About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Mike Creel, a native South Carolinian, has worked his entire life in the state as a professional writer and photographer focusing on the environment, hunting, fishing, and wildlife. A University of South Carolina Journalism graduate, he was an outdoor writer for the Columbia Record newspaper and has now served the state for over 26 years in public affairs roles. In 1974 he became fascinated with the slowly disappearing breed know as Boykin Spaniels and wrote a definitive article on them which helped to change the history of the animal, as this book documents. Along the way he and his family became the owners of two beloved Boykin Spaniels -- first Booger and then Governor Riley. The saga of the Boykin Spaniel became a driving force for Mike as he tried to document the breed's history, before the second generation of the breeders passed into history as the first generation already had.
"Little did my wife Dena and I know when we drove to a farm in Wedgefield, SC near Sumter on New Year's Day 1975," says Mike Creel of Lexington, SC, that the newest member of our family -- a little three-month old pup named Booger -- would be the great, great grandsire of today's champion Boykin Spaniel Dixie Blair who won "first place open" in the 1994 and 1995 National Hunt Tests.
"A shy little pup, named 'Booger from the oft-repeated comment 'why you little...' grew into a fully-extroverted and much beloved Boykin Spaniel who amazed his human parents through his antics and highly inventive problem-solving," Creel says.
"Booger inspired this young writer to travel all over the state, as well as write or call every known Boykin Spaniel owner in the Continental US while researching and writing a 28-page article about the breed's past, present, and future," says Creel. The edited down version of this story was published in South Carolina Wildlife magazine in 1975. Before Booger's death in 1982, this little dog had learned to pick blackberries -- only ripe ones -- by watching his masters. He had sired several litters and at least on grandparent of a grandchampion.
"Booger became a watchdog protecting his family from human intruders and water moccasins and a retriever of doves, ducks, and anything else that hit the ground," Creel says. "Perhaps most of all he learned how to express his love, Boykin-style -- sometimes crawling quietly against household rules into our bed on a cold night, stretching into sausage shape within the valley of our covers and upon discovery returning a faraway stare that said, 'You can't see me, I'm not here.'
"A second Boykin, named Governor Riley -- for obvious reasons -- entered our lives in 1986 and left too soon in March 1996 from an auto accident. Called Riley for short, he was the son of Edward Eatmon's Brambles, a great hunter and a long-time field trial competitor. Never trained as a hunter, Riley was everything else a Boykin Spaniel could be -- a wonderful family pet, a friend to all and an entertainer always open to trying something new.
"Riley learned how to pick and eat rabbiteye blueberries and scuppernong grapes," Creel says. "He loved our family cats -- often curling up beside a self-adopted black stray named Silky. I'll never forget the big snow we had when the family sledded down a driveway on cafeteria trays. Once Riley tried it, sledding became a one-child, one-dog proposition. He begged to be co-pilot ride after ride, and we have the photos to prove it."
Lynn Kelley arrived with his family, including a beloved Airedale, "Benji," in South Carolina in 1991. When Benji died unexpectedly on Friday, December 13 of that year, the family mourned. Just after New Year's, the longing for another dog peaked, when his wife, Barbara spotted an ad for a Boykin Spaniel. Curious, Lynn called the breeder and found that one puppy was left. He asked what a Boykin Spaniel was, only to hear the breeder say, "Mister, you must not be from around these parts!"
The breeder patiently explained the glories of the breed -- including that his dogs would even ride on the back of a motorcycle -- and did such a thorough job that the entire family had to see this dog. The Kelley clan drove to the Batesburg-Leesville countryside, finally locating the farm. They were greeted by the parents as well as the puppy which came directly to Lynn and stole his heart with tiny golden eyes. His wife Barbara, watching this event, smiled and said, "I'm already writing the check." The entire ride home, the puppy went from the lap of first one and then the other daughter, alternately licking fingers, curling up for a snooze, and being petted. The new Lord Berkeley was surrounded by all his obedient vassals.
The Kelleys' enjoyment of their Boykin Spaniel led Lynn on a marginally productive search for more details on the breed until he found Mike Creel's 1975 article. One of Lynn's neighbors -- a Camden native who had been almost daily besieged with Boykin questions -- finally said one day, "Why don't you write a book on Boykin Spaniels if you can't find one?" The seed was sown. Several months later, Lynn met Mike, they discussed Boykin Spaniels, and found that Mikes twenty plus years of involvement with the breed and Lynn's enthusiasm for the dogs were a good complement....we have included stories of hearth and hunt, records of championship deeds and honors, and an assemblage of photographs and reproduced art, all for the purpose of trying to described the inimitable manners and muzzles of this friendly, furry dog. Above all, we have sought to have the book celebrate the spirit of South Carolina's best -- that the dog and the Boykin family who gave it its name have exemplified.