Beware the Twins - By Tom Word

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They were twins, and identical, at least every one said they were. Of course white folks would have said identical anyhow, they couldn’t have distinguished between them if they were just cousins, let alone twin brothers. They could each ride like the wind, and scout a bird dog, which Ron did for a living, working for the all-age handler, Sparrow Bates.

Brother Don worked on Bent Pine Plantation in the hunting party crew. He too had worked as a field trial scout from time to time, but he preferred avoiding the traveling routine, being more of a home body. On Burnt Pine he played multiple roles, depending on the need, sometimes in charge of a hunt party and handling a dog, sometimes scout, sometimes horse holder or just in charge of an old gun’s or a young gun’s safety. He didn’t care, just loved to be out there in the crisp fall or winter air around horses, mules, bird dogs and retrievers, quail, doves and ducks. Don was a jolly soul.

An important moment of decision loomed. Elmer Tweed, manager and head dog man on Bent Pine Plantation, had bred his best wagon dog pointer bitch, Bess, to Sparrow Bates’ top field trial dog, Inconceivable. It was time for Sparrow to select his two stud fee pups. Elmer had insisted on keeping the entire litter until six months old, after which Sparrow had first pick, he had second, Sparrow had third and Elmer (really his boss Tom Biddle, owner of Bent Pine) got the balance of the litter.

Elmer did not like Sparrow Bates, probably a case of sour grapes. It was ironic. By any objective measure, Elmer had the better job, was more successful. But Sparrow was his own boss, and marginally famous, having won Purina Handler of the Year twice.

As the day for selection loomed, Sparrow conferred with his employee Ron. “ I need you to tell me the pups to pick,” Sparrow said.

“I ain’t got no idea, I ain’t seen none of the litter ‘sept in the puppy pen,” Ron said.

“You got to remedy that. Talk to your brother and switch jobs for a few days when Elmer is going to be evaluating the pups,” Sparrow said.

And so Ron and Don conferred, on a Saturday night in a Juke Joint on the Georgia-Florida line, famous for good blues guitar music and knife fights over good looking spirited gals that liked the music and the dancing and the booze.

“I need to get a look at them pups on the ground,” Ron said. Don knew without explanation what Ron was proposing.

“What’s in it for me?” Don asked.

“I’ll give you half of what scout’s share of purses I win from the pups we pick,” Ron said.

“You got a deal,” Don said.

The following Monday Ron took Don’s place on Bent Pine Plantation and helped Elmer run the pups, all eight of them. At day’s end he knew which pups to recommend to Sparrow.

Much to Elmer’s surprise, Sparrow picked a small bitch first, a pup he had no interest in. Then after Elmer picked a handsome male, the best looking dog in the litter, Sparrow for his second choice picked on Ron’s advice a mid-sized male that had not impressed Elmer. Elmer felt he had bested Sparrow on both choices when they finished.

Three years later both of Sparrow’s choices (really Ron’s) were champions. One of the six others from the litter was on the Bent Pine hunting wagon, but not the big male Elmer had picked. Don was getting money orders through the mail occasionally from Ron for his half of the scout’s share of the purses won by the pups, now champions, Ron had recommended to Sparrow.

About the Author

Tom's short story collections, None Held Back, A Little Competition, The Ninth Pup and The Curmudgeons, have long been favorites of bird hunters and field trialers and appreciators of the unique culture of the quail plantation belt between Albany and Tallahassee. You can find more of his excellent work on the Amazon Book store :

About the Artist

Artwork compliments of Leah Brigham's. Leah Brigham 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. You can find more of her extraordinaire artwork on her website :

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