the numbers of wild quail found during some portions of the field trials, all in all, for wild bird trialing, a lot of dogs had opportunities to demonstrate their training. It was a special gift and memorable experience to unleash an Epagneul Breton, and to ask the dog to hunt quail amongst the towering mature pines and scattered hardwoods draped with Spanish moss, as part of nature’s special decoration for the festivities in this unique part of the world. UKC Vice President Todd Kellam’s video, posted on the UKC and CEB-US Web pages, and displayed with strains of John Anderson’s popular country song Seminole Wind playing in the background, helped to audibly and visually illustrate and capture the essence of being present for this wonderful event.

The southern food was spectacular. From the southern barbecue rib spread presented by Mr. de la Valdene at El Consuelo, to the early morning sausage biscuits offered by Bo Edwards and donuts from the bakery in Quincy at Shade Farm, on to the Gulf seafood, southern vegetables and Crisco fried chicken laid out by Bo Edwards staff at the evening meals at the Havana Country Club, one could only blame oneself if he or she did not find something that appealed to their taste in fine southern cuisine. Some of the visitors from up north and from across the Atlantic slipped away to the City Grill in Quincy during unscheduled meal times to enjoy alligator and other fresh Apalachicola seafood. Rumor has it that the honeymooners from the upper midwest managed to down just a few more fresh Apalachicola oysters at a quaint little oyster bar located in Quincy before heading back north.

There were the other special touches of class which made the meeting come off as an event which was memorable to attend. There was the two man band, playing strains of southern rock and country music favorites at the Havana Country Club, to the upscale reception at the Quincy Garden Center, where artisan prepared finger food and refreshments greeted all attendees. Then there was the unique flair with which the visiting judges from abroad gave their synopsis of field work and constructive critiques of the performances of the many dogs and handlers which they enjoyed judging afield each day. The Honorable Pieter Rooijakkers, Honorable Sandy Gunn and Honorable Jacques F. Bordet have judged field trials all over the world over many decades. Each of them remarked that the uniqueness of this venue was not lost upon them, as they evaluated the working qualities of many dogs afield each day. Our own American Judge, the Honorable Bob Olson, noted that experiences such as the hotdogs the foreign judges were treated to at the Billiard Academy, a local landmark in Thomasville, Georgia, mixed in with the Spanish Moss in the woods all added up to give the event a unique and special aura.

Being in this setting for several days gave off the distinct impression of participation in the time honored ritual of field trials reminiscent of an earlier time during the Golden Age of Bobwhite Quail Hunting. This ancient ritual of fine hunting dogs in search of “gentleman bob” was being performed at a time honored location dating back to the early part of the last century. This was a time when affluent gentlemen and ladies from the northern United States wintered in this area where the countryside is decorated with exquisite plantations — all manicured and kept up first and foremost for the time honored ritual of hunting the prince of game birds, the American Bobwhite Quail. Consequently, the genteel and generous invitation of our Red Hills resident hosts was lost upon no one, including the international guests.

There were the usual share of near misses, and near acts of greatness in the field which often occur at National level field trials. Open Handlers such as Jackie Hutwagner and Fred Overby did not go ribbonless and captured Passes with Honor with Ember and Cloud on successive days, but after a number of exhilarating and outstanding runs by their dogs, they fell short of the big prizes which came with pewter, medallions and blue ribbons. “I could have had the Florida clay soak me up, at the toot of Judge Rooijakker’s horn, when my Cloud moved when the covey of wild quail roared out on the flush the last day of the trials,” said Overby. “I, too, feel your pain,” said an exasperated Jackie Hutwagner, whose dog Ember de Hannahatchee wowed the judges with her drive and hunting abilities, but just could not put it all together to merit the big prize. Sometimes there was an element of bad luck with wind direction or lack of much of a scent cone on a warm day, with not much barometric pressure. Other times, there were simply failures of dog and handler to execute what had been gone over, and over again in training. And then there were some delightful successes, such as those like youth Handler Will LaFary, piling up ribbons including a First Place in the GUN class of field trials, as he directed his fine dog, Fergus Sur le Delavan through the maze of south Georgia pines, briars and the rows and rows of bicolor lespedeza, planted and maintained to enhance the living circumstances of resident coveys of quail. Watching and listening to that young fellow talk to his dog when they worked as a team and hearing Will recount his runs each day, was worth the whole trip to Florida, for those who got to see the duo work (under the watchful, but restrained eye of father, Clint LaFary.)

