2014 Fall Hunter Pace Results

A huge thank you to all the participants and workers in the Oak Ridge Hunter Pace yesterday. Winners were based on average time on course and those closest to average.
Full Cry (one entry):
1st – Priscilla Friedberg, Lynn Earnest, and Jim Finn
Second Flight:
1st – Liz Taylor and Marty Szczur
2nd – Emily Schilling, Eileen Lang, and Marie Slagle
3rd – Robin Ellis and Ashley Williams
4th – Louise Goodling, Julia Bayliss, and Rosie Purvis
1st – Jane Eckes and Robert Holmberg
2nd – Jane Andrews and Amelia McCulley
3rd – Beth Tyler and Tracy Ferguson
4th – Barbara Barrell, Liz Russell, and Kathleen Anderson
Junior (one entry):
1st – Martha Drum, Kelly VanScoter, and Trinity Mac Donald
Congratulations to all our winners…..ribbons will be forthcoming…..

Master’s Report July 2014

 22 July….on this day in 1793 Alexander Mackenzie reached the Pacific Ocean after crossing Canada over land

            Day 1, Year 1…Scent has bedeviled huntsmen since. For a human to understand scent is difficult given our minimal olfactory equipment. As is the case with humans, what we don’t understand, we create fanciful theories often declaimed at high volume or written with amusing self regard. Let me be clear, this is what I understand about fox scent:

  1. It is heavier than rabbit, lighter than coyote and always, always variable
  2. Books cite those areas of a fox’s body i.e. the pads, the glands near the anus, the fur itself as sources of scent. While the above may be true, it doesn’t address the nagging possibility a fox may be able to control his/her scent.
  3. Scent is stronger during mating season.
  4. The weather affects scent. The problem here is one hears rules such as when the earth exhales, scent is stronger. Sounds good and is good, yet I have been out on those overcast, earth breathing days and sometimes nothing. Other times, usually more often than not, a barnburner.

Each of you has been out on one of those supposedly bad days and run like blazes. Why?

            As I’ve mentioned, at least in talking with others, topography, soil, and subsoil, atmospheric conditions, plant species affect scent. I don’t always know why, but I know the soils next to rivers and creeks contain water underground, unless it’s all rock. Davis loam isn’t bad for scent and nothing is better than earth the color of chocolate ice cream. A bluff on one side of water with land below helps keep scent in one place longer. If you learn to read the land topography, it’s obvious yet again, think of the times you’ve had a great run over sun baked red clay. Maybe not as often as on moister soil, but still it has to make you wonder.

            My conclusion is that humans will never understand scent and I don’t think hounds do either, but they will find it long before we do.

            Here’s some stimulating research on scent. I cite verbatim a report in the discovery section of “The Manchester Guardian Weekly”, July 18, 2014. The heading is “Quantum effects exist in biology. In part: “If you were designing life from scratch, you’d probably want to avoid the vagaries of quantum theory. Quantum particles such as atoms and electrons do strange things. They can be in two different places at once or be affected by measurements performed on other particles. Surely such things could only be a hindrance to the smooth functioning of life’s processes?”

            That’s what Erwin Schrödinger said in 1944. Life, he decided had to be built on a scale that would bury all the weird quantum effects. But Schrödinger was wrong. Plants, for instance, use quantum theory to harvest energy from the sun.

            There are also hints that smell is a quantum sense. Our noses appear to work by sensing the natural vibration frequencies of the bonds between atoms and molecules. Those frequencies determine whether a smell receptor is switched on and sends a signal to the brain. The best explanation for experimental observations involves an electron using a phenomenon known as quantum uncertainty to tunnel through a seemingly impenetrable barrier. Essentially, it borrows energy from the universe to leap across an empty space in the smell receptors and triggers the brain’s sense of smell. As long as it returns the energy quickly enough, the electron can use as much as it needs. This “quantum tunneling” phenomenon is also at the heart of electronics.

            Reader, you and I have roughly 10 million scent receptors. A foxhound has at least 100 million and some studies declare 200 million. Can you imagine what this “quantum tunneling” (English spelling) means to them or in the hunt field?

            July 12, 2014 WSJ ran an article in their science section about skin cells’ sense of smell. Again, the experiments used humans exposed to a form of synthetic sandalwood. They posit that ORs (olfactory receptors) specialize in particular odor molecules. Sandalwood applied to skin cells stimulated calcium release and the researchers put forth the concept that additional scent receptors outside the body, and possibly even inside the body, help us survive or as WSJ quotes a scientist, “We have only just begun to identify the non-olfactory, ancestral function of ORs in epithelial biology.”

