At the 1987 Al Khamsa National Convention in Memphis Tennessee,
the general membership voted to set up a committee to select an Al Khamsa
volunteer of the year to honor for their hard work and dedication to the
organization. The membership also voted to begin this series by first honoring
Charles Craver so we present for you the following tribute:
If you ask Charles Craver who first conceived
the idea of an organization dedicated to preserving the desert Arabian,
he will say, "Jeanne".
Jeanne Hussong was a music teacher in southern
Illinois who had made a start in horses of the BLUE
CATALOG and began publishing a mimeoed newsletter
named the Breeders' Service
Bulletin in 1972. The production quality,
the content and the mailing list blossomed with each issue. It was proposed
that those interested in meeting each other face to face gather in the
basement of Walter Schimanski's then unfinished house in Decatur, IL.
People from several states attended, a good time
was had by all, and they decided to do it again. In February or March
of 1974 they met in Nan Burket's kitchen in Decatur. The long distance
award belonged to Jim Bullard for coming from Virginia to attend. He
made the time sequence unforgettable by greeting Jeanne who had just
become engaged to Charles with "I sure would have lost a hell of
a lot of money on a bet on whether or not Charles would get married.
I just wanted to see the woman who was going to marry him."
If you ask Jeanne the same question about the
origins of Al Khamsa, she will admit that perhaps she proposed the first
get together, but it was Charles who had the idea of the scope that
such a group could ultimately assume.
"Obviously there was a need for such an organization."
Charles recalls. "Obviously there was also a large constituency in Illinois.
The next step was to see if there was a national need. 'Chub' (H. B.)
Stubbs, who had attended the first two informal get togethers, volunteered
to make arrangements at his hometown Edwardsville (IL) Holiday Inn."
Charles Craver chaired the first two national
meetings held at Edwardsville in 1975 and 1976. There the group committee
system was instituted. Various areas of interest were proposed: education,
advertising, by-laws, finance, etc. An area was designated for each
interest. Anyone attending the convention could make himself a member
of the committee by moving to that area and taking part in the discussion
that ensued. Each group informally selected a spokesperson who then
reported the ideas of the committee back to the Board of Directors.
The beauty of having no funds in Al Khamsa's treasury meant each committee
not only had to conceive ideas to serve their particular interest, but
had to also figure out a way to implement them.
A great deal of time and often financial resources
as well were donated to the club by committee members who wanted to
see their ideas come to fruition.
"One of Al Khamsa's great strengths,"
Charles says, "is that it has always offered support to those
with worthwhile projects whether it is research, preservation of
an endangered line, or the establishment of a world-wide list of
foundation horses. Now the support may end up being nothing more
than a listening ear and a "Well done". But that kind of
support is also needed, sometimes even more than the monetary kind."
When Jeanne was asked what she felt were her
husband's greatest contributions to Al Khamsa, she answered,
"Charles has this knack to see long range
problems. He knows that the issue today, with the people involved today,
is no problem, but as time rolls on and the organization grows, the
same issue can be very thorny and therefore needs careful attention
now. He also has been very strong in his stand against any form of commercialism
creeping into Al Khamsa activities. That has helped make the organization
unique in its service to the Arabian community. Its focus has always
been education and service."
Those of us who have been fortunate enough to
know Charles Craver for many years are aware he was promoting desert
breeding long before any formal organization existed. For years he advertised
in the classified section of various horse magazines: "Wanted: Interesting
visitors to enjoy our herd of Davenport Arabian horses." The visitor
may not have been interesting but the owner of the Davenports certain
was. Before the visitor left, gentle seeds of the desert breeding had
somewhere been planted in his mind. The first time visitor may well
have been unaware of what he was hearing but as further visits unfolded
the concept was enlarged upon until the preservation of horses of desert
breeding was paramount.
Through his own research by 1955 Charles had
established the lines of Arabian breeding in this country he thought
were most promising for the future. His thoughts on the subject were
clarified and enlarged upon by visits and correspondence with
Alice Payne, Jimmie Wrench, Dr. J. L.
