CHAPTER THIRTEEN

    Doc, Jack and I left from the Florida trial to drive to Harry Winston's place in Mississippi on January 15.  On the way, Jack explained that his financial troubles were finally over--Sy Beale had sold the seven hundred seventy-seven acres for enough to pay off the farm mortgage.  Now I understood why Jack's spirits had lifted at the Florida.

    Back in Mississippi we followed the same training regimen with Flip as the year before.  John Proud Bear joined us with his string after running in the Continental and the Free-For-All.  Takeover Bill had won both trials and would come to Grand Junction trying to do something no dog had ever done--win the Triple Crown of all-age endurance championships on quail in one year.  (Only one dog, War Storm under John Gates’ whistle, had ever won all three trials, and he had done it in different seasons.) Three weeks before the drawing for the National, a bridge game was in progress in our cabin, Doc and Harry Winston as partners against Jack and me.

    "I wish we could figure a way to get even with Norman Klensch for that chicken stunt last year," Harry said.
    "It's done," Jack said, ever so casually.
    "What do you mean?"  Harry asked.
    "You remember Norman's bragging here last year about his investment partnership for buying up timber?  Well, last summer, before I headed for South Dakota, I made a deal with Sy Beale, an old land-man buddy of mine.
    "Sy got word to Norman about a timber tract in Pocohantas County, stand of two-hundred-fifty-year-old white oak just put on the market, seven hundred seventy-seven acres.  Norman went for it like a bass for a minnow.  Didn't buy it for his investment partnership--bought it for himself.  Figured he could sell the logs for export veneer and make a fast killing.
    "Only one thing Norman didn't know.  A little skirmish back in 1863 known as the Battle of Droop Mountain was fought on the tract.  When one of Norman's logs goes on the veneer machine overseas, all hell is going to break loose.  Ole Norman has bought himself the finest piece of hardwood in West Virginia, but it's useless except for turkey hunting.  Those trees are full of Civil War lead," Jack said.
    "By God, Mississippians and West Virginians are a lot alike." Harry said, grabbing Jack and hugging him, then getting embarrassed.
    "Norman doesn't know what he's bought yet, but he will soon. The first load of logs went out of Baltimore by ship last week," Jack said.
   
    The night before the National’s drawing, Sy Beale called.  Jack returned from the phone with a grin.
   
    "It's worked, and the timing was perfect," Jack said.  "Klensch just learned about the ordnance in his oak trees.  Sy says he's demanding his money back, but he hasn't got a chance, and he knows it.  There was a clause in the contract passing him all risk of foreign bodies in the trees.  Ole Norman was so worried about his partnership investors finding out he had taken the deal for himself he didn't want his lawyer to see the contract.  He thought that clause was in the contract because tree huggers out west sometimes drive spikes into Douglas firs to sabotage the loggers.  Boys, come with me right now.  I've got a message for Norman."

    On the twenty-mile drive to Grand Junction, Jack told us what Earl Shiflett had told him in North Dakota after his sentencing.

    "Earl stole Flip on Norman's orders.  When we wouldn't breed Flip to Takeover Betty, Klensch became obsessed with getting Flip's bloodline in his kennel.  His plan was to steal Flip, take his semen, have it frozen, then destroy Flip.”

    We found Klensch in the kitchen of his rented cottage near the Ames Plantation, talking to Farley Snead.

    "We'd like to talk to you alone, Norman," Jack said.  
    "About what?" Klensch said, making no effort to conceal his dislike of us.
    "About a dog," Jack said.  Snead sensed a confrontation and took his leave, saying he had to look after his horses.
    "Norman, we know you had Earl Shiflett steal Flip at the Rugby trial."
    "That's a damn lie!" Klensch barked.
    "Maybe Earl is a bumpkin, but he's a West Virginia bumpkin.  He recorded your calls for protection in case he got caught, and I've got the cassette right here."  With that Jack shook a cassette tape under Klensch's nose.
    "Get out of here, you bastards," Klensch screeched, but fear was in his eyes.
    "We're going to give you one chance to redeem yourself, Norman," Jack said.  "Here's a telephone number.  It belongs to a friend of mine who's president of the West Virginia Nature Conservancy.  He's waiting for your call.  You're going to donate your Droop Mountain timber tract to the Nature Conservancy."
    "How did you know about that . . .?"  Klensch's voice trailed off.
    "Sy Beale's a good friend--known him since we were boys," Jack said.  "You're looking at the owners of High Stakes Limited Liability Company--us and Sy."

    The full realization of the sting came to Klensch.  He sat in silence, his eyes darting from one man to another as Jack, Doc, Harry and I stared at him.

    "Do it now, or copies of this tape are going to a sheriff in North Dakota, to the Field, to the Memphis Commercial Appeal and to the FBI--when you used the phone to plan a dog theft that was wire fraud. 
Maybe you can get the same cell your old pals Milken and Boesky had in the federal clink," Jack said.

    Klensch rose slowly, went to the phone, dialed the number and pledged the donation.    As we drove back to Mississippi, Jack took the tape he had shaken in Klensch's face and inserted it in the truck's cassette player.

    "Crazy . . . when I'm feeling lonely . . ." Patsy Cline sang.
(to be continued)