It had been years since I last attended the Field Trials
. In fact, it was so long ago that ole G.E. was still alive. After he died, my PaPa had little interest in going…the dogs had after all been of secondary interest to the company. I was just a little snot back then, always toting a cup of hot chocolate made from the boiling water intended for coffee and begging to ride in the spectator wagon even though I had little interest in watching the handlers work the dogs. Back then the trials were at the State Park; that was before the golf course, back when the backside of the Park was still dedicated to pioneer camping. I'm sure firearms are forbidden these days, just as I'm sure they've filled in the hidden go-cart track that was carved out behind a head of trees. Now, they have the trials on private land and the pool of spectators has been reduced to a small group of competitors and their families.
I met Daddy at 9:30 to head over and meet Mr. James as they had volunteered to fry some chickens for the meager trial crowd. We pulled in around 10:00 just as a brace was going out. We could see the line of horses on the crest of the hill followed by two jeeps with high seats for spectators. We walked up to the fire and said our helloes to some of the same faces I had seen over hot chocolate so many years earlier. Some recognized me right off, others made a friendly first introduction then tugged me around by my hand when I told them my name. It would be hard to find a greater set of characters anywhere in the world.
Ole C.T., still thin and wiry, still sitting there with that pensive look rolling a smoking cigarette around between his finger and thumb as the smoke rises into his unkempt hair. Now he trembles a little when he assumes his characteristic seated slump, which just makes it appear as if he is cold. His round glasses contrast more than ever against his dark wrinkled skin. The last time I saw him, he was at the controls of a huge bulldozer with a suspicious looking brown bag in his hand.
Ole B.R., whose name would not come to mind when I looked at his familiar face, with the tobacco tint in the corners of his mouth. He still strolls around with a waddle, and his cheeks still have that ruddy glow, and his face is still made to smile.
Ole N.W., who maintained his dignity through all the hard times. For some time life had wandered away from his regular convivial poker games up on the hill; it is good to see a fellow like that back on his feet again. At one time, a night with this character would have produced enough stories to keep you busy for a while. There were tales of him sending young boys home with hundreds of dollars in their pockets so that he wouldn't lose it in poker. Occasionally, I'll even recount the few tales I know of those poker nights, which I picked up around open fires drinking hot chocolate.
I helped with the cooking, frying enough chickens for about 50 people, but mostly I just snacked on collards and drum sticks. Uncle Greg came in from judging and invited us back to hear the bluegrass band tonight, but we declined, we had plans to cook ribs at home. We stayed around the fire while they ran two of the afternoon braces, then packed up and head to the house. On the way back, we passed the controversial landfill, and commented on the same old crooked characters that occupy the county commission seats. This world is just filled with contrast.