Doyle, articles in the Arabian Horse Journal by Jane Ott, a continuing
friendship with Carl Raswan,
and contacts with Jane and Kathleen Ott. There was no organized "purist"
group at that time, just a handful of breeders having the same general
goal. Serious thinking and active "Al Khamsa" type breeding was being
done by a number of breeders, among them the Krausnicks, Dr. Doyle,
Craver Farms, Babson Arabians, Richard Pritzlaff and Judith Forbis.
In 1961 the Blue Catalog by Jane Llewellyn
Ott was published and became an important part of this context, providing
a systematic approach and organization of data and thought.
"It was," Charles continued, " an essential publication
for the preservation of the desert Arabian horse."
The organization owes a debt of thanks to Charles
for the uncounted hours he spent editing the Anthology section of the
Al Khamsa Arabians 1983 Directory. He gave reading assignments
to as many people as he could rope into it, but the selection process
meant reading and re-reading hundreds of volumes to present the gems
of the collection to the members of the Education Committee for final
selection. He was adamant that the effusion common to so many works
about Arabians be eliminated. He demanded footnotes for everything and
positively would not use something, no matter how tempting, if it could
not be nailed down as to source. Every item used in the Anthology was
checked against the original source in case subsequent reprints contained
errors in transmission.
"Al Khamsa today is certainly different
than when it was established." Charles says.
"Its future depends on which route it
chooses. It can be a pleasant organization with a nice annual meeting
that gives cordial support to a fine magazine which we are extremely
fortunate to have. Certainly some of my favorite moments in Al Khamsa
have occurred at the annual convention. One great thing is that
Al Khamsa can be just plain fun. Everyone can enjoy it and have
a good time.
"There is a tremendous diversity within
the horses of Al Khamsa; there is a tremendous diversity within
the people involved with Al Khamsa. It is a leveling experience
to be part of such a diverse group and to enjoy the atmosphere of
friendship and cooperation. Al Khamsa needs to be careful that we
do not become so concerned with having a good time that we forget
there is an urgency to educate ourselves and the Arabian public
to the danger that the blood of interest to us can be lost. Education
is the key to Al Khamsa's future."
from the StarWest
Ad of that issue
What the Arabian world (every pun intended) needs
is more Charles Cravers. My father and I were on our three-state swing in
1963 to purchase my first Arabian mare. We had gone north from Effingham,
Illinois to Munsons, Friendship Farms, into Iowa to several places, dropped
down into Missouri, and decided at rather the last minute to stop at this
place that advertised in the classifieds of Western Horseman. "Wanted:
Interesting visitors to enjoy our herd of Davenport Arabians." That
seemed intriguing enough to warrant the final stop of our long weekend trip.
We met the nicest low-key man who seemed in no hurry
to show us his horses one-by-one. I fell in love with Sir, but we were looking
for a mare. My father, not incidentally a good judge of character, wanted
to buy the mare from this man. Unfortunately he would not sell us one.
"How old are you?" Charles asked
"Sixteen," I replied.
"How much money do you have to spend?"
"Two thousand dollars."
"Alice," he said. (We were now on
a first name basis and it was a good thing for Charles introduced my
father and me for years as the Watsons from Martin, Illinois.) "you
take that $2,000, go buy books on the Arabian horses with the money,
study, and if in a year you still want a horse, come back and we'll
see that you get one."
The only flaw with than wonderful plan was if I spent
my $2,000 on books, I would not have had any money to buy my horse. The
only flaw in my reasoning is that Charles Craver didn't say anything about
buying a horse, he said that he would see that I got one. Now I know his
advise was the soundest and would have saved me countless dollars in the
long run, but at 16 a horse in the hand was worth two in the book.
We bought a yearling filly in Iowa, but I remembered
Sir when it came time to breed her. She produced my favorite riding horse
Star Sir Tristam and made sure that we continued visiting Craver Farms on
at least an annual basis ever since. I am sorry Charles did not sell me
my first mare. Charles is sorry he did not sell me my first mare, but we
are both glad we met over that incident. Charles remains to this day the
wisest of my horse friends, the worst punster I've ever known, the one I
turn to for advice with a breeding or veterinary problem, the one I argue
with about lunging a horse, the one I send dressage books to, the one who
has been responsible for breeding the best riding horses I have ever been
on. the list could go on and on, but the ad cannot.
Thank you Charles for all that you have given
me of your time and talents over the years. You're the best.