Frank Reese was born May 24, 1906, the oldest of nine children that grew up on a farm in Taylorsville, North Carolina. The Reeses were avid church goers and Frank Reese taught the adult Sunday School class for 50 years. In 1927 Frank began teaching in public schools which he continued until he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1935. Ironically, Frank had written a book about tuberculosis several years earlier. For 15 years he sold dog food for the Rose Company in a five state area. He was a State Law Enforcement Officer for 20 years, and was secretary of the Alexander County Wildlife Club, which he organized. Frank Reese held many other positions in community organizations such as the Ellendale Grange and the Alexander County Sunday School Association. In 1965, the University of North Carolina listed him in "Who's Who in North Carolina," he served on an Advisory Commission for Governor Jim Hunt, and he wrote many editorials for the Chase magazine of Lexington, Kentucky. He was an occasional contributor of articles for "Better Beagling" and "The Rabbit Hunter" magazines. In 1946 Frank Reese organized the Old Tar Heel AKC Beagle Club and helped organize the Tar Heel Small Pack Club.
Frank became interested in foxhounds about 1918 and for many years did about all one could do with a foxhound at private hunts. He judged his first foxhound field trial in Georgia in 1929 and later judged major field trials, bench shows, and national foxhound field trials all over the United States. It was hard for him to give up, but due to health he went to Beagles.
Frank's family had Beagles from 1910 - 1930, which were a bench legged type mixed with farm dogs. It was a long hard road to come up with a good family of Beagles. Frank soon found out you had to breed them, and it was years before he found out you had to stay in the same family and breed to a family of good ones and not to the only good one in the family. Frank said that he had bought his first registered Beagle in 1938. Being registered as Gay Belle, he adopted the prefix "Gay" for all his Beagles after that and only used one other short name following it. He said that he had seen so many long names on foxhounds that he decided to keep his names short in the Beagle pedigree. Frank Reese said that Gay Belle was about 12" tall and had good conformation, except she was a "... bit foxy in the muzzle." Frank noted in a letter that Gay Belle was "... a bit tight with her mouth but (was) dead game and when run all day up front with our young Walker foxhounds." Gay Belle's family carried the Amawalk-Burrfied lines.
Next came Gay Rose (Dumbarton Dix x Dry Creek Primrose). From this cross came Shaws Clipper and Rose O Dix (Futurity). Belle and Rose would leave for the hills with young Walker Foxhounds and run rabbits for three days before returning home. Both were fast and dead game, but would hold a check and walk if necessary. They never gave false bark and never ran one step backtrack. Starting with these two, for more than half a century, his bitches went out to what were thought to be the best sires, with some of the better early crosses on Young's Ringer, Rolcap Smokey, Contentnea Jack and Charmac Gay Boy. The show blood was a great help in type, intelligence, line control and positive nose. It was a struggle to keep some of the good traits of this foundation blood.
Schooled the hard way by training for leading kennels during the Dual Champion Age and running the Old Tar Heel with its first licensed trial running a record class of 98 (with handlers from Maine to Texas) 13" bitches, there was an early demand for excellence. Three times the breeding program was completely stopped due to illness, but each time the bitch line was maintained, and ran eight to ten generations without a break. Crossing back on lines Gay Slide was produced, a great running hound. Bred to Patterson's Little King, she produced seven good ones that would not run deer. All the locals used the King x Slide males. Gay Charm produced well on Dumpy and High Rock Ranger, and Gay Fury x FC William's Pointline Buddy, produced 15 good ones, including Gay Baker. Gay Baker was whelped in 1973, during the time efforts were being made to reclaim the AKC Beagle as a hunting dog. This was also during the time the Watergate affair was making news. Frank named him Gay Baker after Senator Howard Baker. Gay Baker is the famous one! Frank said that Baker was "... an absolute jump dog. He knew where to find rabbits, and he had an uncanny knack of producing a rabbit in short order." Also, Frank indicated that Baker was a top notch "pack dog and he had the quality of gameness that he had always bred for, because he would stick right in there and run just as long as he was left down, no matter how long that might be." Gay Baker became a tremendous running hound. He ran up front and you could pick him up any time in a hard fast run. Few males and no bitch ever finished a race with him if the running ran all day or all night. Hunters came from far and near to pit packs with him. Perhaps he is the most well known Gay hound of all.
One thing Mr. Reese always insisted on in his hounds as excellent conformation as well as excellent running qualities. Gay Baker had the ability to reproduce his good qualities in his offspring a high percentage of the time. Frank Reese advertised Gay Baker at stud for a time, with an ad of such found dated early 1980. Baker was advertised as being 13-1/8" tall and the stud fee was $100.00. Reese confided in a friend that he hated the hassle of having a stud dog and never did advertise his phone number in Baker's ad, but he said it didn't do any good because the general beagling public called him at all hours regarding Baker anyway.
