Bob Mitchell: Western movies and bird hunting thoughts

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

In these times when there isn’t much you can do because of COVID virus or just arriving at the age that nothing seems attainable, television has seemingly become much more interesting than it was say two years ago.

That is if the quality of the service is adequate to supply your need. Unfortunately, the service that goes with where we now live seems to be of the lowest level available, unless you are willing to pay the price for a premium service. But the quality seems to be pretty high in the older western movies. Naturally, John Wayne and others of the notable stars have to be considered at the top of my “can watch list.”

Recently, there have been some quality Robert Young classics that brought back some memories of more years ago than I can now recover.

Young came to Butterfield

A significant part of this story is a bird dog, but the unfortunate part is, it was a Pointer!

In addition to being one of the top actors in Hollywood during this era, Robert Young was a quail hunter when he wasn’t making movies, and had heard of T. A. Prier as being a premier trainer of hunting dogs. So, during a slack time in his schedule, he found his way to the Ozarks and the kennels of Prier’s in the north part of Butterfield.

Thurman and his brother Herb had built quite a reputation for themselves in training dogs for quail hunting. So, they were quite honored when they learned a man of Young’s reputation was on his way to Barry County, shopping for a Pointer bird dog. They were also elated that in their kennels was one of the best they had ever owned. At this point an excuse-me in necessary as the dog’s name escapes me.

Invited to dinner

The day of Young and Prier trial hunting the dog, Herb called me, and invited me to have dinner with the party at the Rainbow Dinner House, owned by Forrest Hutton at the south edge of Cassville. I was to tell no one what was in progress and photos would be permitted.

Being a bird hunter, who had gone hunting with Thurman a few times, must have been the reason why I received the invitation, which was readily accepted. Something happened that the dinner part didn’t materialize, but I went later and had the opportunity to visit with the movie star.

He was as human and down-to-earth as any individual I’ve ever met and obviously was an avid quail hunter. He expressed high regard for Prier and his kennel of dogs, and announced during the conversation that he had in fact purchased the Prier trained Pointer.

He was remise that his schedule did not permit him staying in the Ozarks for an additional hunt, possibly making the purchase of another dog while in the area.

Word somehow got out

When the meeting broke up and the front door of the restaurant was unlocked, several persons who had heard about what was in progress that evening were quick to enter the building and approach Young for autographs. For a short time, he accommodated them, but finally excused himself for a trip to Springfield with his newly acquired Pointer bird dog.

Prier, who later served a number of years on the Cassville school board of education, accepted his position as famous in the field of training dogs. It was my pleasure to hunt with him several times in later years. His usual comment during our outings was, “Why would you choose those long-haired dogs (English Setters) for your hunting dog?”

Another pride point with Prier was his son Gary, whose senior year basketball team won the championship over Nevada on their home court. After the game, losing the high scoring record for the season, he chanted, “But we got the championship, that’s the real important thing of this season!”

Prier always credited his bird dog strains as teaching him about as much about life as he taught them about hunting. He had his own way of training and disciplining dogs, never mistreating them.

Almanac in September

I realize this is a week late, but here goes with the weather prophecy... September will be wet in the Midwest through most of this month, even squalls being mentioned in the middle part of the month. Then toward the end of the month seasonal weather should arrive for the Ozarks.

For the fall fishermen the best fishing for the remainder of the month is: 17th through 19th, and 28th and 29th. Good fishing days are: 10th, 11th, 16th and 23rd.

And don’t forget this should be the start of the best time to be outdoors in the Ozarks. Years ago the arrival of the fall months signaled the best opportunity to be where you could watch nature get ready for the winter months.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.

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