CHAPTER ELEVEN

    We made the fifteen hundred miles home to West Virginia in four days, stopping to drop off gun dogs we’d trained and spending nights at the homes of field-trial people Jack knew near Omaha, St. Louis, and Lexington, Kentucky.  Our visits with Jack's old friends were a revelation.  He had not seen these people for many years, but they talked of shared events of thirty years before as if they had occurred yesterday.  For the first time, I sensed how fleeting life is, how when a day is gone it is gone forever.    On the road, Jack told me of heats run on field-trial grounds we passed--of great dogs that had made their mark, had a year or two of glory, then faded into dim memory.  Jack, like all the pros I came to know, could remember long-ago races of his dogs and others in every detail.

    Back home, I started school a week late.  September was a big month for new gun dogs to train, as bird hunters began to plan for the coming season.  At night the phone rang constantly with the calls of people wanting to buy a dog or bring one for training or to breed a female to Flip.  Many evenings we had visitors.    And then on October 1, we had a different kind of visitor--two men in a gray sedan with U.S. Government license tags.  They wore dark suits and plain-toe black shoes, and they identified themselves as agents of the Internal Revenue Service.  They read Jack his rights:  "You have the right to remain silent . . . ."
Jack phoned Harvie McGuire, an Elkins lawyer, old friend and customer.  Harvie told Jack not to talk to the IRS agents but to turn over the tax records they had a subpoena for, making sure he had copies of everything he gave them.

    Next day when I got home from school, Harvie and Jack were at the kitchen table.  Harvie stopped talking when I sat at the table beside Jack.  "Go ahead, Harvie, I've go no secrets from David," Jack said.
Harvie said Jack was going to be indicted for income tax evasion and gambling without a federal gambling stamp.  One of the players who had lost to Jack in the big game at The Greenbrier had called the IRS snitch line.  Jack's big pay-down of the farm mortgage was proof of his winnings--not reported on his tax return.  Harvie asked Jack if he wanted to plea bargain.  Jack said he wanted a jury.

    The following weeks were a nightmare.  Jack and I trained gun dogs from sunrise until the daylight was all gone, Saturdays and Sundays included.  Evenings Jack went to Elkins to work with Harvie on his defense.  I held down the fort at the farm, dropping out of high school for the semester over Jack's objections.  (Doc sided with me.)  Doc and Jack had a big argument about Flip--Doc wanted to take him on the amateur circuit to keep him tuned up, then try to get him qualified again for the National by entering one or two qualifying open trials; Jack was still set against Doc running Flip in amateur trials.

    "After this February you can run Flip in any trial you please, but until I've run him in the National again you can't run him, period.  You've got the rest of his life and yours to run him in amateur trials--you and David both.  I've got just one chance for the National . . . .  Hell, I may not even have that," Jack said.  We thought he was talking about the tax trial coming up.

    Then Flip got sick.  When Jack let him out the front door for his morning stretch, he took three strides toward the yard fence--which he always jumped--and he staggered.  His muscle tone was suddenly gone.
We drove to the vet's clinic in Lewisburg.  He examined Flip for half an hour; he hadn't a clue.  Flip's heartbeat and respiration were near normal, but his muscles had turned to jelly.  The vet took blood samples and said the tests would be back in a few days.  In the meantime, he wanted to keep Flip at the clinic.  Jack said no--he thought more animals got infections from clinics than cures.

    We called Doc who said to take Flip to the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, that a friend would be expecting us.  And so we lay Flip between us on the truck seat and headed out.  We got to Philadelphia at four-thirty, and Doc's friend examined Flip just as our vet had and took more blood.  He also took x-rays.  He called Doc on a speakerphone.

    "It could be a brain tumor; it could be a tumor on the pancreas--like Oklahoma Flush had--or it could be something we haven't thought of that the blood tests will suggest.  I want to see the blood test results before doing anything invasive."

    And so Jack and I left Flip at the vet school.  We were low as could be.    On the drive back, just as the first range of the Blue Ridge came into view, a thought came to me.

    "Jack, have you ever seen an animal get sick like Flip?"
    "No . . . not exactly."
    "He got limp all at once--just like a lamb will do that gets an infection from the rubber band you put on its tail to dock it . . . ."
    "That's tetanus--lockjaw--the lambs get.  Never heard of a dog with tetanus.  The tetanus germ lives for years in horse manure, the vets say . . . ."

