American Field

Field Trial Report

National Amateur All-Age Invitational Championship

By Jim Atchison | Jan 03, 2019
The Winners. In foreground, from left: Keith Wright and John Vanada with Touch’s Fire Dancer (behind is Keith Lowery with the champion’s awards); Matt Pendergest with Dialed In (behind are Jim and Amy Pendergest with the runner-up’s awards). Behind: Chris Weatherly, Kay Carlisle, Pat Bryan, William Smith, Charlie Frank Bryan, Linda Smith, Gary Winall, Piper Huffman, Ellen Clements, Judge Gary McKibben, Robert Berendzen, Judge David Williams, Jay Lewis, Nathan Berendzen, Ashley Clark, Megan Henry and Eddie Berendzen.

Grand Junction, Tenn. — Twelve of the best 14 amateur all-age dogs in the nation were brought from eight states to compete as AFTCA sponsored the 38th running of their National Amateur All-Age Invitational Championship at Ames Plantation on December 3-5.

AFTCA President David Williams of Beech Bluff, Tenn., and Gary McKibben of Hernando, Miss., served as judges and determined that Touch’s Fire Dancer, five-year-old white and liver  pointer female owned and handled by Keith Wright of Covington, Ind.,   earned the title of champion, and Dialed In, five-year-old white and orange pointer  female owned and handled by Jim Pendergest of Lexington, Ky., was runner-up.

President Williams, joined by AFTCA Secretary Piper Huffman, repeatedly  xpressed appreciation to the trustees of Ames Plantation and its Superintendent Dr. Rick Carlisle for again hosting the Championship on Ames.

Those officers also expressed time and again recognizing the generous primary sponsorship of Purina, and the collars provided by Garmin and the sculpted game bird plaques by Bruce Fox. Those awards by Garmin and Bruce Fox were given to the owners of both the champion and the runner-up.

Weather for the three days of running was near perfect, with early morning temperatures dipping below freezing and afternoon temperatures reaching into the 40s on each of the very short afternoons. In fact, concerns about running out of daylight prompted earlier starts after lunch and even then a search for a dog which delayed the start of an afternoon brace very nearly exhausted the available daylight on that day.

Complementing the excellent weather were outstanding lunches and evening meals prefaced by social gatherings that were as perfect as the weather. “Details” will appear at the end of this report to elaborate on the social aspects of this prestigious Championship and to acknowledge the services of those who helped plan and orchestrate the three outstanding days.


Touch’s Fire Dancer, under the whistle of Keith Wright, ran strong forward races and produced birds on each leg of her journey to best the eleven other contenders. Her performances on the first afternoon of competition and during the callback were probably stronger than her performance in the first brace of the second day. The five-year old champion was on birds three times on Monday afternoon. She scored her first find at 6 soon after leaving from Ames Road in brace No. 6. At 25 she had a find near the Jack Harris Cemetery and then had game again at 45 with a divided find, shared with S F Bandwagon. During the first brace on day No. 2, Fire Dancer shared a divided find with her bracemate at 6 prior to the Buford Ellington Road crossing in brace No. 1. The champion had birds twice, at 52 and 61, during the callback on Wednesday morning. Thereafter, Judge Williams chose to continue the brace for approximately 20 more minutes and Fire Dancer made it back in plenty of time to satisfy the requirement that the judges see the callbacks at the end of the brace. The champion was strong, smooth, and stylish during each of her three appearances, enabling her to win the same title and awards won last year by her kennelmate, Touch’s Smooth Rider.

Dialed In earned the title of runner-up as she continued her impressive career for her owner-handler Jim Pendergest. During the fourth brace on Monday she had birds at 38, backed an unproductive of her bracemate at 41, found birds again at 46, and again at 59. Style and speed marked the hour as she was biddable and surely a pleasure for Pendergest to handle and the gallery to watch. Her third brace appearance on Tuesday was not quite as impressive as the day before but she did produce a nice find at 46. During the 81-minute callback on Wednesday, Dialed In found birds at 26, backed Fire Dancer at 52 and was circling the Jim Braddock field when time was called. The runner-up’s performance readily merited the judges’ decision to have Dialed In the winners’ circle.


