Few things are as perpetual as a cemetery, and few cemeteries are as fascinating as the one at Di-Lane Plantation, where some of the finest and most-loved bird dogs rest beneath moss-covered oaks.
I was down there last week to cover a ceremony renaming the Di-Lane stables after longtime Georgia Field Trials official Lamar Mobley, whose contributions to quail hunting helped give nearby Waynesboro its distinction as the “Bird Dog Capital of the World.” Our column on Lamar, and his contributions, ran Sunday on our outdoors page.
While I was there, I stopped by the old cemetery to snap a few photos. I was pleased to find the area well maintained and unchanged since my first visit in 1998, when I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Mobley. He was a kind, modest man who exemplified the sort of gentleman whose love of gun dogs and quail hunting earned him many friends.
He helped me share the story of Di-Lane and the plight of the sport he loved. Just three months after our meeting, he died, quite unexpectedly.
Since Di-Lane is once again in the news, and Lamar’s legacy is being celebrated in a more permanent way, I wanted to share the short piece I wrote about the cemetery, first published Aug. 27, 1998. In re-reading it, the story is as timely today as it was a dozen years ago:
By Rob Pavey
WAYNESBORO, Ga.—Minty of Downalong met her demise in July 1934. Petey’s Repeat perished three decades later, stung to death by wasps.
Their epitaphs, etched in marble, are part of an unusual cemetery hidden beneath moss-draped oaks at Di-Lane Plantation, formerly the quail hunting preserve of a New York millionaire.
``It’s gotten to be a real point of interest since the state took it over,’’ said wildlife biologist Haven Barnhill of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, which manages the 8,100-acre property. ``We get a fair number of visitors who come by just to see the cemetery.’’
More than 70 bird dogs—with names like Black Bean, Esquire Mulatto, Tipsy and Georgia Judy—are at rest at the cemetery, which is part of the legacy of the late Henry Berol, heir to Eagle Pencil Co.
Mr. Berol assembled Di-Lane decades ago by acquiring and consolidating scores of small farms. Under his guidance, the Georgia Field Trials gained national prominence on the plantation he named for his daughters, Diane and Elaine.
Mr. Berol loved his dogs and routinely kept 50 to 60 pointers in his kennels, said Lamar Mobley, vice president of the Georgia Field Trial Association, which has held events at Di-Lane for 40 years.
``There were a lot of birds (quail) in the county back then,’’ said Mr. Mobley, a Burke County native. ``Trainers came down here from everywhere to train the dogs.’’
Burke County’s reputation as the ``Bird Dog Capital of the World’’ stems largely from the interest generated by the Berols and others like them.
``He had the horses, he had the land and he had the dogs,’’ Mr. Mobley said. ``We just got the land ready and people came.’’
Mr. Berol died in 1976. The 8,100-acre plantation was purchased in 1992 by the Army Corps of Engineers as a public wildlife area managed by the state Department of Natural Resources.
Today, velvety moss creeps between the bricks along the front wall and the wrought iron cemetery gates are rarely opened. But the marble monuments are a testament to a glorious bird-hunting past.
There was Lou, Mr. Berol’s ``first, best and most affectionate bird dog.’’ And to Mary Mischief, the ``faithful matron that drowned’’ almost a half-century ago.
Bear Brummel was ``Elaine’s first sweetheart,’’ and Berol’s Rexall was ``a great champion, but never won title.’’
No one remembers what happened to Sierra June in 1968, but her epitaph reads, ``needless departure.’’ Lucky Lady was ``a great obedient field trailer, but unlucky.’’ Wrangler Sam, the stone reads, was ``almost great.’’
Tarheel Jack’s epitaph is perhaps the saddest. He ``met an early death due to neglect.’’
But the inscription doesn’t refer to abuse or cruelty. It documents something broader—and just as sad. It refers instead to the decline of the South’s signature bird—the bobwhite quail—as timber and farming practices changed in the 1950s and 1960s.
The once-common bird has declined more than 60 percent and quail hunting as a way of life was largely eliminated. But there is a brighter future.
Today, in addition to public hunting, hiking and recreation opportunities, Di-Lane Plantation is used for research programs designed to foster the return of Georgia wildlife, including quail, Mr. Barnhill said.
The cemetery, however, will remain just as it is, preserved for future generations.