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Bird dog cemetery preserves South’s sporting past

April 13, 2012 at 09:21 AM

The Associated Press

WAYNESBORO, Ga. (AP) — Wrangler Sam was “almost great,” while Black Bean died as a “good prospect poisoned.”

They lie at rest alongside other bird dogs with names such as Tipsy, Black Fury and Greenwood Bob - all part of the legacy of the South’s glorious sporting past.

“There’s about 100 dogs buried out here,” said Steve Kyles, the manager for the 8,100-acre Di-Lane Plantation that is now a public wildlife management area.

The unusual cemetery, hidden beneath moss-draped oaks, was created in the 1930s as part of a private quail hunting preserve owned by New York millionaire Henry Berol, the heir to Eagle Pencil Co.

“Mr. Berol loved this place and had his kennels right over there,” Kyles said, pointing to a now-empty row of pines. “There was even a cook who made meals just for all the dogs - usually hamburger or steak.”

Berol assembled Di-Lane by acquiring and consolidating scores of small farms. Under his guidance, the Georgia Field Trials gained national prominence on the plantation he named for his daughters, Diane and Elaine.

The plantation is managed for public deer, turkey and quail hunting, but the cemetery - whose oldest inhabitant, Minty of Downalong, died in 1934 - is a year-round draw for visitors.

“There’s always somebody coming by,” Kyles said. “We get bird dog people, tourists, you name it. People will drive a long way, just to see the place.”

Today, velvety moss creeps between the bricks along the front wall and the iron cemetery gates are rarely opened. But the epitaphs preserve the memories of great gun dogs from the past.

There was Lou, Berol’s “first, best and most affectionate bird dog,” and Mary Mischief, the “faithful matron that drowned.”

Bear Brummel was “Elaine’s first sweetheart,” and Berol’s Rexall was “a great champion, but never won title.” Georgia Whiskey was “lost because he pointed woodcock.”

No one remembers what happened to Sierra June in 1968, but her epitaph reads, “needless departure.” Lucky Lady was “a great obedient field trailer, but unlucky.”

Tarheel Jack’s epitaph is perhaps the saddest. He “met an early death due to neglect.”

The inscription doesn’t refer to abuse or cruelty, but the decline of the bobwhite quail as the South’s signature bird.

As timber and farming practices changed in the 1950s and 1960s, bobwhites vanished or declined in population as a species. Today, efforts to help the bird recover remain under way in many areas, including Di-Lane, where the habitat is managed to support a now-growing quail population.

Berol died at his beloved Di-Lane in 1976 and the plantation was purchased in 1992 as a public wildlife area managed by the state Department of Natural Resources.

On moonlit nights, when Spanish moss sways gently beneath twisted oaks, some imagine ghosts wandering among rows of tombstones that represent hunters and horsemen and great dogs.

“Yes, people have said they hear things at night - like dogs barking out here,” Kyles said. “But of course, in a place like this, you hear all sorts of things at night.”

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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