Grand Junction serves as meeting place for dog exchange
This is the second installment of the column I call, “On the Road to Ames.” It’s a tale that has connections with seven states and the road trip the boss and I took last week that covered more than 2,100 miles.
When we left you last week we were on our way to Grand Junction, Tenn., home of the Bird Dog Hall of Fame, the National Bird Dog Museum and the nearby famous Ames Plantation.
We had three 8-week old field bred English cocker spaniel puppies to deliver to new owners. They are all bird dog field trialers of note, including a fine couple from nearby Hickory Valley and two other field trialers – one from Florida and one from South Carolina. We all agreed to meet in Grand Junction at the Hall of Fame.
Our Tennessee hosts, Diane and John Rex Gates, are well-known in the world of pointers and setters. In fact, according to Wisconsin outdoor writer and friend Tom Davis, John Rex is a living legend.
And his wife Diane agrees, “I think John Rex was about 38 the year he was elected to the Hall of Fame. JR has probably won more championships than anybody to ever blow a whistle over dogs. Not bragging, just a fact.” And much to the boss and my surprise, one of the many full-sized bronze statues in front of the Hall of Fame is the likeness of none other than John Rex himself.
Now in their 70s, the Gates concentrate their efforts on raising quality bird dogs. A major claim to fame for them these days is a male English Setter named Shadow Oak Bo — a bird dog that in 2013 became the first setter to win The National Championship for Field Trialing Bird Dogs at Ames Plantation in 43 years.
Not to be denied, he won the event again last year, becoming the first setter to claim back-to-back titles in 112 years. Bo now lives in Georgia with John’s younger brother Robin, who is currently campaigning the legendary setter on the field trial circuit.
Most likely Robin and Bo will compete next month at the Ames Plantation near Grand Junction for his third title. Needless to say, Bo-bred puppies the Gates produce are in high demand.
Diane and John Rex know and own quality bird dogs. That is why I was honored when they contacted me for an Eau Pleine cocker spaniel pup. You see, they, like many other southern field trialers and quail plantation owners have found the field bred English cocker spaniels are perfect complimentary dogs for finding, flushing and retrieving bobwhite quail on expansive pine plantation shooting grounds.
Cockers ride on wagons – some horse-drawn – and follow the big running pointers and setters coursing back and forth ahead of horseback riding hunters and handlers. After the larger dogs point, the smaller cockers are turned loose to do their job.
John Rex told me, “They put on quite a show and that’s what plantation owners and their hunters love to see.”
The Gates now raise cocker spaniels next to their famous setters. Several females of great pedigree grace their kennels. When they asked if I would consider breeding my Buster with one of their females while visiting, I was more than happy to oblige. After all, I not only left an Eau Pleine female cocker pup in their good hands, I left a bit of Eau Pleine Buster bloodlines in some future noteworthy Gate cocker puppies.
From Tennessee, the boss, Buster and I headed west to northwest Arkansas. There we stopped at my uncle’s retirement home in Bella Vista a few weeks ahead of an estate sale to pick up some cherished belongings the family desired and bring them home to Wisconsin. Our uncle now resides back in Wausau with family.
All in all, it was a great road trip to Ames – full of memories and promises of future good things on the horizon.