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Twenty-Five Years of The Florida Open All-Age Championship

[Starts Sunday, January 13, 2019]
By Tom Word | Jan 03, 2019

This month marks my twenty-fifth year reporting the Florida Open Championship at Chinquapin, near Lake City, Florida.

What fun it has been

To carouse with like-minded men

Their dogs and their horses

And the Chinquapin quail

 

For a week in January

I have lived life free

Of the cares and the worries

Of the ordinary

 

In the Big House with Ted

And T Jack and Howard

Skip and Tom Kennard

John Milton and Murph

And occasionally Chester

 

A Bloody for breakfast

Another at lunch

Then at day’s end red wine

While we rerun the courses

As Howard and Ted fix the grub

 

A leg of lamb

Or several of chicken

With rice and Crowder peas

Those eternal staples

 

We sit down at the table

Hold hands and say grace

Thanks for the bounty, each other,

and this place

Then we turn to teasing the judges

 

Stories are told

And yes they are old

And repeated a bit

But that’s only fit

 

We hear of Old Ranger

And of trips to Dixie

Where out on the morning course

Ted and Murph encountered

George Evans leading the gallery

 

“What the hell are you boys

Doing here?” George asks

His dentures clacking

“Just trying to catch up with you sir”

Says Ted while Murph nods

agreement

 

And we hear of Bill Rayl

Losing Evolution in the Continental

And asking scout-brother Albert Earl

“Where was you lookin’

When he got away?”

 

To which Albert Earl answers truthfully

And Bill rejoins, “That’s where

I was a lookin’

Don’t you be a lookin’ where

I’m a lookin’”

And that line’s repeated all week

 

Then there is the tale

Of a night in Corinth

Before a dog of Ted and T Jack’s

Was to run in the National

 

That story will not be told here

Suffice it to say it involves

Uncomfortable confinement

 

We rise before dawn

Howard has the coffee brewed

Eggs in the blender

Sausage and bacon sizzling

 

To the barn at seven

Fire roars in the clubhouse

The officials’ horses wait tacked up

By the Chinquapin staff

 

At quarter to eight

We ride to the start

On the west side of 247

And gather at the pipe line

 

Some days ground fog makes us wait

Some it’s clear as a bell

For a gallery of fifty

Riding horses feeling frisky

 

Judges are introduced

Slade says a prayer

Asking for safety

Judges nod let ’em go

 

Two pointers hit the cover

Reach for the front

Scouts ride right and left

Handlers ride up the pipe line

 

Chances are at least two finds

Will come in the opening minutes

Before at 20 we cross the road

And go north into piney woods

 

Forty minutes the first brace hunts

With constant chances to point

wild coveys

So it goes on every course

Five braces morning four after lunch

 

There is no other trial ground

With such even chances

On courses groomed by fire and blade

And gold plated with shelled corn

 

So it goes til all have run

Then the judges announce a

top qualifier

And call the finalists

And things get serious

 

To be continued . . .

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