I have chosen today to write about the man my father considered the greatest conditioner of all times. Earl Tudor once said that conditioning was seventy percent of winning. My father and I have always believed that it was more like eighty-five percent. Daddy always said that to be a great conditioner, one must collect information from all the great conditioners of the past, combine it, and improve on it. That is what Don Mayfield did. When discussing great conditioners before Mayfield’s time one name always stands out….George Saddler.
They called him the Mississippi Hawk and he was a tough one to beat because of his conditioning. One never sees his name in any pedigrees today, but he won eight out of ten against the great names you see in pedigrees today. He did not have great dogs, but he beat great dogs with mid-grade dogs because of his conditioning. He pulled his dogs good and they could last. All of the great conditioners of the seventies like Jim Taylor, Cecil Collins, and Don Mayfield learned from this man. These men went and spent entire keeps at Saddler’s house being his yard boy just for an opportunity to pick the great one’s brain.Mayfield also picked the brains of a couple of great conditioners out west, Earl Tudor and Frank Fitzwater. Mayfield combined all of the information, but more importantly, he improved on it. He became a better conditioner, in my father’s eyes, than all of his mentors. I remember years ago Mayfield and Pete Sparks, or one of Pete’s fans, were writing back and forth, arguing in the magazines. Daddy would hear of Sparks arguing with Mayfield and get so mad he would hit the wall. Sparks was a good writer and he saw some great dogs in his day, but that was it. As a dog man all of the real dog men considered Sparks to be a joke. Hell, he only matched one dog. As Daddy said,” here was the sorriest dog man to ever gain any kind of popularity, arguing conditioning with the all knowing Master”. It would be like a clumsy little four year Old girl calling Mike Tyson while Tyson was in jail and threatening to whip his ass. It never crossed Spark’s mind to match Mayfield when he had the opportunity, so why talk tough now. Daddy always said that there was no need to talk tough at pit-side because real dog men judge you by what you do in the box.
Mayfield competed in a time of great dog men like Leo Kinard, Jim Taylor, Cecil Collins, Maurice Carver, Roland Fontinout, etc. and beat them all more than any of them beat him. He matched eighty dogs and won eighty-five percent of his matches. Now there are some of you out there who are boasting such a record, but what are you going into. No great dogs or great dog men are lurking around every corner today. Daddy use to talk of the old timers, and when he got to his favourites like Jim Taylor and Cecil Collins he would say, “They could compete with Mayfield”. Mayfield was so good that only the top men went into him, and only with their top dogs. Mayfield went into dogs the calibre of Bullyson’s sons, and the ones that escaped him fill our pedigrees today.
The best tribute ever paid to Mayfield’s conditioning was paid him by his fellow dog men. As a general rule, if someone didn’t have him beat by the thirty minute mark they would pick up. They knew that they couldn’t beat him in the distance, so they went into him with the hope getting to him early and destroying him. The way to tell if a man considers himself a conditioner or not is to see if he will use dogs in the dead heat of summer I heard someone say that a friend of theirs would use dogs as long as the leaves were off. This man apparently does not think much of his conditioning skills.
Mayfield did his best to arrange’ most of his matches in the middle of summer in the Deep South. He always told Daddy that any fool could luck up and get a dog where he could breathe in the winter. It takes a skilled conditioner to bring in a dog that doesn’t get hot in the humid south in one hundred degree weather. Rebel Kennels had a five dog show one time in July, in Miami. One of the matches was into Daddy. We were at Ricky’s house the day of the deal and it was eleven a.m., ninety-eight degrees, and rising. Now we all know how it is to get anxious for show time the day of the deal. Well Ricky was just talking and said, “I wish we could get started right now”, in front of Daddy. Daddy stood up and said, “we can….right now”. Ricky thought a few minutes and said, “No, we’ll just wait”. Ricky won four that night, but lost to us. Ricky used some good dogs that night, two of them being Unc and Sampson. Nine dogs got seriously hot that night, but Daddy’s was smoking. Ricky lost a fine little Homer/Ruby Red bitch that night for matching Daddy in the dead of summer. If we had owned that bitch, I don’t know of any her size that could have stood with her. I owe the ability to say that to Don Mayfield.
I also think of Mayfield every time I hear a person making excuses for their dog’s poor performance. A thing like he swallowed a rag, his blood count was off, the moon was wrong, my friend’s cousin’s uncle’s wife knew someone who had a baby, etc… Mayfield always said that the dog man gets there with the dog. A good dog man makes no excuses, deals with problems as they arise, and gets to the box with his animal in good shape we all screw one up from time to time, but one should never get comfortable with that fact. One should strive for perfection Keep in mind that you will never know how good your dogs are unless you go into good dogs. Also, you will never know how good your conditioning is unless you head south in mid-July. There are many people who think Mayfield is crazy. Many can’t make heads or tails of his writings or tapes. I haven’t watched them, nor read his recent publishing, so I can’t comment I learned from the information that he gave my father. He may not give that information out anymore. That’s fine with me. To me that kind of information should stay between a chosen few. Why should the master publish such information for his enemies to use and not give him credit for? He gave my father the real information and my father always gave him credit. So will I. He was the King. I will pass his information to my children and they will hear his name spoken with reverence in my house.
When I hear someone putting Mayfield down, I know immediately that they are uneducated or a damn fool. These people never competed with Don. Don Mayfield was the greatest conditioner of his day. My father learned from men like Mayfield, Leo Kinard, Jim Taylor, Cecil Collins, and Johnny Green. I have a book that I kept and every time my father mentioned anything that any of these greats did in their keeps, I ran and wrote it down immediately in the. Men’s chapters. I still write in this book, as I still talk to some of these great conditioners of the past like Jim Taylor and Drew Farve. To be great, one must learn from the greats. Daddy gave most of his credit to Don Mayfield. When you grew up in the house that I was raised in, it was just understood that Mayfield was the best of the best. I will raise my children with this same fact. I was at the house one night when the Cottinghams called and ask Daddy if he would sell them his keep. He told Glen that no price could be put on a keep. It could make a dog man. A great keep in my mind is more important than owning a great family of dogs. I would like to thank my father for giving me what I consider to be both. I feel that he attempted to build on his mentors keep and I will do my best to build on his. When I reach the other world and stand in front of my father once again, we will surely discuss my accomplishments of this world. I would consider it the greatest honour if my father would feel that I had became a conditioner capable of competing with Mayfield.
My battle quote for this issue goes out to all dog men or competitors of any kind. It is from our late President Theodore Roosevelt and says, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though chequered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”