April 14, 2010

April 13, 2010

April 08, 2010

April 04, 2010

A Blessing
by James Wright

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

The 2010
Chicago White Sox
season is the organization's 111th season
in Chicago and 110th in the
American League.

The Sox will open the 2010 season against
the Cleveland Indians at home
on April 5.

The Sox will close the season also against the
Cleveland Indians at home on October 3.

April 01, 2010

my father moved through dooms of love

E. E. Cummings

my father moved through dooms of love
through sames of am through haves of give,
singing each morning out of each night
my father moved through depths of height
this motionless forgetful where
turned at his glance to shining here;
that if(so timid air is firm)
under his eyes would stir and squirm
newly as from unburied which
floats the first who,his april touch
drove sleeping selves to swarm their fates
woke dreamers to their ghostly roots
and should some why completely weep
my father's fingers brought her sleep:
vainly no smallest voice might cry
for he could feel the mountains grow.
Lifting the valleys of the sea
my father moved through griefs of joy;
praising a forehead called the moon
singing desire into begin
joy was his song and joy so pure
a heart of star by him could steer
and pure so now and now so yes
the wrists of twilight would rejoice
keen as midsummer's keen beyond
conceiving mind of sun will stand,
so strictly(over utmost him
so hugely) stood my father's dream
his flesh was flesh his blood was blood:
no hungry man but wished him food;
no cripple wouldn't creep one mile
uphill to only see him smile.
Scorning the Pomp of must and shall
my father moved through dooms of feel;
his anger was as right as rain
his pity was as green as grain
septembering arms of year extend
yes humbly wealth to foe and friend
than he to foolish and to wise
offered immeasurable is
proudly and(by octobering flame
beckoned)as earth will downward climb,
so naked for immortal work
his shoulders marched against the dark
his sorrow was as true as bread:
no liar looked him in the head;
if every friend became his foe
he'd laugh and build a world with snow.
My father moved through theys of we,
singing each new leaf out of each tree
(and every child was sure that spring
danced when she heard my father sing)
then let men kill which cannot share,
let blood and flesh be mud and mire,
scheming imagine,passion willed,
freedom a drug that's bought and sold
giving to steal and cruel kind,
a heart to fear,to doubt a mind,
to differ a disease of same,
conform the pinnacle of am
though dull were all we taste as bright,
bitter all utterly things sweet,
maggoty minus and dumb death
all we inherit,all bequeath
and nothing quite so least as truth
--i say though hate were why men breathe--
because my Father lived his soul
love is the whole and more than all

Littlefoot, 19, [This is the bird hour]
by Charles Wright

This is the bird hour, peony blossoms falling bigger than wren hearts
On the cutting border's railroad ties,
Sparrows and other feathery things
Homing from one hedge to the next,
late May, gnat-floating evening.
Is love stronger than unlove?
Only the unloved know.
And the mockingbird, whose heart is cloned and colorless.
And who's this tiny chirper,
lost in the loose leaves of the weeping cherry tree?
His song is not more than three feet off the ground, and singular,
And going nowhere.
Listen. It sounds a lot like you, hermane.
It sounds like me.

March 30, 2010

Insurance industry agrees to fix kids coverage gap

Associated Press Writer Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar, Associated Press Writer – Tue Mar 30, 5:53 am ET

WASHINGTON – If you can't beat them, join them.

After nearly a year battling President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats over the health care overhaul, the insurance industry says it won't block the administration's efforts to fix a potentially embarrassing glitch in the new law.

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the industry's top lobbyist said Monday insurers will accept new regulations to dispel uncertainty over a much-publicized guarantee that children with medical problems can get coverage starting this year.

Quick resolution of the doubts was a win for Obama — and a sign that the industry has no stomach for another war of words with a president who deftly used double-digit rate hikes by the companies to revive his sweeping health care legislation from near collapse in Congress.

"Health plans recognize the significant hardship that a family faces when they are unable to obtain coverage for a child with a pre-existing condition," Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, said in a letter to Sebelius. Ignagni said that the industry will "fully comply" with the regulations, expected within weeks.

The industry still has plenty of other objections to the new health care law, including concerns that it will raise premiums and skepticism that it will achieve its stated aim of covering 95 percent of eligible Americans.
On coverage for kids, however, there will be no quibbling. Ignagni's letter to the administration followed a sternly worded missive from Sebelius to the industry earlier in the day. The administration's top health care official forcefully tried to put an end to questions about the law's intent and wording.

