Back in the mid-70’s an old red dog with cropped ears appeared on the dog fighting circuit in Texas and Oklahoma. He had a very good mouth and eventually became a “champion” of record with the sport’s match reporting magazines. This dog was called “Panama Red” presumably after the popular variety of marijuana that was available on the black market at around that time.
When I came on the scene in Oklahoma in late 1976 “Panama Red” had already won two matches. I first heard of him when Jim Uselton had a friend of Danny B.’s named Rusty condition and handle Jim’s “King Solomon” for a match into David Eubanks’ Ch. “Zeus”. “Zeus” had recently been matched into this “Panama Red” dog and the outcome was quite controversial and those in the fraternity who had witnessed the match there in the southwestern USA were still talking about it.
According to seasoned and reliable dog men I had met like Doug Blair (the “”Big Plumber” of Ch. Alligator fame) and George Gilman (owner of Pusher, Ch.Gomer, Ch. 400 etc.) and others this is how that match went.
Eubanks’ “Zeus” was a very talented and smart dog that could make many of them look foolish in the box. He was in the process of making one time winner “Panama Red” look foolish in their match when at about the half-hour mark “Red” jumped over the wall! At that point the match would have been over, according to the rules, except that Zeus still had a hold of “Red’s” Stifle. Either “Red” was pushed back in to the box or he came back over the wall on his own but in either event he grabbed “Zeus'” front leg and bit down on an artery causing blood to spurt out of the wound. A handle was made and according to witnesses David Eubanks was trying to stop the bleeding with blood stop powder, which should be a rules violation, and when he couldn’t control the bleeding he conceded the match to save his valuable warrior. That match made “Panama Red” a two time winner but a very controversial one!
In November 1976 there was a very large convention coming up, to which I had been invited. Danny’s friend and partner Dwight H., a sometime rodeo cowboy, was putting it on in the Texas panhandle near where he lived. I learned that Dwight had a dog named “Poco” matched into the “Panama Red” dog in that show. At that time I was as green as the grass on an April afternoon and, as I felt I was technically in the same camp with Danny and Dwight, I constantly pelted Dwight with questions about his “Poco” dog. Could he bite? Had he been tested hard? How did he think he could handle the hard biting red dog? All I could get out of Dwight was evasive and vague answers though and Danny wasn’t very forthcoming about “Poco” either.
I didn’t have the experience to think so at the time but in retrospect I believe this match was what is called a “gate fight”. That means the match was made for the express purpose of running up the gate at this big show which was expected to attract around 300 people or so and in fact it did. The idea is with that many people coming and paying $5/fight to get in one could afford to lose the $500 bet (if it was even that much) on a “gate fight” and recover 300 X $5 or $1500 dollars in gate money! And on the other side of the coin, it would get “Panama Red” an “easy” third win and championship. Not a bad deal for either side, nor the first time something like that had been done. After all the facts were in on “Red” and I saw him perform I wonder if there was even a bet at all. In time it will become clear why I felt this way.
The big day came and I rode out to the event with a famous guest, my friend, Dick Stratton, who was later sorry he came, I think, as we all were to be before the day was over. But back to the match.
“Red” was a rangy dog, in condition with a big head and a rather long muzzle; not the “bulldoggy” looking type. “Poco” was a chocolate colored dog and looked typical of many of the Tudor/Mayfield bred dogs that were being campaigned at that time.
They washed and weighed the dogs for Dwight’s match into “Panama Red” and put them in the pit. From the start “Red” dominated although I did notice he made a “hot turn” at about the 15 minute mark, throwing his shoulder out at “Poco” and panting while looking into the crowd. “Poco” seemed content to take a break from that hard mouth and catch some air himself. This is not the desired behavior in a match dog, of course, and I remembered the stories of “Red” jumping the wall against “Zeus”. Before long “Red” had bitten the slow moving, untalented “Poco” down in the stifles and he sat out the count at 32 minutes.
The only other detail of interest I can remember about “Red” is that he scratched like a kid going to class on the day of the big test, the one he hadn’t prepared for. And his handler seemed in no hurry to get him to the scratch line. I remember thinking that Danny’s ten year old daughter, Karen, could have made handles that “Oklahoma Shorty” seemed to miss when trying to catch his dog out of holds. For an experienced “professional” he always seemed awfully clumsy when trying to handle old “Red”. Experience taught me that is often the case when a handler doesn’t really want to get to the scratch line!
In March of 1977 I happened to witness “Red’s” fourth and final match against Jick Belveal’s “Beans” dog. This match was almost a carbon copy of the “Poco” match except that Bean’s was probably a little better dog. This had the effect of making “Red” turn even worse when he got hot and causing his scratches to get even slower than before. The result was the same, however, “Red” bit “Beans” down in the stifle and he sat it out in exactly the same time as “Poco” had, 32 minutes!
The really interesting phase of “Red’s” career (to me, at least) actually came after he was “retired” to stud. It is my belief that his owners decided to quit while they were ahead and sell some pups instead of going for “Red’s” grand championship and possibly getting him stopped cold as his gameness seemed to be getting shorter all the time. Just my opinion but their subsequent actions seem to bear that opinion out. “Red’s” gameness hadn’t impressed anyone who had actually seen him go and frankly if he had quit a “cur champion” isn’t going to sell many pups.
In the ensuing months two things of interest to this story happened. One is that full page ads started being run in the magazines proclaiming what a great dog “Panama Red” was and pups were being sold off of him as fast as they could be produced, apparently. The other is that a crowd of admirers started showing up at the shows with T-shirts, sweat-shirts, ball caps etc. with “CH. PANAMA RED” emblazoned on them. (Actually, as the photo above shows, this started a little before Red was retired.) These people were, of course, the same people who had been associated with “Red” when he was being campaigned except, now that “Red” was retired, they seemed much more confident in his fighting ability than they had when there was still some chance of him quitting in a match…and they seemed very confident in his ability to produce good dogs.
