An Afternoon Well Spent at Springfield Farm
Story and pictures by Richard Chidester
When the surprising and unexpected phone call came from Elizabeth Clark with the offer of a donation to the club of various trophies, I could not resist the opportunity to visit with one of the founders of L.R.C.P. as well as a Grand Dame of purebred dogs. Coordinating a visit time with other club members, Cathy Waters, and Cheryl Little, we were to arrive at the farm Friday, February 6th at approximately 2:45 P.M..I have driven past the green, oval farm sign on my way to Middleburg on many occasions, but until now I had never entered. We were fortunate that the day of our visit was a sunny, bright, and unseasonably warm.
As you enter the gated drive you are greeted with the silhouette of two black Labrador retrievers facing each other. This gives you a strong hint of what awaits you. The meandering driveway to her home is flanked on both sides by large, well aged trees. Although in this season they are in their naked state, it is easy to imagine the cool shade that a canopy of foliage would provide, or for that matter, the popping array of colors that the fall season would bestow upon them.One of the endearing features created by the topography in this part of Virginia are the gentle hills, slopes, valleys, and inclines that create curved lines which are both soft and feminine. As you glance to the right of the drive you are treated to such a vision accented very nicely by a silver pond. As one approaches the front of her home you are greeted by two large canine statues sitting on either side of the stone steps. Both still wearing large red Christmas bows around their necks.
Never having met Elizabeth Clark, I did not know what to expect. I was aware that she had experienced a near death, life altering automobile accident approximately two years ago, but did not know if this was to be a formal Ms. Clark, Mr. Chidester introduction or perhaps an Elizabeth meets Richard. As it turned out my impression of Ms. Clark is that she is so totally and completely comfortable with herself that she immediately puts you at ease. So it was a Liz meets Dick event, and let the fun begin.
It was fortunate that I was the first to arrive, for it gave Liz and I the opportunity to discover that we had something in common besides the dogs. Being that we both were in Manhattan during the 1950's. We reminisced about such things as the large deli sandwiches at Lindy's and the dinners at restaurants such as Jack Dempsey's. Frequenting clubs such as the Copa Cabana and lets not forget the drinking of large steins of beer in the pubs and cellars of pre-beatnik Greenwich Village. It is a small world so who knows ? Perhaps we passed by each other, made eye contact, exchanged a smile. Who knows? I will say this, if we did she definitely turned my head.
With the arrival of Cheryl and Cathy I had the opportunity to go outside and explore. By chance I walked directly to the kennel building. Large and impressive in structure. Surrounded by an above the waist stone wall. As I circled behind the kennel I found what could be a small orchid of trimmed fruit trees and beyond a row of chain link runs with what appeared to be tiny, little "Labby" heads poking up to watch me. As I approached closer they continued to observe me with great curiosity. There were five lovely yellows and one very obvious senior black. Joining with Cathy and Cheryl the three of us entered the kennel building. Inside was a piece of dogdom history. A framed, glass covered display of ninety-four best in show rosettes. A second display of rosettes with show photos. All along the walls there are approximately one hundred A.K.C. champion certificates for Labradors as well as other breeds.
Inside of her home Liz was gracious to offer us a tour of her art collection. Liz might be a bit psychic for I believe she heard my brain screaming "I want to see! Show me! Show me!" As we walked from room to room I began to shoot photos of some of her collection. It was a futile attempt for it would take me days to capture everything. Along the way Cathy and Cheryl discovered a needle point pillow that was stitched free hand by our own Connie Barton. Of course this lab head study is now our club logo.
The entire visit was so much fun for me! It was a pleasure meeting Elizabeth Clark and to see that sparkle in her eyes, and mischievous smile. To hear her dry British sence of humor, and to appreciate her love of cats. As we left the pond was turning a bronze color in the evening sunset. I can hardly wait for my next visit.
More pictures to see HERE!