American Field

The Last Field Trial

By Danny Bardwell | Jun 18, 2020

A January fog, heavy wet and cold

Crept down from the darkness of the pines and across the gentle folds.

Not an apparition mind you but real I’m here to say.

A thump loud on my door when The Field arrived that day.


It lay flat, folded in a linear way

Thin and plain and pale.

I looked from side to side to see who the carrier may be.

But it was the fog that brought it, and delivered the truth to me.


The truth of youth and the truth of age

The truth of death where nothing stays.

Like a Clarion call true and clear

A trumpet’s blast I was not prepared to hear.


AMERICAN FIELD arched across the top in gothic bold

Has been gone for 20 years now I’m told.

No birds or trials or dogs anymore

Only foggy myths of legend and of lore.


And in a banner just below with garland all around

Where forever proudly stood the champion of the day

Was a dog with a striking resemblance

to one I once had, named Old Jay.


The trumpet blast again and a chill filled the air

For after a closer look I was sure it was there.

His name in print, I gasped, how could it be

That Clarion’s angel was summoning me.


An advertisement filled the page, a trial soon to be

held amongst the fields of sedge on a farm in Tennessee.

One month to prepare, it read, all entries have been paid.

You’ve qualified for this event all rulings have been waived.


I had no dog around or steed to mount, nor reins left to grip

Nor friend to share my battle with on that midnight trip.

My bag was light and my goodbyes few.

By determination and without delight I knew what I must do.


I arrived at barns in tatter, and fields all overgrown,

Was but a single swath of winter wheat and that not thickly sown.

And the swath meandered along a hickory bottom

And then towards the east.

An eerie ominous somber path to say the least.


Looking down that swath into the morning sun

Was a misty vail that would block the view of any dogs that run.

But without being told, the course lay that way, I surely knew.

For that was the direction from which that trumpet blew.


An echoing cry from distance yon summoned a point in time

"Dogs up . . . Let’s go . . . Final brace . . . Get ’em to the line".

No one else answered the call. Was I the only brace?

Again the call was made. Was this my final race?


I stepped to the line all ready and in the distance saw

a saddled horse awaiting just beyond the draw.

And just a little farther looking back at me that day

Stood the liver-headed never failing gladiator, Jay.

And at the side of that hickory glen were two mounted riders,

their faces in the wind.


On arch necked stallions with eyes of red hot coal

pawing the ground black and cold . . .

Reins held tight and spurs aglow their cry went out another time.

"Dogs up . . . Let’s go . . . Final brace . . . Get’em to the line".


I knew that demon’s horn blew for me.

He thought my final brace had come.

But I was there that morning to beat him

and run a race that had to be won.

No marshal, or scouts that day, or gallery to watch the flank.

It’d just be me, that untried mount, and what Old Jay had left in the tank.


I whistled to Old Jay and he was quickly at my side.

“Now heel to me. Let’s go,” I said, “and give this bronc a ride.”

Fifteen three I’d say, smooth as silk

with ears that twitched when Jay would pass our way.

Yes sir, it was up to me, Old Jay, and that black footed bay.


He’d been here before and knew every gap.

And Old Jay was sailing avoiding every trap.

One find, two, three, four, five coveys all.

We were slowly leaving behind that ominous Clarion call.


“Course left,” I heard one say. Two hours we’d been down.

If we were to win that day we’d have to plot it now.

At two forty down and far to the front we crossed a muddy gravel road

I whistled in a well worn Jay, and had to help him load.


Across my lap on the black footed bay Old Jay lay wet and cold.

He’d run us away from judgment that day, right before their nose.

I was lost but the bay was sure, Jay needed warmth and I needed rest.

That black footed bay had stood the test.


For another hour he sped along.

Rounding a corner to an old home.

We beckoned hello and and old woman answered our call.

Her husband showed and curried the bay. The old woman cared for Jay.


“Not many, she said, “venture into these parts

but them that do have mighty big hearts.

Your dog’ll be fine given some rest. Seems like he’s passed quiet a test.”

I nodded, and begin to sleep, warm now and quiet complete.


It may have been minutes, hours or weeks

but when I woke from that deep sleep.

I was at home and Jay lay at my feet.

It was clear and warm outside and I happened to see a black footed bay

sunning himself in a thick pasture just across the way.


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