    Then I remembered.  Flip had been imprisoned in the old horse trailer in North Dakota--and he had torn his pad.  The wound would have been exposed to the horse manure in the trailer.
When we reached the farm we called Doc, who said it was possible--any mammal was susceptible to tetanus in some degree, and men and horses in a high degree (that's why they were inoculated against it as a matter of prevention).    Doc called his friend at the vet school who said he had heard of just one case of a dog contracting tetanus, but he agreed Flip's symptoms were consistent with the disease.  He’d expand the blood test to check for tetanus.  It would take three days to get the test results.  Meanwhile Flip grew weaker.    The next three days were pure hell.  We called the vet school and Doc every morning and afternoon, but it did no good.  Doc talked to his friend about courses of treatment.  If it were a brain tumor, there was nothing to do; if a pancreatic tumor, they could operate, but the prognosis would not be good.  But if it were tetanus . . . well, there was a one in a thousand chance of that . . . but tetanus could be cured with an antitoxin if caught in time.

    And then on Wednesday Doc called--it was tetanus!  Flip had been given the antitoxin, and, barring complications, he should make a complete recovery.  It would take two months to rebuild his muscle tone.
Our chances to run Flip in the National in February seemed dashed.  He would not be eligible without a major circuit placement before then, and he wouldn't be able to run in fall trials.  Only if we could get him well and back in shape for the January trials was there a chance.  And those were the toughest trials of all--the entries were always large; to get even a third place, Flip would have to beat eighty or more all-age dogs more experienced than he.  Still, we had hope--and confidence in Flip--if we could just get him healthy in time.
   
    In spite of our troubles with Flip and Jack's upcoming tax-fraud trial, Jack and I delivered thirty dogs to customers, ready to hunt by the opening of the bird season.  Most were just country broke, but they were ready enough for meat hunters.  Only one dog came back--its buyer took it to a shooting preserve and shot over it all day with a twelve-gauge, rendering it gun shy.  Jack took it back for half the fifteen-hundred-dollar sales price, then told the buyer,
   
    "Don't ever come back here again."  Jack would rehabilitate the dog--although it was thoroughly gun-shy, it didn't associate the noise with birds, just with guns and man, and so it could be cured.

    Jack's tax-fraud trial was set for the week before Christmas, at the Federal Courthouse at Elkins.  All the judges in West Virginia recused themselves--they had been his customers or golfing partners (or victims, depending on the day's pairings).  The prosecutor tried to get a continuance, but Harvie McGuire would have none of that--the week before Christmas was the perfect time to try a criminal case to a West Virginia jury.
Harvie was elated when he learned the name of the judge assigned to hear Jack's case, Richard L. Williams of Richmond, Virginia.  Judge Williams was notorious for his "rocket docket."  He demanded that lawyers put on their cases quickly and without repetition.  Lawyers everywhere were scared of him.  Harvie learned Williams was an avid outdoorsman--trout fisherman and grouse and turkey hunter--and owned a mountain farm in Virginia.  Williams didn't know Jack--except perhaps by reputation--but he understood mountain folk.  At the same time, Williams was not known as soft on crime--far from it.  His record for sentences in tax-evasion cases made Harvie gulp when he looked it up on his computer.  Still, there would be a jury . . . .

    The government asked Judge Williams for two weeks for the trial, but he allowed just two days.  Doc flew in for the trial.  We got rooms in an Elkins motel.

    "You won't believe this," Harvie McGuire said as he emerged from Judge Williams' chambers after the final pretrial conference.
    "Judge Williams has got an English setter in there with him.  'Judge'--that's what he calls it."

    The trial began with the gravel-voiced judge explaining the case for the jury in four quick sentences.  And then for hours, government accountants testified about numbers on tax returns.  Harvie waived cross-examination until the government's final and most important witness finished his testimony.  Then Harvie. rose to cross-examine.

    "Sir, did you make any attempt to determine if Mr. Slone had any deductions he didn't use but was entitled to?"
    "No, sir."
    "No further questions, Your Honor."

    The government rested its case, and Harvie called Jack to the stand as his first and only witness.  Jack held a folder of papers, and for the next hour, Harvie took him through records of payments to the hospital and doctors and the bank, including long-due payments on Ann's medical bills.  The government lawyer objected after each document was tendered on grounds that the deductibility of the payment had not been established.  After each objection, Harvie withdrew the proffered item, but the jury heard Jack's explanation, which was all Harvie wanted.

    Judge Williams soon grew impatient with Harvie.

    "I apologize to the Court, Your Honor.  I'm just a country lawyer--not a tax expert like my friend here from Washington," (Harvie pointed to the special prosecutor from the Tax Division of the Justice Department, clad in an expensive blue suit--Harvie wore a crumpled old double-knit).
    "No further questions of the witness, Your Honor," Harvie said with a smile to the jury.

    The government lawyer rose to cross-examine Jack.

    "Mr. Slone, you are a professional gambler, are you not?"

    Jack grinned.

    "Well, I never thought so.  I make bets when I play golf, but that's a game of skill so it's not gambling.  And I play poker for money when I can find a game--not so easy in Greenbrier County as it used to be."

    The jury laughed; everyone in West Virginia knew about the wild and wooly days in Greenbrier County.

