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The Virginia Partridge

When I was twelve, my father gave me a twenty-gauge, single-shot shotgun from Sears for my late October birthday. We tried it out in the fields surrounding his family’s old home place in a wide spot called Richburg, South Carolina. Daddy was a shot and did well, but when that first covey exploded, it scared the hell out of me. It is amazing how much racket quail create just by taking wing. We then followed old Pat, an English setter named for one of Daddy’s sisters, as she pointed the birds and, with Daddy’s encouragement, eased forward to flush them.

This is the way generations of Southern men have schooled their sons in the pursuit of the finest game bird in North America, and I am proud to have been raised in that tradition. Sometime later, we went to a field trial on the Anderson County side of the Saluda River so my father could watch the dogs work, and I would have exposure enough to become a true believer. Sad to say, I was too young, and the lessons didn’t stick. It would be years later—when my own son McLean was grown—that I would take up the sport with passion. During all four years as a college student, McLean worked for our friend—first his and now mine—Jake Rasor at Harris Springs Sportsman’s Resort in Cross Hill, South Carolina. McLean learned the birds and the dogs and the land. As a result, my son has gone on to teach me things my father could not.

Simply put, art is the recording of life. And so when my friend and fellow dealer Gerry Wunderlich first offered me the painting A Field Trial, A Shot, I knew what it was all about. My father had taken me into the field to teach me not only specific skills, but, more importantly, about life. He well understood that especially in Southern climes, the social aspects of the hunt were so much a part of it all. What he could not have known was that a Saturday’s adventure with his son to this thing called a field trial would educate the boy in the ways of such things for an entirely different purpose—at least enough to bluff my way through the conversation with Billy Morris when he purchased the painting. And maybe even with Gerry when I convinced him that I was the right man to handle the picture because of my “vast” experience in such matters.

John Martin Tracy was the artist and that painting was my introduction to him. I learned my lessons with it, lessons which in turn allowed me to understand and claim other works by sporting artists as they came into my sights. Turner Reuter taught me that to bring the good money and to even be palatable to collectors of sporting art, the artist had to present his subject with an expertise on par with the best of taxidermists. Anatomical exactitude is essential. I have enough country in me to understand this, but not the experience required to speak with authority. Surely that is why Turner knows sporting painting, and why the collectors of such things know Turner. Sometimes I just get lucky.

Aiden Lassell Ripley (1896-1969)
East Shoot, Bull Island, South Carolina (1955)
Oil on canvas
27 1/8 x 40 1/8 inches
Signature Details: Lower Right
Owner: The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina
1451 River Road · Yemassee, SC 29945 · 843.412.8738
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