"Health insurance reform is designed to prevent any child from being denied coverage because he or she has a pre-existing condition," Sebelius wrote to Ignagni. "Now is not the time to search for nonexistent loopholes that preserve a broken system."
Sebelius specified that a child with a pre-existing medical problem may not be denied access to parents' coverage under the new law. Furthermore, insurers will not be able to insure a child but exclude treatments for a particular medical problem.

"The term 'pre-existing condition exclusion' applies to both a child's access to a plan and his or her benefits once he or she is in the plan," Sebelius wrote. The new protections will be available starting in September, she said.

The fine print of the law was less than completely clear on whether kids with health problems were guaranteed coverage starting this year — as Obama had repeatedly claimed in extolling the legislation that he signed last week.

If the problem had persisted, some parents and their children may have had to wait a long time for coverage. The law's broad ban on denying coverage to any person on account of a health condition doesn't take effect until 2014.

The problem on the issue of covering kids was that the law could also be interpreted in a more limited way.
Narrowly read, it seemed to say that if an insurance company accepts a particular child, it cannot write a policy for a child that excludes coverage for a given condition. For example, if the child has asthma, the insurer cannot exclude inhalers and respiratory care from coverage, as sometimes happens now.

But that meant the company could still turn down the child altogether.
Indeed, House and Senate staffers on two committees that wrote the legislation said last week it stopped short of an ironclad guarantee. House leaders later issued a statement saying their intent in writing the legislation was to provide full protection.

Mar 30, 5:28 PM EDT
Obama signs law finalizing health care, loan redo
By PHILIP ELLIOTT Associated Press Writer/WASHINGTON (AP) --

Finalizing two major pieces of his agenda, President Barack Obama on Tuesday sealed his health care overhaul and made the government the primary lender to students by cutting banks out of the process.
Both domestic priorities came in one bill, pushed through by Democrats in the House and Senate and signed into law by a beaming president.

The new law makes a series of changes to the massive health insurance reform bill that he signed into law with even greater fanfare last week. Those fixes included removing some specials deals that had angered the public and providing more money for poorer and middle-income individuals and families to help them buy health insurance.

But during an appearance at a community college in suburban Virginia, he emphasized the overshadowed part of the bill: education.

In this final piece of health reform, Democrats added in a restructuring of the way the government handles loans affecting millions of students.

The law strips banks of their role as middlemen in federal student loans and puts the government in charge. The president said that change would save more than $60 billion over the next 10 years, which in turn would be used to boost Pell Grants for students and reinvest in community colleges.

"I didn't stand with the banks and the financial industries in this fight - that's not why I came to Washington - and neither did any of the members of Congress who are here today," Obama said to a supportive crowd at Northern Virginia Community College. "We stood with you. We stood with America's students."
Private lenders still will make student loans that are not backed by the government, and they still will have contracts to service some federal loans. But the change reflected in the new law represents a significant loss in what has been a $70 billion business for the banking industry.

Among many other features, the new law is expected to make it easier for some college graduates to repay loans.
The government will essentially guarantee that workers in low-paying jobs will be able to reduce their payments. Current law caps monthly payments at 15 percent of these workers' incomes; the new law will lower the cap to 10 percent.

About half of undergraduates receive federal student aid and about 8.5 million students are going to college with the help of Pell Grants.

Obama was effusive in his praise for the lawmakers who stood by him on the health care and education legislation. Many of them face tough sells in their home districts over the massive health care legislation, a complex mix of crackdowns on the insurance industry, coverage expansions and insurance mandates.

He was introduced by Dr. Jill Biden, the vice president's wife, who teaches English there.

Editorial Notebook
Two Springs
Published: March 29, 2010

Lately, I’ve been studying celestial navigation, the seafaring kind that requires a sextant, a chronometer, and a nautical almanac. It’s a way of adding a little trigonometry to a life that’s mostly addition and subtraction.

I began this project just as spring arrived and noticed that spring, to navigators, isn’t so much a season as a point. There it is in the nautical almanac, just between 5 and 6 p.m. (make that between 17:00 and 18:00) on March 20 — when the sun passed from a southern latitude to a northern latitude.