Gay Cindy had failed on a couple of crosses and more or less in disgust was bred to Gay Baker, thinking the offspring would be no good anyway. From this cross came Gay Flag and Gay Flash and others of note. Gay Cindy went on to produce eight litters by Gay Baker and when these hounds hit the pack trials (SPO), they put Gay Baker on the map. Gay Baker hounds have gone out to compete favorably from Canada to the Deep South, in large pack and small pack option; on hare, cottontail, and swampers".
Many hounds carry Gay Baker in their pedigree. Gay Baker made his mark on gun dog beagling and many hunters declare Gay Baker as the greatest hound ever hunted with. Many, many hunting hounds and Small Pack Option hounds, in addition to the Gay hounds, also trace back to Gay Baker today. He was covered up with bitches from his first stud advertisement, with bitches coming a thousand miles from both North and South. It was a tough decision to offer a hound with no trial record after so many years of breeding only to field and bench champions. One time he had eight bitches waiting, twice he had six waiting. Other times they came almost daily. One man drove 300 miles and ran him two days and bred a bitch and tried to get Frank to price him. When Frank arrived home from church the following Sunday, the man was back, waiting with three bitches.
After the great rush on Baker came, in order to get some relief from public pressure he leased Baker for a year to Don Riley (Country Road Beagles) in Virginia. Breeders were furious for letting Baker go to Virginia as Riley would not take shipped bitches. Gay Baker was also offered at stud by Country Road Beagles of Heathsville, Virginia later in 1980 for a short time. This may have given Baker a little added exposure and produced some hounds of note in the state of Virginia and the East. This was only a year before Gay Baker died in 1981, at the age of 8, so his career at stud was cut short by a rather early death. Gay Baker died from an injury from a minor accident. Baker probably bred more bitches than any hound ever, with no show or field win. He came at the right time and exploded the theory that a stud needs to be in a certain area or have titles to stand (successfully). Frank never ran Gay Baker at trials as the modern brace was upon him and he had not yet entered the pack trials. However, he was braced with a small pack winner and the results set the future course.
With Frank's improved health he tried for a comeback at the brace trials, using top rated sires, but the "all red pedigrees" - all field champions in the pedigree were a complete failure. Regarding this "red pedigree" fad of the 50s and 60s, Reese said: "For a long time I bred for all red pedigree. Nothing hurt me as much as that idea." Frank said it took more than a title for him to use a sire. A title meant very little to Frank, thus he never printed titles in pedigrees. Frank didn't have any aspirations to own a field champion, he just bred hounds for his own pleasure, for private hunts, and an occasional field trial to test their merits against other hounds. In fact, he said that he really didn't want to own a field champion because of his health and he could not take the weather and long hours. Also, that it was too risky to run a field champion among deer and along highways as he had always done. Another time he said: "My bitches have been used on at least 50 field champions. Many went the hard way — by rail. My worst time though was when I used 10 or 12 bitches on top rated Walkie-Talkie advertised studs. I never got one good one from this bad experience." Frank Reese was human and he made mistakes. However, he learned from each failure and he didn't do it over again. During a phone conversation he was asked what he would do differently if he had it to do over again. He responded: "Oh, a lot! Law me, an awful lot. I've made a lot of mistakes, and I couldn't do a whole lot of things because of my health. I wouldn't say that I've learned what to do though, you'd better say that I've learned what not to do. Stay away from outcrosses. They are dangerous. You've got to stay in the same family (once you've found the family that suits you)."
In summary, Frank Reese was a "pioneer" producer of rabbit hunting Beagles. He started long before the brace hound movement slowed their Beagles down. Since he rarely advertised, few outside of the Carolinas knew about him until Gay Baker came along. Then, when he advertised Baker the word began to spread.
Gay hounds are generally known to be lean, eager hunters, with absolutely no quit in them. They are only reflecting the courage and stamina of their breeder, Frank Reese. He is a man who didn't let years of illness stop him. Instead, with the help of modern medicine, a lot of faith, and sheer dogged perseverance, he threw off a disabling disease and went on to live life to the very fullest. In so doing, he produced scores of fine rabbit hunting Beagles that a lot of people have enjoyed for countless hours. These hounds consisted of a "outside" blood that was carefully "blended" in with the Gay blood. The first was the Bedlam "formal pack" blood. The second was the "brace" blood through Deal's Betty. And the third was the Dingus MacRae blood through Fd. Ch. Cane Country Jennie. Make no mistake about it though, these are still Gay hounds and the running ability of the Gay hounds is still predominant.
Frank kept the Gay "family" intact but he used mild outcrosses very judiciously to keep from close inbreeding. Gay Beagles have been developed over decades by careful breeding. Frank Reese did more than his share for the Beagle and the sport of hunting. Frank Reese passed away in 1995, at the age of 89, but he will always be remembered.
Gay Baker 1973 - 1981
This article is from "Better Reading":
In our July 1984 issue we featured Gay Baker on our cover and the following article about him and the Gay hounds. It was written by the originator of this bloodline, Mr. Frank B. Reese of Taylorsville, North Carolina. While much has been written about Mr. Reese and some of the many great hounds he has bred, it hasn't but scratched the surface of the vast amount of " hound knowledge" that reaches deep within the sole of this great houndsman.
