Friday, March 21, 2008
Another gentleman I hold in high esteem...
As a follow-up to yesterday's post, I'll add another man, somewhat obscure, who was a giant in his field.
The head of the Punxutawney Groundhog Club, and the person most responsible for making Groundhog Day what it is today. That man is Sam Light, the gentleman responsible for the "Sam L Setters".
Born in 1896, Sam lived his entire life in the PA. town of Punxutawney, and made his fortune in lifeas the owner of the Lorraine Mining Company.
Mr. Light was also a veteran of WW l, and came home with the scars to prove it. A lieutenant in the Army, Sam came back home shellshocked and damaged from gas warfare. He later credited his Setters with restoring his fragile health.
Sam reportedly pulled into his first Field Trial at Conneaut in his Cadillac, with a Setter called Mohawk's Paliacho Frush on the front seat beside him. Frush was not exactly the best dog at the trial, by a long shot, but Sam was hooked!
In short order, Sam came upon a PA litter he liked, and "Sam L's Skyrocket", pictured here, was the result.
Sam L Setters went on to become famous, with even the likes of Presisent Eisenhower owning, and hunting over, one of Sam's dogs.
What intrigues me most about Sam Light is the standards he held for the Setters to carry his name. A dog had to have style, be pleasing to the eye, and have the ability and tenacity to run, and run big! He insisted upon a bold, hard charging dog, even though some of his dogs required quite a bit of training to handle well enough to win in the grouse woods. Sam's dogs delivered scintillatng performances in the grouse woods, although, they were often running on the ragged edge of being under control. Hence came one of Sam's most telling quotes, and one that I use often.. "You cannot obtain any degree of genius, without a trace of madness".
Sam's dogs often ran so big and seemingly out of control, that some of the dogs that would later go on to greatness, were returned to Sam by professional handlers who considered the dogs, while not outright renegades, extremely difficult to handle!
Skyhigh, pictured here, in particular, was considered too wild and unruly to compete in Grouse trials by the Tuttle Brothers of Johnsonburg PA, professional handlers of the day, and was returned to Sam. Skyhigh went on to Harry Holman who continued to patiently work with the dog. Sam L's Skyhigh went on to a fantastic career, becoming the first Setter to win six championships, as well as back-to-back Nationals at two different venues. It also was a Skyhigh daughter that produced Grouse Ridge John. So, Skyhigh can be considered Cover Dog Royalty.
Sam Light was the epitome of Setter fanciers, and today, few recognize his name. On his deathbed, Sam was visited by an old friend paying his last respects, Joe Willis of Brookville, PA. Sam awoke when Joe entered the room, and in a weak, feebly voice, asked, "Joe, do you know where I can get a good pup?"... Sam Light was dead a week later, in 1983...