Many of you will remember Jules Verne, the noted author of the book, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but you may have not yet heard of Jules Verne, the bird dog. In The Story of Jules Verne: A Watch Pocket Dog, Wayne Caldwell Simmons shares the story of his beloved dog. Like the dog’s namesake, this book reaches depths that many such books in this genre never fathomed.
From his mysterious vagabond beginnings, Jules Verne, a Brittany, at first appears to the reader as a small, no-account mutt that no one wanted (including the author). To everyone’s surprise, Jules turns out to be the proverbial diamond in the rough that out-hunts pointers and setters with well-known and respected pedigrees. Despite the expressed criticism of his pointer and setter loving friends, it does not take Simmons long to realize just how lucky―or better yet, blessed—he really is to have Jules, his own “watch pocket dog” (which is a derogatory term coined by one of Simmon’s pointer-loving friends because of Jule’s diminutive size).
“Jules at the Old Cottonwood Log” by Wayne Caldwell Simmons.
Along with the intriguing story of Jules, this book celebrates the traditions and ethics of Southern bird hunting. As Simmons so aptly points out:
In the vernacular of the Southern Sportsman, the term “Bird Hunting” can refer to only one thing: the Quest, preferably with the use of a fine double-barreled shotgun and a brace of well-trained pointing dogs, of that elusive and noble Southern Gentleman himself, Mister Bob White Quail.
“The Usurper” by Wayne Caldwell Simmons.
Coupled with this deep respect for the bobwhite is the wingshooting ethic that most bird hunters espouse. Simmons captures this ethic so succinctly with an account of one of his first quail hunts as a child when he shot into a covey on the ground taking three with one shot. Regarding his father’s disapproving response, Simmons wrote:
He came over placing his big hand on my shoulder, and said quietly, “Buck (as he sometimes called me), you are young and don’t know any better, but we don’t shoot these little country gentlemen on the ground. That’s just not a sporting proposition for “Old Bob”; in fact, your grandfather once told me in a situation very much like this one, that there were only two things he’d whup me over―hitting girls and shooting birds on the ground.
This hard lesson is one that all young wingshooters must learn as they grow in appreciation and respect for the special quarry we pursue.
The story of Jules Verne is a classic in and of itself, but this book is also packed with numerous color prints of the author’s own beautiful artwork, which elevates this work into a masterpiece of a talented wordsmith and artist. The author has graciously granted me permission to share some of the art from the book in this review.
“Hillside Flush” by Wayne Caldwell Simmons.
In short, this book is a celebration of everything bird hunters love about the uplands, the birds we pursue, the hunting companions with whom we share our days afield, and the special dogs that better our lives. It’s hard to believe that a short book about a watch pocket dog can pack in so much depth and do it so well. However, Wayne Simmons has not only pulled it off, but made it look easy. And that is the essence of good art whether it stems from the pen or paintbrush. Just as the one-time skeptic Simmons quickly learned to love Jules Verne the dog, the reader will quickly cherish Jules Verne the book.