The third and fourth dogs named for the second callback brace were Mohawk Mill Image and S F Bandwagon. Phillips Off Line and Touch’s Smooth Rider stood by, but the judges made their decision after the two callback braces.

Mohawk Mill Image ran a nice and forward race on Monday for his owner, Gary Winall, but had no birds. On Tuesday he again ran a good race and had finds at 5, 20 and 43. He also backed an unproductive effort of his bracemate at 13 on Tuesday.

During the callback Image had an unproductive effort at 36 in a feed plot of milo and other milo related types of cover. He then continued to hunt well for the remainder of the 60-minute brace.

S F Bandwagon, pointer male owned and handled by Larry Smith, had birds at 14 and shared a divided find with his bracemate at 45 while competing in the sixth brace on day No. 1. On Tuesday, competing in brace No. 3, he had one find which came at 49 on the east side of the area called Morgan Swamp by those familiar with the area. Bandwagon had one find at 20 during the callback on Wednesday. His race on Tuesday was the best and the combination of his performances on Monday and Tuesday earned him the privilege of showing himself to the judges again Wednesday.

Touch’s Smooth Rider was the champion of this prestigious stake in 2017 and was asked to stand by this year. However, the judges did not request the standby dogs to compete again on the third day.

This year Smooth Rider had an unproductive at 51 in the fifth brace on Monday and finished the hour with no birds. On Tuesday, he enabled his owner-handler Keith Wright to flush birds at 8 in the second brace and then had an unproductive at 58 to finish the hour.

Phillips Off Line, owned by Nathan Phillips, was handled by Mike Small. He was the second dog asked to stand by. Off Line’s performance was excellent the first day. He had one find, in the second brace, along the west edge of the field which is across the road from the Turner House Field. Unfortunately, he was not seen very much during his hour of competition on the second day.


The remaining dogs are reported in the order of standing, based on the number of qualifying points they accumulated to earn an invitation to this Championship. We are reminded that many conditions and circumstances impact a dog’s performance during any given hour but that each of the 12 dogs competing in this Invitational Championship is a proven winner, holding an outstanding record of performance.  therwise, their name would not appear on the very short list of the most outstanding all-age dogs in the nation.

R R Craftsman, owned and handled by Eddie Berendzen, competed in the first brace on Monday morning. He backed his bracemate at 25 and had an unproductive at 27 soon after leaving the Turner House Field. Both he and his bracemate finished the hour just a short distance into the Mary Scott Loop which lies on the north side of the National Championship Drive.

On Tuesday afternoon, in brace No. 4, Craftsman become lost and Berendzen got his retrieval unit at 46. He told the reporter, “Think of something good to say about me.” Hey, folks, that’s easy. Just to know him is to appreciate the contributions he is generously making to the sport. He even builds corrals and puts roofs on barns, too.

Showtime Dominator, owned and handled by Ted Roach of Union Springs, Ala., is next. The youthfulness of this personable 23-year-old-owner is appreciated in this sport that is frequently referred to as a sport where the competitors are getting older and older. Dominator had an unproductive in extremely rough cover at 41 and backed his bracemate at 46 in brace No. 4 on Monday afternoon. He ran a better race on Tuesday and shared a divided find at 6 before crossing Buford Ellington Road in the first brace of the morning.

Small’s White Stryker, owned and handled by Mike Small, was loosed in the first brace on the first morning. He had a nice find at 25 and backed an unproductive of his bracemate at 27. On Tuesday afternoon Striker had unproductives at 5, 23 and 38. Small picked him up in the Jack Harris cabin field after the third unproductive.

