The $10 Million Bird Dog - by Tom Word

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Ben Reach had for five decades followed his father’s admonition, “ Do not get involved in a divorce case....unless a lot of money is involved and you can be assured of being paid.” Ben had long since ceased involvement in divorce cases, even lucrative ones, except occasionally as mediator. His involvement in this one would be uncompensated, except non-financially, as an act of friendship toward a man he admired and respected, or perhaps as an act of revenge on a woman he didn’t much like.

It happened like this. Fred Eanes was one of a few, a man of great wealth who owned a quail-belt plantation and also campaigned as an owner on the open all-age pointing dog circuit with a for-the-public handler named Lance Sword. It was a name that fit, for Lance was a swordsman of the old school , if you get my meaning. Fred did not often get to see his dogs compete on the circuit because he was a workaholic on Wall Street, but his wife Heidi (an ironic name Ben mused) never missed a field trial, riding to see Fred’s dogs compete on the circuit.

When the marriage of Fred and Heidi ruptured, it was like most modern ones, not about who was at fault and thus entitled to a divorce but only about the financial split. Fred was represented by Matt Steed, a young lawyer Ben admired and had often befriended with referrals, including in this case of Fred. Ben admired Matt for his ethics and willingness to take on pro bono cases for indigents who deserved competent representation, whether guilty or innocent, a question always for jury or judge after a fair trial.

Steed was a very competent lawyer though he knew nothing of the obscure world of field trials. Ben would be his uncompensated coach about how this world might influence his negotiation of Fred’s divorce settlement.

Rumors had circulated in the field trial world for several years that Heidi Eanes had a thing for Lance Sword. The only evidence was a look in Heidi’s eyes when she rode in a gallery watching Lance handle one of Fred’s dogs. Some thought Heidi’s look was prompted by her affection for the dogs. Ben had his doubts about that.

When Fred had come to Ben for advice on selecting a lawyer to represent him in the divorce, Ben immediately thought of Matt Steed, whose office was in Thomasville. (The divorce would be litigated in the Georgia courts because Fred had for income tax reasons made Georgia his domicile, commuting to Wall Street by private jet and being careful to work more than half the time from his Georgia plantation office).

Fred’s fortune was self made, not inherited, and the couple had no prenuptial agreement, so the financial aspects of the divorce would likely be close to a 50-50 split of the wealth. Who got what assets and how they were valued would occupy most of the lawyers’ time in the negotiations. Fred owned significant interests in several Unicorns (private companies mostly in the technology industry valued individually at more than $1 Billion based on their most recent capital raises, some expected to “go public” before long, others in earlier stages of growth or more likely to be acquired by other companies than to go public on their own). Then there was an art collection and Fred’s Georgia plantation, plus a ranch in Montana for fly fishing and a Maine coastal home for escape from Georgia’s July-August heat.

So, when things got down to the nitty-gritty- who gets what and how much-
Matt Steed asked Ben Reach for a meeting.

“Mr. Ben, I’ve got here a demand from Mrs. Eanes’ lawyers for specific assets to be allocated to her share. It includes Mr. Eanes’ field trial bird dogs. And she is not asking for any part of Mr. Eanes’ quail plantation. Why do you suppose that is?”

Ben smiled. “ You may have just been handed a bargaining chip worth more than face value, “ Ben said.

“ I suggest you hold open who gets the field trial string to the end. Then see what concessions you can get by giving Heidi those dogs”

Fred Eanes’ trial dog string contained only one real contender, a second year all- age named Expensive, half-qualified for the National Championship. Ben figured Heidi and Lance Sword coveted Expensive beyond his rational worth.

And so it worked out. In the final settlement , Heidi got Expensive and the rest of Fred Eanes’ trial string, but in exchange for concessions on the value of other assets of
Fred of at least $10 Million, Matt Steed calculated.

After the settlement was concluded, Ben invited Fred Eanes to join him and Sam Nixon MD at Ben’s office for a dram of his choice at 4:30 PM on a Friday. After pouring himself a generous dram of The Macallan 12 without ice or water, Fred said,

“Thank you Ben for recommending Matt Steed. He did a hell of a job. Got rid of the field trial dogs I owned only to keep Heidi occupied so I could pursue my interests elsewhere. She will be shocked by the costs of campaigning dogs.”

Fred had been preoccupied by an interest in a young woman involved in the world of horseback show-jumping, which Fred would soon discover exceeded several times over the costs of competing in bird dog field trials.

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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