This behavior was unheard of in those days, the first time I had ever seen such blatant promotion of any well-known dog at an actual dog show. I couldn’t help but think it was a lot of admiration to bestow on a dog that acted so badly in the pit, one I had no inclination to breed to or even raise one puppy out of. I later found out what that was all about!
Following this text on the dog you will find, in chronological order a series of ads run in the Sporting Dog Journal by the “Panhandle Boys” along with reports and certificates to illustrate the events in question. Here is a brief synopsis of the events as they transpired in those pages.
1. SEPT-OCT.1977 issue of the Journal we see “Red’s” championship certificate listing his wins along with his “pedigree”. As a footnote, I once overheard Don Mayfield say that, “Panama Red” was a dog which was found on the streets of Fort Worth, Texas” if I remember correctly. One thing I am certain of in my mind, although I can’t prove it, is that “Red” is not bred the way his papers show him to be. Most of those old Tudor dogs looked quite different from “Red” and acted quite different too, usually showing to be extremely game dogs in the pit. And his “breeder” T. Sherwood was certainly capable of “selling some papers”.
2. MAY-JUNE 1978 issue of the Journal-One of the early ads. run for “Red” pups by the “Panhandle Boys” It is the date which is important here as you will see. At the bottom of the ad. are the address and phone number of Richard Bridges and the phone number of Van Henson.
3. SEPT-OCT 1978 issue of the Journal-another ad. this time extolling the virtues of one “Fat Albert” (Donnie McCullar) who is doing well with the first of “Red’s” pups, even winning matches with one as young as 13 months of age! Pups are allegedly selling like hotcakes and prices are up from $225/200 to $250 for all pups. Bridges and Van Henson are still in the ad. as contacts and now McCullar is added also.
4. JAN-FEB. 1979 issue of the Journal, first page of SHOW NEWS and McCullar wins with “Turk” a one time winner sired by “Ch. Panama Red”. Under the photo it has “Turk’s” dam as McCullar’s “Pepper”. “Turk” also won “Best in show” honors out of three matches.
5. MAR-APRIL 1979 issue of the Journal and we see another ad. from “The Panhandle Boys”. They are announcing “Turk’s” second win and saying if he wins another he will be the first champion off of “Red”; announcing a second match upcoming for another son of “Red”, “Sweet William” who has won one and announcing a first match upcoming for “Captain Crunch” presumably off of “Red” and saying there are fifteen more “Red” pups coming up behind them! They then pronounce “Red” the “greatest bulldog alive today, when in combat” and say he is NOT standing at stud to any female for any amount! There follows a lot of hot air about Bridges “career” in the dog game. “Line bred” “Red” pups are now $400 each.
6. MAY-JUNE 1979 issue of the Journal, one issue after the aforementioned ad., and Van Henson and Jim Price take out what is presumably an ad. saying: “Red” is a great dog, “Red” is a four time winner and here come the surprises:
A. “Red” is owned ENTIRELY by Price and Henson and that ANY OTHER SELLER OF PUPS , BREEDINGS ETC. IS FRAUDULENT!
B. Only TWO of “Red’s pups have been in CONDITIONED, MONIED MATCHES and they are named: “Panamauler Red” and “Captain Crunch” “Turk” is not mentioned at all nor is the “Tommy” dog who was promoted earlier. Nor is there any mention of the 15 pups allegedly coming up behind these dogs.
C. Dean (?) Bridges (his name was Richard in the ads.) sold his interest in “Red” OVER TWO YEARS AGO and has bought no breedings since! Price and Henson also say they do not go by the “Panhandle Boys” and that the OWNERS OF “RED” say he IS OPEN TO STUD!
7. JULY-AUGUST issue of the Journal and we see a stud ad. by none other than Donnie McCullar for his “Turk” dog and “Turk” isn’t off of “Red” or out of “Pepper” as we had been told but is bred by my old friend Ronnie Anderson! McCullar does however say he has a litter by old “Red”.
8. SEPT-OCT 1979 issue of the Journal and we see “Turk’s” championship certificate and he is bred the same as in McCullar’s ad. previously, not off of “Panama Red”.
So, what can be inferred from all this? At the very least you can conclude that apparently some of those “Panama Red” puppies being sold by Mr. Bridges were not really off of “Red”. And that the “Panhandle Boys” weren’t above telling a lie or two to sell pups. There certainly seemed to be a rat in the woodpile somewhere in this story! I knew Van Henson and he was indeed one of the owners of “Panama Red”. And as far as I know Van was an “honest” dog man. The rest one will have to deduce for oneself from the pages included and what this writer saw with his own eyes and heard with his own ears, if you like.
Oh yes, and why were we sorry we all went to that big show? After paying $45/head to get in about half way through the show we were surrounded by deputy sheriff’s commanded by a guy from the FBI! We were told to drive to the courthouse where we waited for several hours for a judge to come arraign us. Apparently the judge had better things to do and they eventually turned us loose and told us not to come back! That was back in the days when it was a misdemeanor. No one was kicked, beaten, cursed, cuffed or shot by the police; the good old days, I guess.
This writer is aware there are a few owners of dogs today which allegedly trace their lineage back to “Panama Red” and it is not our intention to cast aspersions on them, their bloodlines or their dogs. In this writers opinion, due to the facts presented herein, their dogs, if game ones, may NOT even trace back to “Panama Red” at all and frankly, coming from one who actually saw him “perform”, that may be for the best.
If you are one who happens to have some of this “blood” I would advise, as I do with all other bloodlines, to look a lot harder at the dogs than you do at the papers! Good luck and our best to you all.