            For a huntsman or a foxhunter interested in hounds, such findings provoke more questions and no little excitement. Although hound skin is covered with fur, their noses and pads are not. At this point, I don’t know if any research on non-nasal canine ORs is in progress.

            However, I can tell you this: A hound’s pads absorb chemicals. Their sensitivity to insecticides, plant killers, exceeds our own and the cumulative effect over years does damage them internally. Whether it damages scent receptors, my hunch is, yes. Not only do they have the chemicals on their pads, the lingering effect of the often strong odors of these things harms noses.

            This is one reason we don’t bed down with cedar shavings. The odor, pleasant in a barn, would be equally pleasant in a kennel but unfortunately damaging. The late Jill Summers, MFH of Farmington was adamant about as little scent in a kennel as possible. No cedar shavings, no Pine Sol, use great care with flea and tick remedies, as well.

            I also cite Nancy Hannum, the late MFH of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds, my grandfather, PopPop Harmon, his brother, Bob Harmon, kennel man at Green Spring Valley exercised extreme vigilance concerning any chemical or intrusive odor in or around the kennels. If the flea and tick population became bad, a little Sevin Dust would be lightly sprinkled on the beds, grudgingly. It worked. We use it as did PopPop and others.

            If we could afford the newly developed kibble with flea and tick retardant in the bite itself (one bite/day) or the dab one puts on the scruff of the neck, we would. But the liquid (small dosage as those of you who have used it know) application is $10 per canine per month. There is no way we can afford Frontline or other such remedies. As to the kibble, again, cost is a factor.

            If you’ve made it this far, I congratulate your interest. Our club seems to have more people actually interested in hounds, hound work, hound health than most which have a preponderance of run and jumpers. Actually, I’m just fine with run and jumpers for we all love to do it and anything that gets people out on the hunt field amidst all the beauty, I’m for it.

            As a sidelight, PopPop did not need to deal with pesticides, insecticides and weed killer as we do. He had to ward off a few commercial “killers” but not much.

            The intrusions on hound health were much less and less frequent than what we see today. This over reliance on chemical solutions makes sense when you realize that in my earliest youth, one could hire people to pull weeds. You only needed to pull a middle class salary to afford a gardener at least once a week. Those days are gone, never to return. And while a weed free yard, etc. looks great no one has any idea, no matter what the ads tell you, what will be the case forty years from now from the accumulation of the residue of these substances in the soils and in the water supply. We already know that drugs flushed down toilets are creating problems in reservoirs.

            I can’t protect you, or secure a clean future but I will protect the hounds as best I can. And I will continue to read, talk to other huntsmen, run down research.

            Will I ever understand scent? Probably not, but I’ll know more and more and as always, deepen my appreciation for the one creature that does understand scent if not quantum tunneling: the fox.

Up and Over,

Rita Mae

Master’s Report May, 2014

                                  Kennel Update

Wayne Dawson, Bill Johnson, Dave Pritchard, Bob Satterfield and Gib Stevenson have rebuilt decks, put in a new door frame and two new doors.

As you may remember, Dave and Bill revamped our whelping and nursing room. There’s only a bit left to be done. It doesn’t even look like the same room.

John and Toot have repainted the interior of the kennels. We still have to repaint the Puppy Palace. And of course, “The Boys” cleaned up all the debris from the storms. Every time they’d clean up it seemed another storm was on the way.

What remains to be done, the most important chore, is digging a drainage ditch to disperse the gully washers. A hard rain is one thing, but we are just getting these pounding storms, as are you, I reckon.

There are other small things left to do but that is the big one along with fencing in a new kennel run, same run I’ve been talking and begging about for five years now. I hope this is the year that sees it materialize.

Our kennels were in good shape but needed a refresher.

                                             Young Entry

Our second M litter has graduated from kindergarten and is now doing first grade work. They do their lessons in the Arena with the older hounds. Those lessons are brief, perhaps two to five minutes, then lots of playtime, then a bit more structure.

Maria Johnson, Stuart Jones, Mary Shriver and I play as much as the puppies do. John and Toot are with us every step of the way and occasionally someone will drop by or Amy Burke and Jacque Franco will ride in with horses.

The puppies are as comfortable with horses as with people and G-d bless Kali and the whip horses because Missle, Marco, Moneypenny and Masquerade stand on their hind legs and lean on the horses. Sometimes they even get right in front when the horses are standing and put their paws on those big chests. No one complains or even snorts.