There’s more to it than that, which is one of the basic rules of celestial navigation. Spring is the vernal equinox — one of two points of intersection between the ecliptic and the celestial equator. (The other is the autumnal equinox.) It’s also the moment when the sun reaches what’s called the First Point of Aries, a fictional line of demarcation, like the Greenwich Meridian, that happens now to be in Pisces.

I am not going to try to explain these things since I’m just beginning to grasp them myself. But this much seems to be true: In the nautical almanac, spring comes like clockwork, whether the snow has already withdrawn or is falling fast. The table of hour angles and declinations that pinpoints celestial spring seems to say, “Here it is, just where it always was. Make what you will of it.” It’s all dreadfully precise.

And then there is terrestrial spring, which is a matter of hints and wishes, promise and hope, a season that is only vaguely calendrical. On the first day of spring, I was driving along the Shields River in Montana looking out at a season that is really called “calving.” It was nearly over. Most of the new calves wore eartags and moved with confidence. Some chased each other across the fields and around their sober dams, as though they could never grow up to be that stolid. A few seemed already businesslike, thuggish, looking across the fence line at a wider and more forbidding world.

Along the edge of one creek-bottom ranch, a cow had just given birth, the umbilical still trailing from her as she tried to lick her calf to its feet. It rose and stumbled. The cow seemed both agitated and patient, eager to have her calf on its feet, but somehow certain that it would be soon. I moved down the road because there were other things for her to think about besides me. On a tree in the next pasture there were six bald eagles, waiting. There were ravens on the fence and magpies in the ditch, their young yet to come.

March 25, 2010

when will people start getting together again....

You know we've got to find a way, dear ones

what is going on across this Land, we need....

To bring some lovin' here today - to this Country we love so dearly

Ya Father, father... We don't need to escalate

You see, war is not the answer.. scripture says,

For only love can conquer hate...

You know we've got to find a way....What's happening my man...mister obama

you know you are bringing some lovin' here today.....Picket lines

and picket signs....Don't punish me with

brutality....Talk to me....

everybody thinks we're wrong.... but we have done a good thing...

Oh, but who are they to judge us....you know we've got to find a way....

To bring some understanding here today....

March 22, 2010

dear friends it is now time to go out and fly Old Glory!

"This is what change looks like." ~ President Barack Obam
speaking after the historic passage
of healthcare legislation
March 21, 2010

March 21, 2010

BOTANICA By Eve Alexandra

They are everywhere–those sunflowers with the coal heart center. They riot without speaking, huge, wet mouths caught at half-gasp, half-kiss.Flowers she promises I’ll grow into, sweet gardener,long luminous braids I’d climb like ladders, freckles scattered across our shoulders in a spell of pollen. She’s sleeping there–on that table with its veneer slick as a glass coffin. She’s fed us fiddleheads, the tine fistsof Brussels sprouts, cupcakes, even the broken song of the deer’s neck. Singing.Flowers everywhere. In my bedroom chaste daisies and the vigilance of chrysanthemums. Dirt under my nails, pressing my cheek to the shag rugwith its million fingers. You could lose anything: a tooth, Barbie’s shoe,this prayer. She loves me. She loves me not. I stare at my reflection,a posy of wishes. Morning glory, nightshade, tulip, rhododendron.In this poem I would be the Wicked Witch and she Snow White. Waiting.My father talks to me about their lovemaking. My mouth emptyas a lily. I try to remember the diagram. Which is the pistil?Which is the stamen? Roads of desire circle our house: Lost Nation Severance,Poor Farm. Branches catch the wings of my nightgown.There is a crow and the smell of blackberries.

March 18, 2010

New York Times Editorial Notebook
Out of the Darkness
Published: March 17, 2010

When the sun finally rises, this will be a gray day, a great slab of flint laid across the plains. But the sun is still an hour off, and the snow is salting down just east of Riverton, Wyo. My eyes are straining for sight in the void out there, looking to see what emerges first from the darkness. The answer is the blackest objects — the old tires that ranchers sometimes place beside their cattle guards and the cattle themselves, black Angus stirring in a creek bottom. The cattle look as though they were bred black just so humans could find them easily in the gloom.

But mostly there are ravens, moving in singles and mated pairs, not so much gliding as fighting off the stiff north wind. They know the lights of this highway well, and I see them hopping into the ditches or flaring upward on the wind just out of my path as I hurtle by. To say the light is rising is to overspeak. I can just discern the seam between earth and sky. And in that seam, farther down the highway, I can see ravens sitting on the telephone poles as if the poles had been planted just for the convenience of their species.

