American Field

Robin Gates

Reflections on a Friend and Deserving Candidate

By Larry S. Earls | Jul 12, 2021
Robin Gates

Blacksburg, S.C. — In support of Robin Gates for the Field Trial Hall of Fame, I believe this an appropriate time to share how I met Robin and the friendship we enjoyed.

In about 1994 a friend, Jimmy Dick, gave me a pointer puppy from his frozen semen son of Guard Rail.  His only stipulation was if the dog showed field trial potential I would send him north with Robin Gates for training.

The puppy showed promise, so I called Robin and the sent the puppy to Canada with him. I had heard of Robin for a long time because I kept up with trials and the Gates family through The American Field, but this was the first time I met Robin.

I had always wanted to go to the prairies to work dogs so that summer we made plans to visit several camps in the Dakotas and visit Robin in Canada. We timed our visit to Canada to see our Derby run in the Border International Championship trial. We met Robin and attended the dinner they held during the trial. The next day our Derby ran and won third place.

While there, Robin showed his string of field trial dogs and made mention of a white and orange pointer male name Season Finale that had won the All-Age Stake the day before. "Rod" had just started running enough for an all-age dog and Robin was excited about his future.

We spent most of the summer on the prairies that year and after returning home I received a call from Robin who wanted to know if I was interested in buying the dog to campaign. My first reaction was to tell Robin I was not interested in an all-age dog, that I did not want a dog that ran so wide that they were frequently lost, that my interest was in shooting dogs. I remember his response, "Sure, some do that, but the true all-age dog is the best of the best in the bird dogs."

I told him I'd think about it but I had a question for him. Why did he pick me to offer the dog to?  He said that when he met met me that I would be a good owner and a pleasure to work with.

By the time this occurred our children were grown and out of college. I had more time and resources to devote to my love of bird dogs. My wife liked to do things with me and she told me she wanted to attend field trials with me. She was with me on the prairies that summer and greatly enjoyed riding during the trials and workouts. I asked her if she thought she'd enjoy owning a field trial dog and attending trials to watch it run. She said she thought she would and wanted me to buy Season Finale. As the saying goes, the rest is history.

Soon after returning from Canada that fall, Robin ran Season Finale in the Buck Tuck qualifier in Alabama. "Rod" won the stake with about eighty dogs entered. That half qualified him for the National.

Robin invited me to come to his kennel to work dogs with him. That was something I knew I would enjoy so I visited him. Robin and I had an immediate liking for one another. We got along well and enjoyed the same things.

After a season or so Robin asked me if I would be interested in being a partner on training grounds near his kennel that he could lease. Of course I was interested and along the R. J. "Bob" Dry, another of Robin's clients, we proceeded. We kept that lease for more the one season and when it was sold, Robin found a small plantation near Newton. Ga., for us to lease. It was called Grassy Flats and had an adequate lodge, kennels and a place for our horses. It turned out to be a place my whole family enjoyed. We went there at every opportunity.

During the Christmas holidays, Robin did not have trials so he used that time to work dogs with his friends, other trainers and clients. That was a fun time. Sometimes there might be a dozen riding and working dogs. At lunch time some of us would go to the lodge for lunch. That was a time for stories and discussions about field trials and dogs of the past. Robin's brother John Rex was there at times and when he was I had the opportunity to ask about the dogs he ran and the field trials he'd won. Those years spent with Robin were among the most enjoyable of my life.

After a few years, Grassy Flats was sold and we once again needed to find another place. Robin was able make a deal with Jimmy Honea to use his plantation Silverwood near Oakfield, Ga. It was a fine place, nice facilities and plenty of birds. It was a dog trainer's dream. I enjoyed the year I was partner on the lease at Silverwood, but unfortunately I had to give up my share because of health reasons beyond my control.

During the fifteen or so years I had dogs with Robin, I became friends with his wife Mary Ann and son Hunter. Also got to know his brother John Rex and sister Sheila and other members of the family. When we trained on the lease near Robin's home and kennel, my wife and I plus sometimes my daughter Penny would park our horse trailers with living quarters at his kennel. We would stay as long as we could be away from home, some times a week or more.

During my time with Robin he trained and ran many dogs for me. The two main ones he campaigned for me were Season Finale and The Carolina Ranger. During that time he trained and ran many more dogs that I raised and sent to him to take to Canada. If they were field trial quality, he would run them in the Derby trials up there. He placed almost all he entered in those Derby stakes. If they were not field trial quality, he broke them as gun dogs that I could sell for hunting.

During this time my wife and I attended many trials in which our dogs were entered, including the National Championship three times with Season Finale.

There are two that stand out in my memory when Season Finale won the Lee County All-Age in 1997 to qualify for the National Championship, the three trips to Grand Junction, especially the last trip there when we thought Finale might be winning it might have been the most exciting of all. I could probably write a complete book about my times with Robin. It would include more that this, plus fishing and other interesting things we did.

This is probably too long so I will stop here after saying this: Robin was one of the best friends I ever had. He was also one of the finest persons I ever met. He was exceptionally good at every thing he did. He was an excellent dog trainer and developer of dogs. He might have been the absolute best of anyone at handling and showing a dog at field trials.

I wrote this because I know it will be interesting for many bird dog people to read, but mainly to convey what a great person Robin Gates was. He was one of the most qualified persons ever to be nominated for the Field Trial Hall of Fame. I am sure most know this and Robin will be elected in the first year of his eligibility.

I urge everyone to "join" the American Field site and vote for Robin. I would like to see him elected unanimously.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Steve Standley | Jul 13, 2021 06:03

I enjoyed reading about your history with Robin. Those special times with special people are what makes life worth living. My best for your good health.

As I have said before, The Field Trial Hall of Fame was created for people like Robin Gates.

Steve Standley


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