By mid June, we will take walks outside the Arena and by July, a few horses will accompany us. The youngsters still need work on packing in but they should get it pretty quickly. The Ms are uncommonly beautiful and the most fluid movers imaginable.

We have a litter of puppies right about 4 months old now, our Z litter. These pups, 7 in number, the M litter is also 7), are brilliant tricolors. Already they display hunting drive, noses down as well as irrepressibly high spirits. It’s good we have a year before we will hunt them as they need to mature, as do all young things. This morning they were taken to the Arena with two of the Ms and they mimicked whatever Mikie and Marco did. If the two bigger boys ran, the puppies ran right behind them, all packed up. If the big hounds stopped, the little ones stopped. They didn’t really know what they were doing, but they were doing. Great fun for all.

We hope to breed one more litter. As you know, we must take great care in that department, most especially until we can return the Puppy Palace to a true Puppy Palace, which is why I keep trying to get this extra run accomplished.

As an aside, you who have seen the kennels and those big runs with condos, you might say, “We have lots of space. You can put more hounds in those runs and breed more.” Yes, but I don’t want to do that.

John and Toot and myself have the hounds divided according to who gets along with whom. We do not and will not overcrowd runs. One of the reasons we have few kennel fights and so many happy hounds is they have so much room and a bit of variety in the runs with shade, one has a pond etc.

                                                Hunter Pace

What a gorgeous May 24. 94 people rode in the Hunter Pace and so many congratulated me on the beautiful course. I did nothing. The course was designed by Sue Satterfield and put together by the committee of Bob and Sue Satterfield and Gib and Lynn Stevenson. Dave and Liz Pritchard were in charge of organizing the food and Marilee Lindbeck, Jim Finn and Ann Aucker helped with timing and course directions.

A great team and a great day. Thank you all.

