The word comes at 5:30 pm, we're ready to roll. The promoters and their connections will be leading convoys of cars of no more than twenty in a group. We are reminded not to trail too closely, we don't want to attract attention. This is a very rural area, the local cops are ok but you never know when Highway Patrol might happen along and get nosey.
After about twelve miles cars begin to slow and blinkers flicker a left
turn. This is a sand track through a planted pine forest. The traffic
starts to backup about a quarter mile in, we've come to the check point.
Cars occupants are identified and the gate fees collected collected.
It's ten dollars per match from each of the men. Women and children are
always welcomed at no charge. We continue on through the woods until we
get to a cleared area and are directed to parking areas near an old
barn. After the darkness of the forest and the cloud obscured moon it
seems as bright as a sports stadium.
There is a roof extending from the barn open on all sides. The bleachers
are on two sides and the roof covers the pit and first few rows of
seating. Karen Hargroves has saved a seat and I'm first tier between her
and Frank from VA. The food, scales and wash station are in the barn as
is a toilet reserved for ladies only. Karen asks if I'm hungry or would
rather she set a plate aside for me. I opt for the later, adrenaline is
a great drug but also an appetite suppressant.
The bleachers are on opposite sides of the pit. The barn wall is at the
end to the right of me. There are two signs posted on the wall. One sign
lists the order of the matches with the names of the people and weights
and sexes of the dogs. The second sign is more interesting : "Welcome
to the 1st Annual Maurice Carver Memorial Convention". Oh yeah, this is
really the big time and I'm really here. There will be between 300 and
400 hundred spectators in attendance. I feel like a rube on my first
trip to the city.
The wait tonight will be long, the cars are still coming in. There's a
man with a walkie talkie in contact with people in the woods at the turn
in. When everyone who is expected is in and accounted for the gate will
be locked. The lookouts will remain in place until the first match just
in case. There's another sand track continuing on through past the pit
and back into the woods. It comes out behind someone's house if we need
to make a run for it. This explains the close attention to parking. I'm
gratified to have been put in the "V.I.P. lot, I'm good for a fast exit
if need be.
Jack Kelly and his entourage are here tonight. Kelly is more on top of
his game than the usual suspects and his brother is a cop in New York.
He's someone of whom I've always felt wary. I greet him as an old friend
and he thanks me for the photos. They're of much better quality than
Pete Sparks' and I don't use a flash in order not to blind or distract
the dogs. I'll be shooting "Best" and "Gamest" in show tonight as well
as action photos. Kelly is as wary of me as I am of him but we must play
out our roles as we trust each other.
Most of the dogs here have won one or more matches already and a few are
looking to make champion. Bruce Turlington's dog Dipstick is one of the
few looking for win number one but there's still a lot of talk about
him. Baker Davis is here with Midnight Cowboy who will have a Ch. added
to his name before dawn as will Harry Hargroves' Red Danger.
Baker Davis is someone I've long wanted to meet. His dog Gr. Ch.
Boomerang is quite famous and came from Maurice Carver. I get an
introduction and we get on well, I get invited to visit his yard the
following weekend. Several people will be coming for a cookout and to
"look at" some dogs in schooling rolls. I wouldn't miss it for the world
and get specific directions and phone number. He likes to help
newcomers get started right as do most of old pros in the game. Fresh
blood is necessary to the continuation and expansion of their sport.
They're always looking for the right kind of people to continue the
The mingling continues until everyone who is expected has been accounted
for. The gate is locked and we'll be ready for the first match promptly
at eight, the time for which the first combatants have been fed. Part
of conditioning is adjusting the dog's feeding schedule so that his
digestive tract is empty at the time of the match. This not only insures
that the dogs in on weight but but will help them not overheat during
their fight. I shoot a couple more quick pics getting the match lineup
while I still have the time.
I retake my seat and check my extra film cache before the announcement.
It's a little different tonight, everyone here is well known to the
fancy, there will be no unknown quantities to distract from tonight's
events. Any threat to this convention will come from the outside. We are
safe here only in the company of our own.
I will be concentrating on only a few matches tonight that I expect will
be very depictive of the reality of dogfighting. We desperately need to
upgrade the state laws everywhere from misdemeanor to felony. At this
time only California has felony dogfighting laws. Most states only fine
fifty dollars or less on gambling charges. The dogfighters get their
dogs back which is intolerable. Very little will be done to end this
atrocity without providing motivation to law makers to take action.
Drugs, guns, untaxed cigarettes and liquor are always prevalent at these
events and I want my photos to include this. Cash is always visible as
bets are laid and paid. I'll have all this on film as I'm front row
center and have to just shift slightly to cover the crowd across the pit
from me. No one will know they've been shot, I'm just shooting the dogs
The dogs have been washed and weighted and are being brought into the pit. The first match is about to commence.