Cotton, Bakewell, Olin & Buck
At the end came the appropriate salute. A flock of Canada geese and several hundred mallards rose from one of the nearby refuge ponds and swung just out of gun range over the five hundred watchers in the gallery. That was all John Olin and King Buck needed; soon after the trophy was awarded, the man and his dog broke away from the well-wishers and headed for Arkansas. Olin wished to see if Buck could perform as well in flooded timber as before a gallery, and it transpired that the dog could and did.
When Olin and his dog arrived in Stuttgart-the “Duck Hunting Capital of The World”- the National Duck Calling Championship was just ending. Buck couldn’t have a more enthusiastic welcome; when he was introduced as the new national champion he was given a booming ovation by hundreds of the nation’s finest waterfowlers.
John Olin walked into the lobby of the Riceland Hotel that evening with Buck at heel, wreathed in a aura of excitement and as fragrant as a hot mud pie. A friend later observed that “it was the tiredest dog I have ever seen, and John was as relaxed as man can beand still ambulate”.
Buck was the center of attention that night at a general rejoicing and was offered some champagne in his silver trophy bowl. A champion athlete in training, he sensibly abstained. Olin poured out the champagne and filled the bowl with water, and after Buck had quenched his thirst the bowl was refilled with champagne and passed through the guests as a communal toast to a great dog.
One man refused the toast, saying “I’ll not drink from that bowl after a dog has used it!” At that time and place, the remark showed a signal lack of discretion. Under Olin’s withering glare, the guest was asked to leave the festivities and seek more antiseptic surroundings. For a moment there was a possibility that he might find such a germ-free climate in the local emergency ward.
Buck slept in John Olin’s hotel room that night – the first time that the dog had ever shared quarters with a human being.
The great Labrador was never much for show. Never during his lifetime did he posture, pose or give the slightest indication of public awareness. There wasn’t an ounce of ham in his makeup, and during his stay at the Riceland Hotel he was thoroughly bored and made no pretense for the limelight.
But the second day, when he was taken to flooded timber for his first adventure with wild ducks and wild duck-shooting, he came typically to life.
It was a field day, that shoot. The ducks were in and they were working well, King Buck was the only dog in the party, and he did all the retrieving for several gunners. He handled the wild mallards as efficiently and cleanly as field trial birds, responding sharply to command and rejoicing in his work.
Years later, when an observer referred to some field trial retrievers as “hunting dogs,” Olin replied: “No, they aren’t really. They tend to be mechanical dogs, specializing in field trial work. That’s their job, not hunting.”
But of King Buck, Olin said: “He was one of the finest wild duck retrievers I have ever seen. In spite of his intense field trial training, he loved natural hunting. He used his head in the wild, just as in field trials. That first wild duck shoot was his day, every minute of it, and he made the most of it. He was beautiful to watch.’
During the drive to Stuttgart, as Buck lay on the front seat between Olin and the guide Ronald Ahrens, the tired dog rested his dog his head on his master’s leg – the first real sign of intimacy he has ever awarded to man. It was that moment, after Buck’s first duck hunt, that sealed a bond between Olin and King Buck.
That night Buck didn’t sleep on the floor of Olin’s hotel room; he jumped up on the foot of his master’s bed and spent the night in style. And during the long years of field trial campaigns, whenever Buck and Olin were on the road together, it was always the same. Where the master slept, the dog slept
B Cotton & Buck 1953 Easton, MD
Cotton Pershall arrived two days later to find King Buck sharing Olin’s bed, board, and affection. Cotton had been unhappy about Buck’s Stuttgart trip in the first place, and when he saw the new champion being feted and petted, the professional trainer nearly went into orbit. That sort of thing simply isn’t done with a top field trial dog.
Cotton immediately checked Buck’s eyes, nose, paws and temperature, certain that sharing a warm hotel room – to say nothing of human affection – had been the ruination of the dog. But both John Olin and King Buck knew better . . .
Pershall continued to polish the champion that winter and spring, and though he was entered in no spring trials Buck swept the autumn campaigns with three first places. Then came his third National Championship Stake and the automatic defense of his new crown.
The contest was held at Easton, Maryland, in unusually warm weather and was a long tough competition that went into overtime. For the first nine series of the 1953 National the defending champion made perfect scores but was pressed closely by a field that included such splendid dogs as sprig of Swinomish, Marian’s Timothy, and Young Mint of Catawba. In the tenth series both Buck and Sprig needed special handling on a long marked triple, and the gap between their high scores and those of close competitors was narrowed. In the opinion of the judges, no dog finishing the tenth series had sufficient edge to be the winner. Two additional series were called.