Rita Mae


      You know it’s bitter when the first thing you ask your whippers-in is not “Did you see him?” but the above. Well, undaunted, braving far from ideal temperatures, out we went.
     First, a brief recap of Penlan Station, January 19, Robert E. Lee’s birthday 1807. Forgive me but I have an odd head for dates and saint’s days. Today is the discovering of Brazil by Pinzon in 1500 and the founding of Sydney,  Australia by Gov. Arthur Phillip in 1788. It is also the day, January 26, 1870 that Virginia was readmitted to the Union. Perhaps some of you still question the wisdom of this. It is St. Eystein’s name day, he died around 1188. He was an Archbishop in Norway.
     More than you wanted to know. More than I want to know but you’d be amazed at what sticks in my head with all the research I do. 90% of what I study never makes it to the page but I must do it for the 10% that does. That alone is one of the great things about writing: you are learning always.
     So, Penlan Station. Cold but bearable. Nothing was moving. Drawing southward we did scare upwards of twelve big turkeys and Maria said she saw two deer, I think it was two. But you’ve been out on those strange days when not a bird peeps. Lots of fox tracks, one or two bobcat or a tremendously large house cat who had visited Penlan with dreams of glory. You know, killing a turkey.
     After an hour and a half, hounds drawing wonderfully well, I felt the first gnawing of despair. Never a good sign. Well, I drew toward the slate quarry which really is pretty incredible. The pack split at the small creek crossing, a slight rise when heading south. Two and a half couple kept speaking. The rest of the pack would rush into the thick woods, listen intently, turn to me, and then come back. Confusion was evident and wouldn’t you know all those wide, fine trails at Penlan but this was one spot with no access unless you fought your way through on foot. So, on and on the hounds spoke. It sounded as though they were trailing and the Oak Ridge pack isn’t too much for that as you know. They want a hot line. Well, this had to be somewhat hot but the cry sounded odd.
     I knew David and maybe Becky Birnbaum, who was with him, watched up ahead east a bit. Maria also rode up ahead to cover the railroad tracks. Still, steady speaking.
     The rest of the hounds and I turned for the quarry itself. I stopped to count heads and noted that Lilac, Klassy, Mustard and a dog hound, maybe Camo, not sure, were missing, plus Plumber, who bounced between the small splinter group and the main group, finally going to the faint cry as those hounds moved further away.
     The main group climbed over the slate, worked the edges of the quarry to no avail. Then I noticed two large claw marks on a tree with pale gray bark. Bear.
     A light bulb went off but only 15 watts.
     We had to cross the ditch, frozen on top, railroad on our right. Everyone made it over in good form, including some big jumps as certain horses did not wish to get their pumps wet. Too Tall wasn’t sure about the ditch. Kali and I, last to cross, urged him over and to his credit, he braved it. He’s only a year old, but he’s so big people assume he’s older. He’s quite lovely and was a draft from Warrenton.
     The wind, intermittent, now decided to smack us right in the face. Well, we’d been out long enough, did our best, so back to the trailers we rode.
     As the tailgate flourished, who came back but John, truck filled with two and a half couple. They treed a bear, a little fellow about 85 pounds.
     You just never know.
     Conditions had so deteriorated we couldn’t go to Foxden on Friday, so I moved the hunt to Saturday from The Arena, so as not to tear up Miss Henderson’s fields on Sunday as the weather report promised 41* F. They lied.
     Becky Birnbaum led Ed Clark, Jacque Franco, Lynne Beegle-Gebhard and Lisa Busch. That was it. Maria and Sonia Johnson whipped-in and we had 11 couple.
     The ground never thawed and some places proved to be solid ice. I had hoped we’d be in slop instead, but the mercury felt like it hung in the low twenties.
     Hounds worked up the creek bed by The Arena. Finally about twenty minutes out, we did hit. We were cresting the hill up to the back road, where are big hay bales. He’d been in there but that didn’t mean scent was good. Hounds tracked from the hay bales and Auto opened. She’s gold plated so everyone piled on and they ran through Poet’s Corner, up the hill, cast about for a moment, then blasted through the slash, crossed the beautiful open pasture behind Mrs. Wood’s and flew into the thick woods which roll down to 611. We know this fox and we also knew, given conditions, there was no way we could run hard, take the two jumps leading out to 611 and run down the shade covered road which is ice until you have two or three 50*F days. So we sat on the open pasture, winds out of the NW at maybe 15mph, perhaps 20. Had a bite but the music was so good, who cared? Maria in those thick woods, John and Toot down on 611 itself, turned the pack back and up they came, right onto the pasture, right by me and back down into the cutover acres where they were determined to find another fox. They did but the scent proved so tricky it didn’t really take hold until we crossed the swamp. Sure enough, the fox looped through Baldwin’s acres, where we don’t have permission to ride, then turned back going up into Carter’s and then nothing. So we rode north along the fast running, narrow creek emerging where my land meets both Wood’s and Carter’s.
     “The day is growing colder not warmer and that’s it”, I thought. But it wasn’t. We hit on the ridge, hounds circled in those woods, coming out onto Carter’s acres with the view down to the Run-In Shed and beyond. Two deer shot out and hounds looked to be behind, then cut right as the deer kept going. It’s swampy in there which means nothing but ice but hounds would not give up. They stopped speaking but not working. Watchman ran out to the pasture again to backtrack the line then returned to the ice swamp again. He wanted to make sure.
     By then I had moved to a little opening up there where you can look into Jerusalem field as well as the inviting jump back into Carter’s pasture. Hounds lit up again and ran straight through the swamp, paralleled Jerusalem field to the amusement of Judy Pastore’s horses and then they turned sharply left, crossed the farm road heading straight for the north branch of the Rockfish. John and Toot roared up as we were in the middle of thick ice, and it was slow going.
     By the time we’d all extricated ourselves, the pack was on the road awaiting us. No way are any of us going back into that ice mess until we get a good thaw and that doesn’t appear imminent.
      We’d been out a little more than two hours. I felt the cold in my fingers and toes but one just ignores it when the energy is good. Still, I just knew we could get another fox up even if we had to tread carefully.
     Before I cast at the four small paddocks, well, just above it, Sonia rode up and said she’d viewed a large red. We hurried as best we could to the fork in the road behind the kennels where Red Dog (real name, Waitress, but we just can’t bear to call her that) started working. She spoke. Cortez spoke. Krash joined in (Kipper on the kennel list. We do confuse our names). Those hounds worked and worked in falling temperatures, snow up their noses for the better part of three hours and they would not give up. They worked down to the eastern most part of Jerusalem field, then crossed south heading straight to the creek which we have got to clean out now that the trunks have somewhat lightened. They moved up the creek and Watchman crossed. Such a lovely sight in pale winter light, the whole pack intent on this fading line. Finally, I picked them up as John and Toot arrived with the truck. We loaded them up, and then Plumber joined those of us on horseback as we rode to the kennels.
     The day was surprisingly good in awful conditions. You couldn’t get out of a trot and at times, that was too much but we hung in there to be rewarded with such nice work.
     The cold is forecast to intensify this last week of January, the cold to be extremely bitter Monday night through Wednesday night and snow predicted for Saturday through Tuesday. Who knows?
     Hunting when it’s snowing is such a treat. I will, as you know, try to go if the roads are passable.
     Always call the hunt line.