Buck Smith’s Option
 Part Twenty-Seven


   By Tom Word

Hardy Dillard met separately with Buck and Kyle about their salaries.  He was generous, if not overly so, but they were well satisfied, particularly since he offered to buy their truck and trailer and supply each man with a new truck bearing the Mossy Swamp logo.

Hardy took Buck to see the lawyer Ben (“Long”) Reach about the conservation easement deal, and in two weeks Buck had the check from Tall Timbers.  Hardy Dillard helped him invest it, partly in an annuity and partly in Vanguard index funds, half the bond market, forty percent the U.S. stock market, ten percent the developed foreign market.  Kyle moved into Simon Green’s house on Mossy Swamp.

Hardy Dillard set the dinner to celebrate Headstrong’s win of the National the week of the Southeastern All-Age Championship, so many of his newfound friends in the field-trial fraternity were on hand.  It was a grand party.  After everyone was seated for dinner, Hardy took the floor and thanked Kyle and Buck, the judges who had placed Strong, the clubs that had hosted his trials, and all present who had come to celebrate tonight.  He called on a preacher to say grace, and everyone dug into the mixed grill of pheasant, quail, duck, wild rice, and cranberry sauce.  After the main course was downed and dessert of pecan pie á la mode served, Hardy rose again to speak.  Champaign glasses had been filled with Dom Perignon, as Hardy had promised the night before Strong’s National race.  Hardy made the first toast—to Headstrong—who had been let out of his crate in the gunroom to walk among the tables and greet his admirers.  Then Buck asked for the floor.

“Mr. Hardy, Kyle and I want to thank you for your faith in Headstrong and in us.  It’s been a wonderful season, the best in my life, and I think in Kyle’s.”

He toasted Mr. Hardy, and then said, “Now, Kyle has an announcement to make.”
With that, Kyle announced the upcoming marriages of Buck and himself.  Their brides were seated beside them and beaming—the same local ladies they’d been seeing since they’d formed their field-trialing partnership and Kyle had moved into Buck’s farmhouse.  The bluegrass band struck up Wildwood Flower on the porch, and soon all were dancing.
Headstrong won the Southeastern and with it the Purina Top Bird Dog Award.

The End