Four time national best of breed NBOB and GRCH conformation winner and dual Grand Champion of the Field GRCHF Topperlyn Gallant Bodacious had little left to prove in this venue, but he still rose to the occasion in the field trials and made it to the final round in the show ring, receiving yet another UKC Total Dog Award. At the age of six years, Leo has won awards now in over 50 field trials, shows and other competitive events. Still in the prime of his working career, he still proved he had special acumen in the field by capturing yet another First Place in the Open Class in the field trials. He then passed the torch to one of his offspring in the confirmation ring, a daughter Elegante RCK du Copper Spur, who was named as the 2012 CEB-National Best of Breed. Guy de la Valdene’s Datsum de Cournaille , a/k/a “Louie”, a French import from the storied Cournaille Kennel in Callac, France (the cradle of the Epagneul Breton breed) wowed the judges and gallery with finds of three coveys of quail on his home turf in his first run which was cut short and finished in under ten minutes. His youthful enthusiasm for the chase relegated him to the High Natural Qualities Award that first day of trialing, but he still managed a Pass in the Gun Class on the next day, along with Excellent ratings in the conformation ring. All in all, Louie and his owner enjoyed the experience, while others marveled at the young roan dog’s natural abilities imbued by his French ancestors from the village of Callac in the faraway province of Bretagne (Brittany), France. Another native French dog from across the water, Big Boss du Bussion de Choisel, owned and handled by R.L. Dalrymple, also received the UKC Total Dog Award, receiving a Pass With Honor in the field, and winning his Class in the conformation show, as several of his offspring also made their mark in the show ring. Jeff and Angie Hites’ liver and white dog, Bordet Hite Mississippi, also earned a UKC Total Dog Award, and had a particularly outstanding day, progressing far into the show competition.

While the pewter, ribbons and medallions given to the winners were nice, the handlers seemed to relish even more the compliments of the judges for dogs who performed well—but were perhaps limited by the rules from receiving a particular award on a given day. As is the custom and practice in Europe, the judges were given the opportunity to talk about their notable dogs at the evening events. Not only did the audience enjoy hearing about the canine exploits in the field, but these recaps gave the handlers and everyone else a greater appreciation of the finer points observed by field judges Gunn, Bordet, Rooijakkers, and Olson during the field trials.

There was lots of play and attention for Lambert Johnson’s beautiful litter of young Epagneul Breton pups. And there were a few poignant moments, too. It was undoubtedly a high moment to see “Leo” flanked by two lovely daughters produced by the Copper Spur lines -- Elegante, the eventual winner, and Elyn, who was selected as the Best of Winners as Judge Bordet pondered selection of the overall winner of the show. Leo’s beautiful daughters were competing against their father for “Best of Breed” in the final round of the 2012 National Epagneul Breton Specialty Show. As the torch was passed to his offspring Elegante du RCK du Copper Spur, Leo, her sire, looked on regally, unfazed by the moment, with the composure of an exalted ruler. On other fronts, there was the bitter, but sweet, and poignant last run in a field trial for Mark Bird’s Peche de l’Escarbot, who gave her owner her all when he asked her to answer the blast of the whistle at the line in the field trials, at the age of twelve. Due to advancing age, and declines in hearing and sight, Peche made her last UKC field trial run on the grounds of El Consuelo. Everyone present, including field trial Judge Bob Olson, looked upon Peche with admiration as well as a bit of a lump in the throat, as she completed her heat. Her grateful owner and others looked upon her countenance at the end of her heat, her face now gray with age and bloody from the search for game in the briars as Mark thanked Peche profusely for giving him her very best, not only this day in the field, but every day. Peche’s owner quietly acknowledged that this would probably be her last run in an actual field trial, but that she would have other happy days pointing quail at home in hunting situations. These snapshots were but only a couple of the notable memories of the event, but each participant took their own special catalogue of memories from the Red Hills region home with them.

French Judge Jacques Francois Bordet has long been a great friend to the American Epagneul Breton community and was one of the first Frenchmen who agreed to come to the United States to assist us in evaluating our Epagneul Bretons in conformation as well as in the field. He had kind words for the club and its members including each of the present and former Presidents of our club whom he has known personally. Mr. Bordet capped off his remarks on the final night when he presented the present and past CEB-US Presidents attending the event with copies of Gaston Pouchain’s treasured treatise on the Epagneul Breton breed, which is out of print and now a collector’s item. (It had taken him over a year to locate a copy of the book for each of the CEB-US Presidents in attendance at the meeting. The book was written by his close friend and long serving president of the breed club in France, the late Mr. Gaston Pouchain, who personally gave Jacques his first Epagneul Breton over 50 years ago.) Judges Pieter Rooijakkers and Sandy Gunn both remarked at the substantial improvement they witnessed afield and in conformation in our club members’ dogs as a whole, compared to their observations made during earlier visits to judge for CEB-US at previous National Conclaves.

In addition to thanking the gracious hosts Guy de la Valdene, Daniel Boyd, Galt Allee and Richard Roberts, a debt of gratitude is owed to event organizer and chair, Billy Cannon, and the various committee chairs who made this event a great success. In particular Bill Wall and Mark Dinsmore did yeoman’s service in orchestrating the field trials as Chairman and Secretary, to include inaugurating braced Gun Competition in the type (W) Wild Bird trials, which came off well. Sue Beseke and Anne Johnson also did a great job as Secretary and Chair of the 2012 Epagneul Breton National Specialty Show and Clint LaFary served as this year’s CEB-US Event Confirmation Coordinator. The list would not be complete without extending kudo’s to Peter Ward for his assistance in orchestrating another bountiful Auction for the club’s coffers. Thanks to all for a truly memorable 2012 CEB-US National Meeting and Conclave!