Bob Mitchell: Remembering Sport, the bird dog

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

About 75 years ago, there was a brown and white Pointer bird dog named Sport, who was both a pet and an adequate hunting dog.

More important, he was a constant companion of a boy that lived on the edge of town and spent most of his time in the outdoors. The two had a life that was not to be equaled in either of their minds.

Their experiences were such that every boy and dog should be able to claim such experiences as their own.

Loved water

Sport loved water, and his early life was during the building of Cassville's first wastewater treatment plant. The location is now the Cassville High School practice field at the edge of Flat Creek. This was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project right after the Great Depression, which provided a paycheck for a lot of folks who were out of work during 1930s.

My dad was one of those who relied on the government program to put groceries in our house. On weekends, part of his responsibilities was to visit the site and make sure there were no intruders meddling with equipment or materials.

One of these trips happened to be July 4. Dad took Sport and I with him. The dog would run in the creek while I shot fireworks. Both of us were having a ball with our activities when I stopped to watch Sport. In one hand was a firecracker and the other held an igniting punk. Both were behind my back when the fuse and punk got together and the resulting explosion split my fingers.

A quick trip to the old Newman Hospital where Dr. George Newman fixed everything ensued, and no one was the worse for the wear.

Nearly drowned

Back in those days, heavy rains would send Flat Creek roaring out of its banks and flooding the middle parts of Cassville.

We were living at Third and West streets at the time. The house was later moved to First Street, where Sport, in times of storms, preferred to sleep in the basement.

During this storm, I was upstairs asleep when dad came to get me, informing me the basement was flooded and Sport wouldn't come out for anyone. When I got to where they had broken out a window and a flashlight beam showed him standing on a table with his front feet up on the wall and the water was up to his shoulders.

It took one call from me and he started swimming toward the window and was rescued.

Soda pop

Sport was real adept at drinking soda pop out of a bottle, which was an advantage for me, since it was usually my duty to at least half empty the treat for him. I liked to tell people about this particular skill of his, since there wasn't enough change in my pockets to buy a soda most of the time.

One of Sport's greatest admirers of the time was J.J. Miller, owner of Miller Drug on the east side of the square. Mr. Miller was good for a bottle of pop about anytime there was someone around who hadn't seen Sport perform this feat. There were times he would call me off the street if I happened to be passing by, or sometimes I would make sure my route around the square included his storefront if it happened to be a hot day.

Good hunter

For a bird dog who never saw the inside of a pen, Sport was a good hunter -- at least in those days when quail were plentiful in this area. I was lucky he was around, since this was about the time I took one of our Jersey calves (we were in the dairying business at the time) and sold him to Sonny Smith for $20 and bought a .410 model 42 Winchester and 1-1/2 boxes of shells. That shotgun today will sell for at least $2,000 or more if in good condition.

J. R. Fuquay was living near the west substation, now the Fohn Farm, where he bought and sold Jersey cows to ship to Louisiana.

The acreage was ideal for quail and the bobwhites of those days were easy to hunt, if you had an adequate dog.

Sport wasn't perfect, but he was good enough for me.

After some training with the gun, my folks would take us to the Fuquay place, which was my private hunting place. Sport and I would spend a few hours there. He would be showing his skill of finding the birds. As for me, I didn't do too bad -- after a few covey rises -- with the shooting skills.

Sport's fate isn't exactly clear in my memory. He possibly got tangled up with an oil delivery truck on Old Exeter Road and didn't survive his injuries.

His life meant a lot to a young boy, and that's my testimony.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.