Mr. Jimmy

19 05 2014

This is the story of my 2013 National Dutch Show BOS win, as submitted for the Dutch Reporter.

Mr. Jimmy first attracted attention last October by being found one morning with his head stuck in the hole cut for a J-feeder at our state show in Hutchinson.  Even before he was old enough to be competitive he was determined to make people talk about him.  Some quick-thinking friends cut him out and he shook it off and went on.  All along the way, this buck’s story has been one of friendship and teamwork and it was very special to be able to celebrate his win with some of the many people who had a hand in his success.

I normally stop breeding in late May thanks to our often-brutal summers.  2013 was mild so I took a gamble and bred for a blue litter in August.  The sire was a buck named Stroke of Midnight whom I raised as a partnership with Jessie Showalter of Oklahoma.  We’d bred Jessie’s blue doe Sophie to my blue herdsire Midnight Rambler one spring and the first litter was quite a success.  Jessie kept the pick who won a Best in Show for her, and a pair I took from the cross both placed in the top 10 at the 2009 Convention.  I had planned to keep one, but sold them both when we decided to try again.  Sophie came to my house during the winter of 2009 and kindled another Midnight litter on New Year’s Eve.  Again I’d planned to keep one, but friends came calling and I eventually sold the buck and doe I’d kept.  The buck, Stroke of Midnight, went to Anthony Campbell in Arizona.  He had some marking flaws but had both a smooth, deep body and a very masculine head and bone, a combination that isn’t easy to put on a single rabbit.  When Anthony downsized in 2012 he offered him back and I said, “yes!” in a heartbeat!

The dam was another rabbit who took a long route to my barn.  Siren was raised by Gene Knieling, a daughter of his buck Satisfaction who was BOSV at the 2010 NDS, and went back to a blue buck from my lines, a Midnight son who had produced very well for him.  She placed 2nd at the 2011 NDS to my eventual BOV winner Merry (that love-her-or-hate-her doe who I think is the best I’ve raised but who was accused of everything from being “too deep” to “satinized”) and was purchased by Sara Amelse of Wisconsin.  Sara later got out of Dutch and sent Siren to me.

That August litter gave me some up-and-coming juniors for the late fall/early winter shows and “Mr. Jimmy,” named for a character in a Stones song, took off with a BOB win at a big show in Iowa on Thanksgiving weekend and a sweep of the Missouri State Dutch shows in early December.  He continued to mature and started off the spring show season with a RIS win at a Kansas show in February, just a few days after turning senior.

RIS win in Abilene

RIS win in Abilene

It wasn’t long after that the rabbit world was saddened by the cancer diagnosis of Dee Ann Burkhalter.  “Wade’s Mom,” as she’s known, is a wonderfully kind and generous woman who I’d known since my days as a youth breeder.  One afternoon I received a text from Randy Shumaker saying he was working to put together a benefit auction to help offset her medical expenses and asking if I would donate a rabbit.  He listed breeders from whom he’d secured donations and the names made my jaw drop: these were the best of the best, many were Convention BIS winners and all were hugely influential breeders.  Despite a feeling of, “I’m not worthy!”  I said, “yes” in an instant, then in a few moments settled on this buck.  He was a package deal: a flashy show rabbit, he had herd buck potential and a pedigree full of consistent winners.  I hoped he’d make for an attractive item!

In the weeks between the commitment and the beginning of the auction, Jimmy got better and better.  He took BIS in one show and Best 4 Class in the other at a double show in Iowa with a large Dutch entry and began to attract attention.  As thrilled as I was by the wins, I was even more excited that this would increase his value.

A little more filled out, after his wins in Grinnell

A little more filled out, after his wins in Grinnell

I wondered who would purchase him and hoped it would be someone who would use and appreciate him.  Meanwhile, I started breeding him to most every black or blue doe in the barn.  Does bred to him palpated positive, and I entered him at NDS.

His auction photos, this was a trick since he never liked to sit still!

His auction photos, this was a trick since he never liked to sit still!

As it turned out, my good friend Lisa Wittrock won him for a generous donation of $1150.  Dakotah Gould put in the last bid by proxy since Lisa wasn’t near a computer when the auction ended.  I was thrilled with how much he’d raised, and that he was going to the kind of person I’d hoped would win him.

The spring weather started its ups and downs but he held his coat and like most of my bucks, started to hit his peak at 8 months.  I spent a week on a judging trip in Malaysia just before NDS so all care and conditioning was left to my mom.  She raises Mini Rex, feeds for me regularly, and always follows instructions, but it’s still not the same as being there myself.  His first litters were born while I was overseas and I was happy to see several marked babies in each box.  I returned to find out he’d started to get a little “bucky,” and stained his coat, but I was able to clean him up.  He was slick and solid as we packed up Thursday morning with high hopes.  Lisa finally got to see her new purchase early Friday morning and much to my relief, loved him.

Among other things, rabbits are a competitive outlet for me, so I can’t stay away from the judging table.  Some hate the anticipation but it’s my favorite part, especially at a National show.   As much as I love judging, I’m a breeder first.  Lisa and I watched the class and were excited when he won.  I thought he had a good shot at variety, but after that I knew the competition from Val’s black buck and Kristy’s gray would be tough.  Kristy’s buck “Rusty,” had beaten him the night before in the Champion of Champions fun class.  As part of the show committee, I was the one to open the ballots for BOS, and although I knew, it didn’t really sink in until the announcements were made.  Reaching this goal was thrilling, but celebrating with friends who were nearly as excited as myself was the best part!   (I don’t have rights to the BOS photo, but you can see it at the bottom of the page here)

On Sunday morning he was Lisa’s rabbit.  It was a little hard to say goodbye, but with litters in the box and his parents bred again, I feel confident that I can keep his best traits in the barn.

Secure and ready to go to his new home in Washington

Ready to go to his new home in Washington

This is the second year in a row that my partnership with Gene Knieling has resulted in a big win.  We show the torts together, but our black and blue herds are also so closely intertwined that a win for one is a win for both.  Gene’s influence has been there since the beginning of this herd in 2006 after losing all but two of my original herd in a barn fire.  The black buck I was able to save, Bing, was sired by a buck Gene owned.  Bing is behind every National or Best in Show winner I’ve raised since, usually more than once.  A blue grandson, Storm, went to Gene as his herd buck and is behind many of his winners including the 2013 NDS BOB.  Although we only see each other’s rabbits and trade at National shows, we speak the same language when it comes to Dutch and can come up with the missing pieces each other needs along with affirming decisions to keep or cull in the meantime.  I’m very independent and decisive, but it’s very difficult to isolate oneself in this hobby and become or remain competitive.  Working with Gene has definitely pushed me forward and I’m grateful for that and our friendship.

I’m also grateful to the Showalter family for the breeding that resulted in Jimmy’s sire.  I met them when Jessie was just little, and they are some of the kindest, most genuine and appreciative people in the hobby.  We’ve traded back and forth for a few years now and have even remained friends through several seasons of K-State and OSU games!

And finally, thank you to Lisa for her generous donation to Dee Ann.  I don’t know that any rabbit is worth that much, but it has been heartwarming to see the rabbit world come together to support one of their own, and it was very touching to be able to help raise that kind of support.

As I write this, Jimmy’s first two litters are just bouncing out of the box.  There are beautifully marked babies in both.  Six more are opening their eyes, and three more are due in during the coming weeks. Hopefully he’ll have many offspring from Kansas and Washington in Fort Worth. My fingers are crossed that this is just the beginning of his story!

 

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