Cadillac Farm by Tom Word

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My great friend Joe Prince, farmer and every-day-in-season quail hunter of Stony Creek, Virginia, died from a tractor accident I predicted in 1997. His brother, Dr. John S. Prince of Emporia, died of old age at 97 last month, having practiced as an Internist to age 90. They were alike as two peas in a pod, smart, hard working, opinionated. Both had served in WWII, Joe as an enlisted radar operator aboard troop transports to Europe, John as a Navy officer aboard a cruiser.

Between 1973 and 1997 Joe and I hunted quail together in Sussex County twice a week in season. Joe said his territory was “Most anywhere within ten miles of Stony Creek.” His father had practiced medicine from 1901 to 1960 at Stony Creek and Joe enjoyed hospitality assured by his father’s reputation for professional competence and kindness as a family physician. He didn’t hunt often on the same farmland and took dressed quail to the landowners after his hunts. Thus he kept open the invitations his father’s blessed memory had assured. He also let deer hunting clubs hunt on his farmlands, assuring reciprocal rights for quail hunting on theirs.

Joe, a bachelor, lived with his widowed mother, Mizz Grace. A tiny bird-like woman crippled by arthritis, she hobbled about the house issuing orders to Margaret Moore, her black cook who as a girl had hoed peanuts beside Joe when he returned from the War to farm. (Joe was the only one of six siblings not to graduate college and it scarred him. He was highly intelligent and could have passed college courses easily, but for some reason chose to start farming on release from military service rather than enter college. Two of his brothers were physicians, two successful in business, and his sister, Virginia Ann, who like Joe did not marry, worked after college as a career IRS Examiner). All are sadly dead now.

As a farmer raising first hogs and crops (peanuts, soybeans, corn and wheat) Joe by the time I met him had quit hogs to concentrate on cash crops. He worked seven days a week March to November, quail hunted six days a week November to mid- February , leaving two weeks to recondition his equipment. (On Sundays during quail season he walked puppies and scouted for quail and farmland for sale). He was intense in all he did. He was a character. His companionship afield with bird dogs and that of Denny Poole, the third in our group, kept me sane. You cannot fret or worry and at the same time follow a bird dog after quail.

By the time I met Joe, he was forty-six and I was thirty-five, practicing law in Richmond. Joe’s brother David, a life insurance agent for Northwestern Mutual, provided the introduction in hopes of prospect referrals for insurance in exchange. It was for me a great implied bargain, for every quail hunting city lawyer needs a quail hunting farmer friend.

Fortunately, Joe and I hit it off immediately. We both loved bird dogs, and reveled in their work. For twenty-five years we together sought to develop better gun dogs the old fashioned way, by breeding the best females we could find to the best sires we knew and walking behind the pups they produced from a young age. Joe believed in letting pup prospects run free on his farm lands until old enough to take hunting. From there on it was survival of the fittest.

Meanwhile in his farming enterprise Joe was always seeking more and better crop land. Shortly before I met Joe he had acquired the farm he called Cadillac Farm, and the events of the day he bargained for it accounted for its name.

Joe had just enjoyed his most successful year as a farmer. Weather had been good with adequate rain through the growing season and clear skies through the harvest. Prices had also been adequate. Joe had enjoyed enough profit to be on the lookout for more crop land.

A hulking young male pointer in his kennel suddenly seemed listless. He had just acquired a new Cadillac coupe as reward to himself for his good farming year. He put the pointer in its trunk and drove to his Vet’s in Petersburg where he left it for diagnosis and treatment, then turned to visiting equipment dealers and a hardware store. He picked up the pointer at four (its problem had been a bad case of hook worm infection) and started for home at Stony Creek, twenty-three miles south.

A little more than half way home, he stopped at a favorite roadside watering hole and went in for a beer. There was but one other customer, a fellow farmer who sat at the end of the bar, nursing a long-neck beer and staring dejectedly into the mirror behind the bar. Joe took a seat beside him and ordered a bottle Bud.

“How you doing, Clint,” Joe enquired.

“Not worth a damn,” Clint replied.

Two hours later Joe had Clint’s signature on a hand-written-on-bar-napkin contract to buy Clint’s two hundred acre farm.

Elated, Joe walked out to the Cadillac. To his surprise, the pointer sat on its haunches on the front seat, behind the wheel. Becoming restless in the trunk, it had chewed its way out through the padding and leather upholstery of the back seat and jumped to the front. The rear half of the new Cadillac’s sporty interior was demolished. Thus Joe’s new farm acquired its name.

About the Author

Tom Word
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Tom Word is a lawyer who represents individuals about managing their assets and for amusement writes fiction and non-fiction about bird dogs and humans obsessed with them.


About the Artist

Leah Brigham
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After graduating from Millersville University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor’s of Science in Art Education, Leah began teaching Art to inner city Middle School students in Houston and later Dallas, TX. Leah has shared with her students her passion for art and nature. This passion has sustained her and continued throughout her life in the form of painting and drawing.

Leah was introduced to American Field Horseback Field Trails and has been able to experience the excitement of seeing her own dog, competing for the National Championship at Ames Plantation in Grand Junction, TN ...standing on point, head and tail held high. This has inspired her to create works of art depicting dogs and the wildlife associated with the sport and hunting.

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