In his early years with hounds, Mr. Reese also ran foxhounds, judged, and wrote for the better foxhound publications. His articles on beagles have also appeared in beagle publications including Better Beagling. While he no longer does much writing or breeding, Mr. Reese still loves nothing more than the sound of a pack of good hounds in full pursuit of their quarry, be it fox or rabbit. What prompted us to reprint this article was a letter we received a few weeks ago from a new beagler asking who originated the Gay hounds. It surprised me at first as I thought "everybody must know that". As I thought about however, I realized that someone new to the sport, might very well not know.
Over the last few years a number of Gay hounds have been offered at stud by a number of different owners. The names of numerous others appear in pedigrees of many top hounds of today in all areas of the country. One thing Mr. Reese has always insisted on in his hounds is excellent conformation as well as excellent running qualities. The photo of Gay Baker and those of his sons and grandsons will testify to that fact.
Article Reprint July 1984
By Frank Reese
Our first beagle came to us registered Gay Belle. In order to use any name we continued to use the word "Gay". Belle's family carried the Amawalk-Burrfied lines. Next came Gay Rose (Dumbarton Dix x Dry Creek Primrose). From this cross came Shaws Clipper and Rose O Dix (Futurity). Belle and Rose would leave for the hills with young Walker Foxhounds and run rabbits for three days before returning home. Both were fast and dead game, but would hold a check and walk if necessary. They never gave false bark and never ran one step backtrack. Starting with these two, for more than half a century, our bitches have gone out to what we thought were the best sires, with some of our better early crosses on Young's Ringer, Rolcap Smokey, Contentnea Jack and Charmac Gay Boy. The show blood has been a great help in type, intelligence, line control and positive nose. It has been a struggle to keep some of the good traits of this foundation blood.
Schooled the hard way by training for leading kennels during the Dual Champion Age and running the Old Tar Heel with its first licensed trial running a record class of 98 13" bitches, we gained an early demand for excellence. (Those 98 bitches, by-the-way, came with handlers from Maine to Texas.) Three times our breeding program was completely stopped due to ill health, but each time we kept our bitch line which now runs eight to ten generations without a break. Crossing back on our lines we produced Gay Slide, that we consider the greatest running hound ever hunted here. Bred to Patterson's Little King, she produced seven good ones that would not run deer. All the locals used the King X Slide males.
Gay Charm produced well on Dumpy and High Rock Ranger, and Gay Fury, bred to FC William's Pointline Buddy, produced 15 good ones, including Gay Baker. Baker was a tremendous hound in a large pack and no hound could beat him as a jump dog. He ran up front and you could pick him up any time in a hard fast run. Few males and no bitch ever finished a race with him if the running ran all day or all night. Hunters came from far and near to pit packs with him. We never ran him at trials as the modern brace was upon us and we had not yet entered the pack trials. However, he was braced with a small pack winner and the results set our future course.
With better health we tried for a comeback at the brace trials, using top rated sires, but the "all red pedigrees" were a complete failure for us. Gay Cindy had failed on a couple of crosses for us and more or less in disgust we bred her to Gay Baker, saying they would be no good anyway. From this cross came Gay Flag and Gay Flash and others of note. Cindy went on to produce eight litters by Baker and when these hounds hit the pack trials (SPO), they put Baker on the map. Cindy is due her part with this cross. Braced with her sire, FC Wilson's Timmy II, she had line control and always turned right at the turns and checks. In a trio, Cindy, Black, and Charm made the best trio ever run at this kennel. However, Cindy was not overpowering like Nell, Fury and Slide.
By 1950 we had had enough of the problems of a public stud, but by the time Baker was born, more than twenty years later, we became inspired by efforts being made to reclaim the AKC beagle as a hunting dog. It was a tough decision to offer a hound with no trial record after so many years of breeding only to field and bench champions. With bitches coming a thousand miles from both North and South, Baker exploded the theory that a stud could stand in the wrong area. Most of the locals were using him, but one man drove 300 miles, ran all night and bred a bitch and when we arrived home from church the following Sunday, he was back, waiting with three bitches. At one point Baker had eight bitches waiting.
After the great rush on Baker came, in order to get some relief from public pressure we leased Baker to Don Riley (Country Road Beagles) in Virginia, for a year. Gay Baker hounds have gone out to complete favorably from Canada to the Deep South, in large pack and small pack option; on hare, cottontail, and swampers". Many hounds of the future will carry Baker in their pedigree. Many of these hounds compare favorably with the best of the Dual Champion age. This kennel has never quoted anyone in an advertisement on our hounds, but since Mr. Howard Stamey is such a booster of Gay Baker, having hunted him in many all day hunts, mostly in eight couple pack, I will make an exception. Mr. Stamey has been running hounds for more than half a century. His Dream Girl won the Upper Hudson (LPH) 13" bitch class with 57 starters. She is by Gay Baker and this is what Mr. Stamey says, "Gay Baker was the greatest hound I ever had the pleasure of hunting."
Mr. Reese passed away in 1995 but will always be remembered.