The gray ahead broadens and seems to grow heavier, as if there could be no getting out from under it. And slowly color begins to emerge, what color there is — mostly gray-greens and bloodless tans. Up in the mountains, the river willows would look like a tartan now. Out here on the plains, pressed beneath the sky, they seem to be blushing furiously but only by contrast with the immensity of the drabness that surrounds them. It is a mood, I know, the wan hour of morning that makes their beauty feel so hidden, so lost.

And then, too, there is the question of what emerges last as the day rises. One answer is the pronghorn. I pass a small band standing right by the fence line, and they are barely discernible, almost without dimension, as though they had been camouflaged for the light of dawn. But the last thing to emerge in the dawn — stepping into visibility — is a red heeler dog trotting toward me in the brush along the ditch. He looks up at my headlights as if I were lost and he was the way home. I hope dearly that he isn’t lost and keep myself from turning back. The day is up now over central Wyoming, and I feel suddenly as if I’m merely microscopic, driving across the fawn-colored hide of a great beast.

March 16, 2010

President Obama's proposed FY 2011 budget would eliminate funding for Save America's Treasures (SAT) and Preserve America (PA), and cut funding for National Heritage Areas by 50 percent.

These critical historic preservation programs matter now more than ever -- not only because they protect our national heritage but because they serve as economic development engines and job creators in the thousands of communities.

Save America's Treasures, the federal government's only bricks and mortar grant program, is one of the most successful tools we have for preserving the places that tell America's story.

Almost $300 million has been allocated through the program generating an additional $377 million from other sources making it a model federal program that successfully leverages private dollars from corporations, foundations and individuals. It is estimated that the SAT program has added over 16,000 jobs to local and state economies.

Since it’s establishment, SAT has funded significant projects to preserve Frank Lloyd Wright’s Florida Southern College, Park Inn Hotel, and Unity Temple, as well as the Manitoga, NY home of designer Russell Wright.

The Preserve America program recognizes communities that protect, celebrate, and promote their history through heritage tourism and community revitalization efforts.
Since its inception in 2003, over 800 communities have been designated in the United States, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.

These programs need your voice. Act now and email your Senators and Representative asking them to restore the SAT and Preserve America grant funds. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has an easy online form you can use to send your message. While they have a standard message, we encourage you to personalize your message and add any positive impacts you know based on your first-hand knowledge of these two grant programs. Once you complete your personalized letter, you will be linked to your representative and senators email addresses based on your zip code. Please also send this message to your friends and colleagues to ensure they are aware of the situation and ask them to send a message as well. If you would like more information and updates on saving historic preservation funding go to the National Trust's webpage Save Preservation Funding.

Please take action today!

Colin Firth was robbed!
‘Crazy Heart’ no match for ‘A Single Man’

It was a rainy, miserable Saturday, so what better way to spend it than nestled deep in a cinema chair? My local indie film house had both films, a 20-second indoor walk apart between the two theaters, so I saw both of these films back to back.

I didn’t expect to like “A Single Man”, even though critics dubbed it “rapturous and remarkable” (Pete Travers, Rolling Stone) and “the role of a lifetime” for Firth (Time.) I was dubious that Tom Ford, a fashion designer, could direct an entire feature film first time out of the gate.

I loved it.

