No Robert I am not related to Henry Miller of Myerstown, PA though I knew Henry for a number of years; though I would have preferred if you would have asked how I was related to Golda Miller of Bern Kansas!
Henry was and is NOT the last string man. There are lots of us who knew and know how to do it. And there are string men (and women) today too! They just don't realize they are stringers! I call them accidental stringers and accidental judges who aren't catching what's going on!
Henry was truly one of the last "knowledgeable" string man. He knew exactly what he was doing and exactly what he was looking for. We used to refer to string men as the "hucksters" of the poultry world because if you couldn't find it, they could make it for you! A string man made stew and a breeder made soup. Stew is murky and you don't know what's in it or how it got started whereas soup is clear and you can identify all the ingredients that led up to the final product!
String men are one of the reasons the SOP has a bad reputation even today. Because you can in fact ( if you are really good or really lucky) manipulate a bunch of breeds especially solid colored breeds to get a bird that will match SOP perfectly all the while being a true mutt! A healthy mutt but a mutt nonetheless.
Golda always liked telling friends( and anyone who would listen really) the story of how she would always "quietly and politely drag the judge along and educate him". Well she wasn't wrong and there are judges that can't tell a Black Giant from a Black Java; which leaves something to be desired. And I know of very few judges (and I mean no disrespect to the living or the dead) who could have picked out one of Henry's show stoppers as being a mutt. Which is why Henry had A LOT of champion mutts!
String men are like snake oil salesmen they have what you want for what ails and can fix all your problems for you but the problem is when you got it home it never did what is was supposed to do in the first place.
Do I fault Henry? No sir. He played within the rules and cheated the system honestly and he never made any bones about what he was doing. It is why I mentioned in an earlier post why the ABA fell miserably short of creating an SOP for breeding purposes. Had the SOP listed breeding lineage and records as part of a requirement for breeds to be admitted; string men could never have succeeded in their pursuits! (Oh and yes I realize there are breeds far older than the SOP which could never have been properly charted and labeled but certainly any breed created after 1850 could have been easily identified and by 1875 with the first Standard of Excellence could have mandated that all future breeds be fully documented as to origins and lineages. Why didn't this happen? Those men are long gone and the dead tell no tales but I know for a fact there were more than a few string men involved with the ABA directly during the early days. Maybe they didn't want things to clearly defined perhaps? Just an old man's assumption.
By the way, Henry was a lovable, cantankerous codger ( yes I am the black pot calling the kettle black) who was honest as the day was long. He'd mostly never sell his stock to a fellow breeder as "pure" but he would almost always sell to fanciers as "winners". Most of us in the old days knew who to buy from and who not to buy from!
Edited by AllenWMiller - 2/2/12 at 6:56am