The Silver Fox by Gary Hammonds
It was always an honor to write about someone as diverse as Maurice Carver. Much has been said about this “bigger than life’ Texan, and almost everyone that knew him either strongly liked or disliked him. While I knew Maurice, the dog man I was never really close to him. By the time I first met Maurice I had heard so much Pro and Con I figured the best policy was just to watch him. I’d be at a very private get together miles from Texas at a most secretive site, and he would show up in his cowboy boots, Stetson hat and usually dressed to kill. The crowd would generally gather around to hear some tall tales, most of which were made very believable by the master story teller. If you would listen real close and asked just the right questions and caught Maurice in just the right mood, he would share some real jewels of knowledge with you, not just about the dogs, but about all aspects of “Life”.
I’d not grown to trust Maurice enough to do business with him until one of my best and most trusted friends, Jeff McManus got to know him. He kept telling me about those Carver dogs and Game Fowl he had been driving to San Antonio to breed and see. During a short period of time Jeff went from a pup to a pretty knowledgeable dogman. Jeff was pretty much a Bullyson man who liked the Stamper/ Peaches stuff the best, but bred dogs a lot like Maurice recommended him to do. Consequently Jeff became one of the most successful breeders and dogmen I’ve known through my years with the dogs.
I’ve always liked the Iron Head dogs, which is what my Alligator dogs go back to, so always played with the idea of using some of these dogs with my family. These Iron Head dogs seemed to sum up about any family they were crossed with or line bred to. I had asked Jeff to see if Maurice would sell me some of this type blood and no bogus pedigrees on them. I figured with Jeff as a tie I could pretty much trust Maurice to shoot straight with me. So on a humid morning, long before the sun came up, Jerry Hale, Jeff and I loaded into my Vega wagon and headed down to the “Hill Country” where Maurice lived in a converted stage coach station. We woke Maurice up and he seemed to be glad to see us but would have probably been happier to see us a few hours later.
He never got out of his long Johns and flip-flops during our stay that day, kicking around the dogs and chickens on that rattlesnake infested hill. I think Maurice held the record for rattlesnake bit dogs over the years. I told him he could get a handle on this situation if he would get some guinea fowl, and I told him I would be glad to give him some, in typical Carver style he said, “Son I’ve seen those speckled boogers around game fowl and they will peck their eyes out. So the dogs will have to make do with the snakes.” My response, and with a little rub I said, “You mean a Guinea can whip a Game Cock?” “They’re dirty fighters”, he said “and usually run a Game Cock off, and can damn sure ruin one. I’m not sure if a Game Cock can whip one with the steel on, but I’m not going to keep any around. Snakes or not.” Maurice was a realist that could laugh about really anything. While we were talking “Rattlesnakes” he got around to cracking us up with the story of his brother being bit by arattlesnake in a bar and mysteriously dying. He was convinced the snake bite had something to do with his brothers death. Sure enough, years later herpetologist discovered snake venom has an exotic protein that can and often does have long term effects on the victim.
I was at a contest between Plumbers’ Jade and Art when the subject of referee came up and of course the boys from Houston wanted Maurice and the locals were not excited by this since Maurice was real tight with Art’s backers. After much snorting’, scratching’ and head shaken’ Maurice turned to me with a big grin and said with your reputation son you need to ref this one and I’ll be your time keeper, if you’ll loan me that watch, some “A” hole stole my Rolex”, he said with another laugh.” I’m betting money on this one so someone else ought to ref it” I said. He raised back with another hearty laugh and really yells out, “ANYONE HERE OBJECT TO THIS MAN AS REF AND ME AS TIME KEEPER?” Everyone agreed and it was on.We talked for hours and finally got around to the dogs he had for sale, and I stressed the point of having to know exactly how the dog I was going to get was bred. He assured me I would get a straight pup. He only had a dozen or so pups at the time . I would pick one up and Maurice would say “you don’t want that one” and I would look harder until I picked out, with his help, the rangiest looking brindle pup in the bunch. Which was, by the way, off Stompanato and not Iron Head blood. I kept insisting that I wanted a Iron Head bitch and Maurice finally convinced me that there wasn’t any around that I could get my hands on and I would do better with the Bully blood anyway. He said all the right things and sent me home with a smile on my face and one thought still bouncing around in my head,” Hell son, on that bitch pup, just let her get grown and breed her to that Rufus dog of yours and you will love what you get. So don’t go selling them all. You don’t never need to roll the bitch just breed her.” I called this bitch “Maurice” and she showed real game for me, that’s right I didn’t listen to him but I did breed her during her next cycle when it came around. Sure enough the only litter she ever had in her life, and what a bunch of dogs. Jay’s CH. Jack, J.M., Pig (Snort), Teddy Bear, and probably my favorite Davis’ Belle.
After I had paid off my bets and left, somewhere down the road I remembered my Timex and turned around. As we drove up I could see that grin, “Thought I was keeping your watch huh? I gave it to the Plumber for you, even though I need one.” Maurice could handle most any situation with the same flair. Get you to bend and like it.
We had met at a motel in San Antonio for a big one and left out just before day break. As we went over the cloverleaf on the freeway you could see car lights for miles…each way. Two local Sheriff cars came by doing a hundred to get to the lead car. I later learned that they told Maurice he was sure making their jobs hard and next time to bring a few out at a time so they wouldn’t have to investigate this suspicious behavior. They also assured him they would be in another part of the county until they heard his show was over. We ended up in a big chicken fighting arena for one of the best shows I had ever attended. As the sun came up Ed Weaver came in saying “Damn, everyone here must have drove two cars.” I walked out to look and it looked like a sale at Sears parking lot with tags from Calif, to Fla. as far north as ILL. and everywhere in between. As usual Maurice had top contenders lined up into each other and ran the show with the precision of a boxing promoter. As soon as one match was over another pair was ready to go. The great dogs and the good times will be long remembered by all who were there.
There are too many good Maurice Carver stories to tell them all but one of the best was when George Oilman and Billy Don went down to get a dog from Maurice back in the seventies. George said “What a layout”, mounted gamecocks on the window sill fighting a wood carving of two dogs fighting, and a full length picture of a nude woman on the wall. You could see a treadmill in an adjoining room with some gear hanging on the walls. Puppies running around under your feet growling while Pat mixed them up some food in the kitchen. Maurice came in and told George “Stick around boys, as soon as Pat gets the puppies fed she’ll cook us up some steaks.” George said he kinda looked the situation over and said “That’s OK Maurice, we planned on eating down the road…at McDonalds”
It was said Maurice killed a man that was trying to rob him and was not billed by the Grand Jury. He was also considered a powerful man in and around the San Antonio area for many years.
Maurice was in fact a character, but an admirable character. The things I’ve written about him will or should give the reader a look of what he was all about. The macho image that impressed so many was not what I was impressed with. Maurice had a great inner strength and was a good bulldog man. I can truly say he was one of the best breeders ever, and did a great deal for the breed and the game.
There’s much more to the man than can ever be written and I say only a small part of it. Should others, most of which knew Maurice better than I did feel compelled to write a story or two, it would be very interesting for the Fraternity.
Maurice Carver…What a guy!!
Gary J. Hammonds