Firth, who seems to have gotten stuck (Bridget Jones, Love Actually, Mamma Mia) in too many roles where he plays the cosy, overlooked Englishman, is extraordinary. Bitter, anguished, private, wary. The scene where he is told his lover has died, far away, in a car crash, is shot in tight close-up and — like a baby’s face, changing
every few seconds — his crumples from disbelief to dismay to agony. It is astonishing acting.
If you love pure aesthetics and gorgeous design, this is a film for you. Everything is fab — his bottle-green Mercedes, his thick black eyeglass frames, his gold signet ring, worn on his pinky, his gray flannel bathrobe. Julianne Moore is terrific as Charley, his one-time lover, another ex-pat from London, now his boozy, lonely next-door neighbor. They need one another like oxygen and their moments of shared laughter are delicious.
Nicholas Hoult, with eyes the color of turquoise, pursues this wounded widower. Hoult, who was wonderful in the 2002 film “About A Boy” is slyly, slowly seductive as Kenny, one of George’s English students. Writes Hamish Bowles in Vogue:
In the key role of Kenny, a student of George’s who will prove something of a redeeming angel in his life, Ford had already cast a well-known English actor when Chris Weitz, one of his coproducers, showed him an audition tape made by Nicholas Hoult, whom Weitz had directed in 2002’s About a Boy with Hugh Grant. “I felt sick inside,” says Ford. “He read the part so beautifully—he was Kenny. I was not about to get rid of someone already attached to the project, but on the first day of rehearsal the other actor pulled out. He never called me—no excuses. But it became a really great moment; Nick was meant to play the role of Kenny. As George says in the film, ‘Everything is exactly the way it’s supposed to be.’ ”
For the 20-year-old Hoult—a heartthrob for his role in the BBC’s edgy high school drama series Skins who will appear in Louis Leterrier’s forthcoming sword-and-sandals epic Clash of the Titans—the summons to Los Angeles was initially underwhelming. “To be perfectly honest, growing up in Reading I wasn’t really aware of Tom Ford,” he admits. When he checked his credits on the Internet Movie Database, “all that came up was an extra in Zoolander!” he says, laughing. But when he sat down with Ford, he “realized how passionate he was about the project. In many ways it was autobiographical—a love poem to Richard [Buckley, Ford’s longtime partner]—and my character was Tom when he was eighteen.” Following the meeting Hoult researched Ford and sheepishly “realized what a phenomenon he was.”
Ford, of course, has every detail down, from the Smythson stationery George uses to the white boatneck sweater Kenny wears. There are ravishing shots: a moon, a wet rose, a revolver.

I found it deeply moving — and far fresher a subject — a gay man in 1962 mourning the loss of his lover of 16 years — than Bridges’ (Oscar-winning) portrayal of Bad Blake, a 57-year-old alcoholic country singer pursued (why?!) by a young reporter (sigh), played by Maggie Gyllenhall.

Firth was robbed!

March 03, 2010

"We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle; easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we would still live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the neccesary plan..."
Irving Townsend ,"The Once Again Prince"
daguerreotype jacob byerly 1848

March 02, 2010

The Snow Storm

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

No hawk hangs over in this air:

The urgent snow is everywhere.

The wing adroiter than a sail

Must lean away from such a gale,

Abandoning its straight intent,

Or else expose tough ligament

And tender flesh to what before

meant dampened feathers, nothing more.

Forceless upon our backs there fall

Infrequent flakes hexagonal,

Devised in many a curious style

To charm our safety for a while,

Where close to earth like mice we go

Under the horizontal snow.

I have no use for these stitches any more. But she has long known this. Strict confinement has grown old and she catches me gnawing at the bandages. Release this weight. Let me fly again. Funny how it seems everyone went down at once. Open wounds. Fresh and ancient. Everyone down at once. Scattered across the fields unable to even limp home. I have quietly watched as she opened her torn heart wider. The winter moon's full light, yearning to ignite one last ember. Snow now silently falls. She sits still as i use my teeth to stitch her back up. These chewed threads, I no longer need.
"Love the quick profit, the annual raise, vacation with pay. Want more of everything ready-made. Be afraid to know your neighbors and to die. And you will have a window in your head. Not even your future will be a mystery any more. Your mind will be punched in a card and shut away in a little drawer. When they want you to buy something they will call you. When they want you to die for profit they will let you know. So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it. Denounce the government and embrace the flag. Hope to live in that free republic for which it stands. Give your approval to all you cannot understand. Praise ignorance, for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed. Ask the questions that have no answers. Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias. Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest. Say that the leaves are harvested when they have rotted into the mold. Call that profit. Prophesy such returns. Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years. Listen to carrion — put your ear close, and hear the faint chattering of the songs that are to come. Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. So long as women do not go cheap for power, please women more than men. Ask yourself: Will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child? Will this disturb the sleep of a woman near to giving birth? Go with your love to the fields. Lie down in the shade. Rest your head in her lap. Swear allegiance to what is nighest your thoughts. As soon as the generals and the politicos can predict the motions of your mind, lose it. Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn’t go. Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction. Practice resurrection." — Wendell Berry

February 25, 2010

....forever, for LiLi

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

© Mary Oliver

In Field Trialing, Bird Dogs Call Shots and Humans Follow

By James Card for the New York Times
Published: February 23, 2010

GRAND JUNCTION, Tenn. — The competitors arrived at the historic Ames Plantation in pickup trucks with built-in dog kennels, pulling gooseneck trailers hauling saddle horses. After a year of crisscrossing the country, the holy grail of their sport was at last in reach for the owners of 39 of the best bird-hunting dogs in North America.

