Soon after becoming involved in Labradors I met a gentleman by the name of Lyman "Junior" Turner who lived in Magrath, Alberta, about 40 miles from where I was born and raised. Junior as everyone called him had been training and competing in field trials since the 40's, having started with spaniels and then Labradors. He worked his entire career in a hardware store and everyone in town knew him. I never knew if he never married because he was such a perfectionist or if he was a perfectionist because he never married, either way he was very meticulous and that made him a great trainer.
In the late 90's our friendship blossomed and I was able to spend a great deal of time training with Junior and drinking in his wonderful memories of trainers and dogs of days gone by. For example, he acquired his first two labs from Avondale Kennels which was located in Brooks, Alberta in the early 40's. Avondale Kennels was owned by a man with the surname Chevier, who was a buyer for Eaton Stores (a well known department store chain in those days). He consequently had many contacts in England and started importing Labradors from that country in the late 30's. When Junior purchased his first dog from Avondale Kennels they had over 500 dogs on the property. The kennel itself was managed by a former Scottish gamekeeper that Chevier had brought over to train dogs and look after the enterprise. Junior's first dog was Little Larry of Avondale. According to Junior he was an amazing dog.
I have found the recent infatuation with British Labradors to be an interesting phenomenon since all our Labradors descend from imported dogs in the first place. The argument I hear is that British dogs are more relaxed and quieter in the field. My feeling is that this relates more to training methodologies than to actual behavior differences. The methods used by those who train British Labradors emphasize steadiness at the line since in the British Field Trials all competing dogs sit in a line while the game is shot and then the judges direct the handlers to pick up specific game. In North America, each competing dog comes to the line individually and run a series of tests that are identical for each dog. In my humble opinion a good dog is a good dog and one should pay more attention to ability than to where it was born.
Junior and I trained together almost daily when he was well into his 90's. We would train and then we'd visit at the end of each session. He would regale me with stories of yesteryear. He wore a lanyard everyday which belonged to Guy Burnett, the owner of '69 NAFC FC Guy's Bitterroot Lucky and was given to Junior by Guy's widow when Guy passed away. They used to train together in Arizona during the winter. It was through Junior that I met Don and Marianne Berard the owners of FC AFC FTCH AFTCH DB's Cracker of Club Mead (Ritz) and good friends of Junior's.
Junior had a couple of great dogs from our Kennel. His first was Revilo's Humble Pie QAA (Aubin Ironman X Revilo's Montana Tarquin). Pie was something else. In fact, when Junior took him south to Arizona as a young dog I got a call from Don Berard inquiring if I was going to repeat that breeding because if I was Don wanted a pup. Unfortunately I had to tell Don that I had lost Tar prematurely and a repeat would not possible. Don then went out and purchased Ritz so perhaps it was fate. Junior's other good Revilo dog was Revilo's Blue Boy QAA. Blue also was an outstanding dog and sired many talented pups.
When Junior was in his 90's he was reluctant to drive himself to Field Trials so I was his chauffer. One day we were travelling to a trial near Strathmore, Alberta and he told me that this was the 60th consecutive year of attending this particular trial. When we arrived at the trial grounds many of the ladies in attendance came over and gave Junior a big hug. He had a smile like the proverbial Cheshire cat and I began to think that maybe the dogs were a secondary reason for him to attend the field trial.
I am grateful to have been able to call Junior Turner my friend and to have been able to have a living rendition of the history field trials and Labradors and their owners in Canada and the western United States from someone who lived it and loved it. These kind of opportunities are rare.