American Field

In Memory of a Good Friend

Erstwhile Trainer James Norris

By D. Hoyle Eaton | Nov 01, 2018

Booneville, Miss. — James Norris of Clarksville, Tenn., died September 2 at the age of 84. He was preceded in death by his wife Eleanor. He is survived by two daughters.

James and I shared a summer training site in Alameda, Sask., from 1963 until he quit going to Canada in the early 1970s. We shared many a fun time along with a lot of laughter.

He liked to be called “Doody,” a nickname given to him as a boy growing up. He was a pleasant and fun person to be around.

Some mutual friends of ours from Clarksville — Buz Marshall and Floyd Hankins, along with their wives — visited us at our camp site frequently over those years. Our dog wagon was built on top of a car frame with a car seat attached on top of the dog cages for owners and friends to sit while watching the dog activity. Buz’s wife Marge gave the board attached to the front seat a name: “the splatter board.”

Billy Morton and his two sons, Billy Wayne and Charles, were helping the year Wrapup was a Derby (1968). As always, after camp was in order and while giving the speargrass some time to blow out, we would do what we called check-cording. Everyone would select a young dog, spread out in a line (like going to the OK Corral), hoping to find some young chickens to expose the young dogs to what we were looking for.

The dog on my checkcord was dumbfounded when an old chicken exploded out of the grass right in front of his nose. The old chicken left cackling, making a lot of noise. The dog seemed to be in shock, just standing there turning his head from side to side trying to figure out what had happened.

Robert Burress was in front, in a hurry to get to some bushes where he’d found some chickens the previous  summer. Robert’s dog pointed a little ways back from the bushes. The rest of the crew was in a hurry to bring their dogs in for the experience.

James was checkcording a small setter female. When the setter saw the dog on point, she ran around James, reared up, locking her legs around James’ waist. We heard Jimmy say, “Look here.” The setter was peeping out around James’ side trying to see what was going to happen next.

I don’t think I would be doing justice to the situation if I did not tell this story.

Our camp was constructed with cinder blocks, with a stairwell to the upstairs where the crew slept. James slept there along with Billy Wayne, Charles, our two sons Joe and Paul, and a few others. The boys kept James from being able to sleep much on account of the racket the boys kept up half the night.

James finally had had enough. He came down on them pretty hard. Charles must have been offended at James’ tone. He waited until James was asleep and eased over to James’ bed, picked up one of his boots and urinated in it. When James woke the next morning, pushed his foot down into the boot, urine skirted out the top.

This was when all hell broke loose. James let out a yell that could be heard in Alameda, along with some choice words aimed at the boys. As you can image, those boys “flushed” like a covey of birds.

This was before the boys were old enough to help with the training. Billy’s boys and our two boys were eight and ten years old.

Billy went up with us at the start of the season. About halfway through the summer, Martha Wayne, Billy’s wife, their two sons, and my wife Betty and our two boys drove up for a week’s visit. The car was a two-seater. The four boys rode in the back seat. Martha Wayne carried a flushing whip and when the boys became too rambunctious she would reach back with the flushing whip and make some welts on their arms and legs. Boy, were those two women relieved when they rolled into camp.

I cherish the time I had with James. His good humor and friendship I will not forget.

It makes me sad when I look back over the years and realize how many friends and acquaintances are not here anymore. It is true that when we are old our memories are so precious to us.

The Lord tells us there is a better place awaiting if we chose the right road or, as field trialers would say, draw the right course.

Hope your course has lots of birds and happy hunting, old friend.


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