The National Championship for Field Trialing Bird Dogs, first held here in western Tennessee in 1896, determines the continent’s most elite canine athlete. On Tuesday, In the Shadow, an English pointer owned by Carl Bowman of Louisville, Ky., and handled by Robin Gates, was named the 111th champion after an event lasting two weeks in which he competed on the third day.

Field trialing is an expensive and obsessive sport, and a unique American subculture. Dog owners spend thousands on food, lodging, veterinarian bills and gasoline, all in pursuit of a $20,000 prize and the glory that goes with it.

To make it to Ames, the dogs must win at least two of the approximately 75 qualifying field trials held in the United States and Canada. Four of this year’s competitors were returning champions. The dogs are mostly pointers, with three English setters, a breed that has not won since 1970. The dogs run in pairs, or braces — one brace in the morning and one in the afternoon. The event lasts as many days as it takes each dog to complete one three-hour hunt for quail.

The only way to view the event is on horseback or by leapfrogging ahead in trucks on dirt roads and waiting for a glimpse of the dogs as they run by at a trail crossing. Mounted spectators can number as many 500, all following the judges, dog owners and handlers, who themselves trail the dogs through the damp winter farm country.

The competition this year was hammered by storms, with snow crusting into paw-slashing ice that made the 6,000-acre course unsafe, setting the schedule back more than three days. After the weather cleared, dogs ran through melting snow and mud.

One day last week, Sheldon Twer, a trainer from Oakdale, Calif., waited for the dogs to come through at a crossing point. He competes in about 25 field trials a year and, for him, Ames is the only place to be in February. "The dogs that make it to this level are exceptional,” Twer said. “It’s really an honor to be here. You can sell a dog for $50,000 that’s made it to this level. It costs about $6,000 to $7,000 a year to develop one. You get four or five years in them.”

One purpose of field trialing is to identify the top bloodlines and to pass along the DNA of the dogs with an indomitable drive to hunt. Through breeding, the characteristics of a champion will eventually transfer into the general population of bird dogs that are companions to the average upland bird hunter.
Two dogs emerged through the bramble: Elhew Sinbad, a white-coated pointer, and Highground Jax Jabba, a spotted setter. Their flanks were slathered with mud and they loped by, tongues agape.
The mounted spectators, approximately 200, passed the people parked at the crossing point. Everyone seemed to know one another. Some hollered out to Twer and he waved back.
“We work together,” Twer said. “Like any sport there are some guys that don’t like each other — some animosity — but for the most part, it’s a pretty close-knit group. It’s worse than a cult. It’s an addiction.”

Two days earlier, In the Shadow set the high mark by finding 10 quail. When a dog smells quail, it freezes, steady and statuelike, and remains locked on three legs with one forepaw tucked under its chest. With the dog on point, the handler wades into the brush, flushes the covey of quail and fires a starter pistol. The birds are not killed, but counted as a “find.” The dog must not flinch as the birds take flight and must stand staunch until released by the handler.

Penalties are given for “unproductives,” referring to when a dog points to a quail that does not exist, or points to another creature. This year, cottontail rabbits and armadillos were pointed.
If two dogs are hunting in close proximity and one goes on point, the other dog must freeze behind the pointing dog (the dog receives credit for doing so).

“There’s an old saying — you’ll never win a field trial with a back, but if your dog fails to back, you could lose one,” said Ken Blackman, a field trialer who helps videotape the event.
In most field trials, dogs run only for an hour, but at Ames they run for three and are expected to finish with surplus vigor. Judges look for big-running dogs that quarter forward through the brush hungering for quail. At the end of the competition, In the Shadow was declared judged the champion. For the other dogs, there is always next year, but they still have to qualify in other field trials to make it back to Ames.

“I told the old gentleman who started me in this sport 40 years ago that it probably would have been better to give me a gram of cocaine because then I could have done my time in prison,” said Larry Garner, an amateur bird dog field trialer from Dallas. “I could have gone through rehab and become a productive citizen again instead of being addicted to bird dogs and chasing them all over the United States and Canada.”