Monday, September 8, 2008

GREAT DOGS AND GOOD MEN

John R. “Jack” Stuart I have never known a man kinder, more unselfish and more honorable than Jack Stuart. We met in 1974 and were friends until the day he died. Jack was orphaned at an early age and raised by a farm family near West Branch, MI. That experience brought him a true appreciation for what was important in life. It was neither fame nor glory for Jack but simply the love of family, friends, his dogs and field trials. After completing his education at Ferris State University, Jack worked for the Department of the Army Quartermaster Corp and often talked about his ability to find solutions to problems. He had the type of mind that enabled him to sort through a complex problem, determine the basic facts and apply a reasonable solution. Later, in the bird dog world, Jack invented the Stuart Game Bird Releaser (the electronic version is now marketed by Tri-Tronics) and patented it. He determined that to effectively work his dogs on planted birds he’d need to control when they flew. Thus the releaser with a string release sprung the birds into the air when the dog got too close. Jack manufactured the releaser in his home workshop by hand and sold more than 50,000 of them to bird dog people all over the world. In 1943 Jack and his wife Ruth bought the Surrey Motel on the Tobacco River near Farwell, MI., remodeled it themselves and made their life there. Jack always had setters and as Detroit area business men came to the Farwell area to hunt grouse, Jacks dogs and their training became well known. Soon Jack was working dogs for these businessmen and running his “Tobacco River” setters on the grouse and shooting dog circuit. In 1974 I had just purchased a young setter pup from Wayne Fruchey that I called Briar and on the recommendation of several grouse trailers enlisted Jack to take him to his winter training grounds in Jack, Alabama to prepare him for the next springs Grand National Grouse Puppy Classic. Many field trailers said that Jack was always too easy on his dogs to bring them to the pinnacle of success. There is no doubt he loved those dogs and treated them like his children. Jack Stuart, John “Jack” Nicholson and I had formed the Ruffed Grouse Field Trial Club in 1976 and had applied to the AFTCA to form and run a National Amateur Grouse Championship. It started as a Classic in 1976 and was awarded Championship status in 1978. Being a professional and unable to enter his dogs, Jack Stuart volunteered to be the trial reporter and was in his glory riding along with the judges and publishing the trial report with the American Field. At the time Jack Stuart was nearly 75 years old. I believe he reported the first six renewals of the trial. Jacks field trial reporting gave him the impetus and confidence to assemble many of his old pictures and begin the outline of a book. I can see him right now pecking away at his old Underwood portable typewriter. In 1983, BIRD DOGS and UPLAND GAME BIRDS was published. Jack may have thought his effort was a training book, but anyone who reads it will know it’s a window into Jacks heart. When Jack’s wife Ruth died and was cremated, Jack called his dearest friends, Jack Nicholson, Wally Brzenk and I and asked us to assist him in spreading her ashes at her favorite spot at the Gladwin Field Trial area. He provided each of us with white gloves and told us that he’d appreciate our doing the same for him when the time came. Years later when he did die his son found the white gloves in his safe deposit box with strict instructions that we were to be called. Jack Nicholson flew in from Phoenix, Wally came from Sanford and we took his son to Gladwin, used the same white gloves and completed Jack Stuart’s last request.

4 comments:

Andrew M. Wayment said...

Dale,

Man, you are a walking field trial encyclopedia! I had not heard of Jack, but would like to look into his books. I enjoyed this post. It reminded me of the book Jenny Willow, by Mike Gaddis

Dale Hernden said...

I'm not sure that it is still in print but if not I'd gladly loan my copy to you and Shawn. The publisher is Wm W. Denlinger, Fairfax VA. The library of Congress # is 83-14247.

You'd love it!!!!

Craig Peters Rising Sun, MD 410-658-1091 said...

Good info once again! We are coming up on 100 years since the first grouse trials (circa 1913 in PA). We need to collect these types of stories about the people and history somehow as I am sure there are hundreds still out there.

Craig

Jack said...

Dale, It is hard to believe it has been that long since we formed the club and went for the Am. Grouse Championship. I have enjoyed reading your articles. Keep up the good work.