by Troy D. Sparks

The following article appeared in the Spring 1998 Llewellin Setter Association Journal

Dad with Dashing Crackerjack (Jack), and Dashing Bondhu Kate at Crosley Wildlife Preserve (Nov. '94)

I awoke after only three hours of sleep early Saturday morning, December 6, 1997. (Both my late arrival from Texas and the excited late-night hunting talk with my mother (Jane) and my twin brother (Roy III), deprived me of some much needed sleep). After donning my upland clothes, I stepped outside to feel the cold, crisp air on my face and was greeted with an inch or so of new Central Indiana snow. The three Llewellins came alive instantly, knowing what a pre- dawn visit really means...a pheasant hunt! I let the dogs out into the yard from their respective kennels so that they could release their excess energy. Watching the dogs in the yard, two words came to mind...wind chill. I headed back inside to get the coffee brewing.

I soon ventured back outside to load the dog accessories, box and guns into the truck. Hearing a bell rounding the corner of my mom's house, I realized that "King" (Sparky's Dashing King) had jumped the fence. I could see the excitement in the three-year-old's eyes as I kenneled him into the dog box. I peered around the corner at the remaining two dogs, "Jack" (Dashing Crackerjack) and "Sally" (Sparky's Dashing Sally), feeling confident that they would not follow King's lead. The very thought of it brought a smile to my face, and I remembered my Dad's musings about his three-legged dog, Jack. That's another advantage to Jack, I thought to myself, no fence-jumping. (As some of you may recall, Jack lost his front leg at the shoulder several years ago in an accident. But don't let that fool you. Jack is one of those rare naturals in the field, and one of the best dogs I've had the pleasure to hunt.) It was at that moment that the purpose of the day hit me. It was to be the first of, hopefully, an annual hunting outing to honor my dad, Roy K. Sparks, Jr. (a.k.a. Kenny and Jonesy) who was killed in a tragic auto accident in April. Hunting brought so much happiness to my dad, and I realized this would be my first trip without him.
Jonesey's 1st Annual Shootout on the Flatrock (12/97): Dan, Chris and Chance (EP), Seth and Bo (B), Troy and Jes (LS), Blackie and Pepper (EP), Pat and Rick (B), and Roy with Jack (LS). Not pictured Evan, King (LS), and Sally (LS). B=Brittany, LS=Llewellin Setter, and EP=English Pointer.

I returned to the house as the sun winked over the horizon and noticed a flock of Canadas sounding high overhead. As I opened the door, the warm scent of Mom's cinnamon rolls and coffee gave me just the boost I needed. The first hunters to arrive were my Dad's best friend and long-time hunting buddy Raymond (a.k.a. Blackie) who travelled from his home in Kentucky, as well as my brother and Chris, a friend of the family. After a few more minutes, my two uncles Evan and Dan (my mom's brothers) pulled into the driveway with my cousins Pat and Seth in tow. After exchanging morning greetings, the usual joke-telling and bantering about various handicaps needed for dog and hunter alike, began.

We loaded up and headed for Merrill Carrigan and his Flatrock Hunting Preserve (Milroy, Indiana), only a half-mile away. I reflected on my dad's lesson on what it means to hunt. I remembered back to my first hunt as a boy at the the Crosley Wildlife Preserve (North Vernon, Indiana). As my brother held his H&R and as Dad handed me his 870 Wingmaster, he asked us the difference between shooting and hunting. Roy and I both replied with a shrug of the shoulders. He proceded to explain that while shooting was merely the act of pulling a trigger, hunting was the whole experience of being in the field, admiring nature, enjoying each other's company; and watching the dogs work. Through the years, Roy and I learned to love hunting, but no one loved it more than Dad. It made him truly happy.

Jonesey's 2nd Annual Shootout on the Flatrock (12/98): Seth and Bo (B), Troy and King (LS), Chris and Molly (EP), Blackie and Pepper (EP), Dan with chocolate lab, Ginger, and Jes (LS), Evan with Rick (B) and Jack (LS), Roy and Sally (LS), and Pat with Chance (EP). B=Brittany, LS=Llewellin Setter, and EP=English Pointer.

Arriving at Flatrock, our group divided equally into two fields. The hunt was enjoyable as all the dogs (Our Llewellins, "Jack, King and Sally; Dan's Brittanys, "Rick" and "Bo", English Pointer, "Chance", and Llewellin, "Jes"; and Blackie's English Pointer, "Pepper") performed well. After the hunt, Mom took pictures to capture the day, and we gathered in Merrill's poll barn for some of his wife's complementary chili and cornbread. We laughed and exchanged stories of hunts past along with stories of my dad. Over the two days of our memorial "shoot-out", we yielded 55 of 60 pheasants. But, as my dad's lesson taught us, it was not the number of birds we shot or how individuals performed that was most important that weekend. What was most important was the camaraderie among family and friends and the precious memories which we'd always share.

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    Revised: 07/20/04
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