Larron Copeland’s Showtime Sam Houston competed in brace No. 3 on Monday and brace No. 4 on Tuesday. He was gone almost immediately after breakaway on Monday and was gone for the remainder of the hour. Immediately after lunch on Tuesday he had birds in the loop before crossing Ames Road but was gone again thereafter. Copeland asked for his retrieval unit at 35.

S F Strongwind, now owned by Nathan Berendzen, was handled by Eddie Berendzen. He hunted throughout the hour in the fifth brace on Monday but did not find any birds. On Tuesday in brace No. 2 he become lost before the end of the hour and Berendzen got his retrieval device at 50.

Nemaha Boot competed under the whistle of his owner, Dr. Pat McInteer. Boot had a nice find in dense honeysuckle at 24 on Monday. He became lost before the half hour mark on Tuesday and Dr. McInteer requested his retrieval unit.

Grand Junction, Tenn., December 3

Judges: Gary McKibben and David Williams

NATIONAL AMATEUR ALL-AGE INVITATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP [One-Hour Heats on Consecutive Days; Third Day One-Hour Finals ] —

12 Pointers

Winner—TOUCH’S FIRE DANCER, 1651102, female, by Touch’s Pond Dam—Whippoorwill G M A. Keith Wright, owner and handler.

Runner-Up—DIALED IN, 1655274, female, by Miller’s Dialing In—Rester’s Zumba Girl. Jim Pendergest, owner and handler.


The meals and social functions provided by the AFTCA during this Championship are always second to none. Every occasion was outstanding.

The gathering for the drawing started on Sunday evening preceded with a social hour held at the Rube Rhea, Sr. Memorial Center located near the stables and breakaway site of the morning courses.

AFTCA President David Williams first welcomed everyone, thanked the trustees of the Ames Foundation and Dr. Carlisle for the hospitality of Ames Plantation, recognized the judges and reporter. Others mentioned were Chris Weatherly who would marshal with Dr. Carlisle and William Smith who would help when needed. Ken Blackman would man the dog wagon and Aubrey Green would provide security at road crossings.

Williams invited Dr. Carlisle to make any remarks. Dr. Carlisle said that the rain of the last few weeks had delayed harvest on the plantation and the weather, coupled with various equipment problems, had limited the staff’s ability to do as much mowing as normally was done to prepare the courses for field trialing. The following three days proved that even though the cover was more dense than usual that lots of birds were found by the competing dogs. Piper Huffman, in her role as secretary of the AFTCA, then took charge of the remainder of the gathering and, assisted by Ken Blackman, conducted the drawing.

Lunches were catered by Gail Haynes in the Rhea Building each day. The charming lady from Brownsville also catered an outstanding dinner sponsored by Purina at the National Bird Dog Museum on Monday evening and maintained her reputation as a leading caterer in the area. Tonya Brotherton, director of the Museum, was there to welcome visitors while enthusiastically pointing out new flooring in the building, recently installed carpeting.

Sausage and biscuits were provided each morning at the end of the first brace, compliments of Aubrey Green, Ken Blackman and Piper Huffman.

The staff of Me and My Tea Room from Dancyville provided a beautiful buffet of topnotch hors d’oeuvres served on Mrs. Ames’ dining room table in the Ames Manor on Tuesday night. Charlie Frank Bryan was in the Manor House Gun Room that evening enjoying the company and overseeing the social hour that preceded the buffet.

The gathering at the Manor was the occasion for the announcement of the dogs the judges were calling back for a third run and also of those asked to be standing by. The efforts of the above mentioned, and perhaps others who may have been unintentionally overlooked, provided three days of extraordinarily enjoyable field trialing.

In summary, the hospitality of Ames Plantation, the planning and organization of Piper Huffman, the generosity of Purina, Garmin, and Bruce Fox, coupled with the dedication of those who provided services and other accommodations during the Championship, made the 38th renewal of the National Amateur Invitational Championship for the most outstanding all-age dogs in the nation a great success. The “best of the best” gathered and a champion and runner-up were declared, thus ending the 2018 Championship.

J. A.

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