    "No, sir, I don't think I'm a professional gambler.  I'm a farmer and a bird-dog trainer--those are my professions," Jack said.
    "Do you admit winning thirty thousand dollars in a poker game at The Greenbrier Hotel last year?"
    "Yes, I do."
    "And do you admit not reporting those winnings on your income tax return?"
    "Yes, I do."
    "No further questions, Your Honor."

    In his closing argument, Harvie McGuire spoke to the jury like friends gathered in his kitchen.  Several were his friends, for Harvie made it his business to know everyone living around Elkins.  He made the case simple:  Jack hadn't intended to evade taxes.  His expenses through all the years of Ann's illness had been so high and his income so low that Jack just saw his thirty-thousand-dollar poker win as a little getting even--and it had all gone to the bankers or doctors, every cent of it.    It took the twelve men and women from the West Virginia hills and hollows--men and women by nature suspicious of government, bankers, doctors, hospitals and "come heres"--just thirty minutes to acquit Jack of tax evasion.  They convicted him of failure to buy a federal gambling stamp, a misdemeanor.  For that Judge Williams imposed a thousand-dollar fine and a thirty-day jail sentence, suspended on condition of good behavior.

    To celebrate our victory Doc took Harvie, Jack and me to dinner at The Greenbrier.  Over dinner we decided to enter Flip in the Florida All-Age Championship the second week of January and try to requalify him there for the National Championship.  Doc spent the night at The Greenbrier so he could get a flight home early next morning.  On our drive to the farm, snow began to fall.    Christmas morning I awoke before Jack and went down to light the fires.  The snow-covered mountains shimmered in the predawn moonlight; the river was a black satin ribbon through the stark-white valley.  I let Flip out, started the coffee and the bacon, then let him in again.  He quickly chewed away the ice formed in the hair between his toes.    Jack had still not stirred.  I sat with Flip before the rising fire and listened to the crack of the fatwood . . .  Tomorrow Jack and I would head south.  I would be out of school until March.  Our troubles were behind us—Jack’s taxes, Flip’s tetanus; so many good things lay just ahead . . .  and yet I felt a foreboding, as I had on the morning my father caught me staring at his scarred hand, the morning of my hunt with Pat and the big white dog . . . .  Jack’s steps thumped on the stairs.

    “Merry Christmas!” he said with more cheer than I could remember.

    We opened our gifts to one another—and shared a long laugh.  They were the same—framed 8 x 10 photos of Flip on point on the prairie last summer, mine made at daybreak, Jack’s made at dusk.  We placed them side by side on the mantle above our Christmas fire and went into the kitchen for breakfast.    Harvie McGuire's usual fee for a federal felony jury trial was twenty thousand dollars, but he cut it for Jack to ten thousand--and the promise of two good grouse dogs on sixty-days call (he already owned a Jack-trained pointer in its prime).  Once again, Jack was desperate for money.

    Next morning at daybreak, Jack and I headed for Georgia, Flip between us, our horses and a few derbies Jack was training to sell in the trailer.

    "Dog's got to acclimate his nose to the sandy wire-grass country," Jack had said.  We spent the next ten days on borrowed grounds south of Albany.  Again, my carelessness nearly cost us everything.
The Deep-South quail country was beautiful--acres of wire grass under tall longleaf pines, their low bark blackened by the yearly burn, giant live oaks with limbs like outstretched arms.  This was real bird-dog country--every pickup held a dog box.    When we finished Flip’s final workout before the Florida Championship, I fitted Flip in a roading harness for the ride back to the kennels.  I snapped one end of a check cord to the harness, then the other end to a ring on my saddle.

    My horse, a new one Jack had traded for since our arrival in Georgia, was tall, so I led him into a depression for my remount.  As I lifted my foot to the stirrup, a rattler sounded and my horse galloped off--with Flip in tow!    Terror gripped me.  If the horse ran close by a pine, Flip would be pulled into the tree--and crushed.

    "Jack!" I screamed in panic.

Jack was fifty yards away, attaching a roading harness to Flip's bracemate.

    "Don't move, don't yell," he said calmly.

    Miraculously, Flip realized his danger and how to manage it. Instead of fighting the rope he fell in close at the heels of the runaway horse, keeping the rope slack and making it impossible for the horse to pull him against a tree.  But if the rope caught on a stump or in brush, he could still be killed . . .  I held my breath and prayed.    After minutes that seemed an hour, the runaway horse slowed to a trot, then dropped its head to graze.  Unhurt and unconcerned, Flip lay down behind him.  Jack rode slowly to the grazing horse, dismounted and unclipped the check cord from the saddle ring.  Tears of shame and gratitude streamed down my cheeks.  As I hugged

    Flip, Jack said, "Bet you don't do that again."

    On our ride in to the kennels, the dogs pulling happily ahead in harness, Jack’s warning advice the first day we worked dogs from horseback in West Virginia rang in my ears.

                                                                                                                                   (to be continued)