Posted on 10/11/2013 in Coonhound Bloodlines Editor's Comments.
I’ve been at UKC since 1989, and have attended Autumn Oaks for many years. The first couple, I attended as a spectator because I wanted to find out what the coonhounds were all about. Like so many dog people, I had only been vaguely aware that this world existed, but I was totally intrigued. What I discovered was that the coonhound world was so much like the Australian Shepherd one I was used to, and I felt right at home. The events were family-oriented and the dogs were, above all, performance focused. And there were many years of tradition stemming from dogs that, from the early years of our country’s history, had a job to do.
It has been said hundreds, maybe even thousands of times, that Autumn Oaks is a family event, one that people look forward to attending every year without fail. I have found this to be an understatement. It is what they do as a normal part of their lives; it is a family vacation, and the place they meet up with the friends they have made over the years, much like a giant rendezvous. But it is even more, and it’s hard to put into words. Autumn Oaks is a “belief”.
After a few years at UKC, I was honored to be able to attend as a UKC staff member and I haven’t missed one since. I have witnessed the nite hunt continuously grow and develop into the prestigious event it is today. I have seen and have been a part of the evolution of the bench show to a three-day, dual-ring event.
I look forward to attending AO, and can’t wait to see the many friends I have made over the years. I have seen many youngsters grow up, get married and have children of their own, all the while making Autumn Oaks part of their own family tradition.
This year’s bench show was no exception, for a very special reason. I do believe that this is the first year in the 54 years of Autumn Oaks that a second-generation AO judge officiated at the bench show. The Birdsalls from Virginia were one of the first families I met, and the patriarch, Doc, has judged Autumn Oaks several times. This year, his daughter, Kathy Shorter, was one of the judges. If this isn’t a perfect example of what Autumn Oaks is, I don’t know what is. May it continue another 54 years.
Two generations of Autumn Oaks Judges; Doc Birdsall, left, and daughter, Kathy (Birdsall) Shorter, right. Of course, also shown is wife and mom Chirpie Birdsall, undoubtedly the glue who holds the family together.