Big Daddy

Stuart Jones left us October 14, 2015. Born in Richmond in 1931, he graduated from Glen Allen High School and served in the Navy during the Korean War. After that he attended the University of Virginia, made the Dean’s list and improved all the many clubs of which he was a member. This experience inculcated in him a great fondness for UVA sports. Football, however, usually let him down.

Those of us at Oak Ridge who hunted with him over the decades often heard about the latest defeat, snatched from the jaws of victory.

Few who saw him in the field would believe that he didn’t take up riding until his sixties. He found Karen Osborne who worked with him and it didn’t take Stuart long to find his way to the hunt field. It helped that he was a natural athlete and not given to excessive fear. Of course, there were times when he put the fear of God in us.

His service in the Navy, he really did see the world, either gave him or brought out in him a flexibility, a curiosity about other cultures. Stuart could work with anyone. He listened and he was respectful of differences. He was a man who learned from life and we were all the better for it.

He was a lifetime member of the Sons of the American Revolution, as was my father and we would often talk about history, what our forefathers and foremothers in endured, built and hoped for, and perhaps we represented their hopes. We had a lot to live up to and he did.

Boy Scout, Stuart’s horse, had his number. Early on, when these two were getting acquainted, Boy Scout stopped, refusing to move. This irritated Big Daddy who expanded his vocabulary of abuse. The field moved on and there was Stuart trying every way to move Boy Scout forward. No sooner was everyone out of view than Boy Scout, ears pricked up, watched as a healthy red fox emerged from the woods, trotted across the pasture, walked, no trotting, walked in front of Stuart and his horse. Stuart had to admit that Boy Scout knew more than he did and an accord was reached. Lavish offerings of apples and carrots cemented this accord. Boy Scout loved Big Daddy.

Mustard also loved him. Mustard was born in 2013 by Archie out of Moxy. Slight, mustard colored, she’d come out for her walks, see Stuart and run in wild circles until she calmed down. He had to praise her then she would behave herself. Stuart walked and worked hounds with me for years. Emily Schilling, Maria Johnson, Mary Shriver, John Morris, Toot Morris, along with Sonia Johnson, worked puppies and hounds in the off-season. We work harder in the off-season than actual hunting. If I’ve forgotten one of our regulars forgive me.

He loved hounds and they returned the affection but Mustard was just besotted with him. He’d also walk and hunt the bassets with me on foot, enjoying the music from those deep voices.

As years flew by, his whipping-in finally landed him at the utmost perimeter. He didn’t feel he could run full out, plus Boy Scout was so good at knowing where the fox was, he viewed more than if he was flying along. During the last year of his life, he became a wheel whipper-in where he, John and Toot could watch, listen, and delight in tormenting one another.

He didn’t want to leave us. Stuart loved life and would have lived to two hundred, if there was a way.

Our relationship grew over the years. He never could resist teasing me over feminism. I would return the favor. Back and forth, how we would laugh. His good humor touched us all and you really could talk to this wonderful man about anything and everything. Much as he teased me and vice versa, Stuart gave me and everyone else a fair hearing.

As he began to fail, I would call him after the hunts to give a full report. Not long before he died I called, he still had his voice, and told him Mustard had been naughty.

“Well, what are you going to do about it?” He wanted to know.

“Blame you.” I fired back.

That essentially encapsulates our friendship: devilment, laughter, a lot of love.

Oak Ridge is especially grateful to Karen, Pete, Hayley, and Lindsay Osborne for their kindness to Stuart. Karen would carry him to appointments; pick up what he and Cushman (his wife) needed with the assistance of her family.

At the very end, Karen recalled to Stuart a glorious hunt they had been on in prior years and it made him happy.

He asked that donations be made to the hounds in his honor. When staff heard of this final wish, it was difficult not to just fall apart.

As one should, I told Boy Scout that Big Daddy was gone. He dropped his head, put his forehead on mine and we stood that way for a bit.

Then I told Mustard. Sweet little thing, it took her over a month to come back to herself. She’d get off the trailer and look for Big Daddy.

Anyone who thinks we anthropomorphize animal emotions doesn’t live with them. They know and they loved him as did we all.

I am sorry it took me so long to write this. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.


Rita Mae Brown, MFH

Master’s Report July 2015

The first day of cubbing is Friday, September 11, 2015, seventy-two days from today as I write this, 9 July 2015. For those of you going on vacation, I hope the time is restorative, great fun. For those of you staying home, I expect you will be repairing fences, boots, sewing ripped hunt coats and for those of you who were truly impressive, weeding your garden. I am looking out my window at wisteria that needs cutting before it takes over the state of Virginia. As for my gardens, well, I tell myself that flowers were once weeds so really, my gardens do have flowers. Oh, the fibs we tell ourselves.

Even with the heat I know most of you are walking out your horses. We start the true conditioning in about three weeks, taking it slow. By the first day of cubbing the horses are ready and so are the hounds. As always, there’s a bit of fat. Never start cubbing 100% fit. A little pad provides insurance because once we pass Opening Hunt, November 1 this year (yes, it will be 80° F, I swear) but once we get through it the temperatures drop, many more calories are burned. If you start cubbing without that insurance you can really run down horses and hounds. Then again, they will lose warmth.

While most of you know how focused we are on nutrition, conditioning, training it occurred to me this morning after working puppies that I have never discussed our physical structures, land or rationale behind the same.

Before that, puppies are doing very well. They aren’t ready to walk out alone but they can go one or two at a time with the big kids. Wednesday or Friday mornings they “play” just with themselves. So this morning, lots of running about, then called back to me, a little walking, packing in. Pretty good but Lego feels being in front is more important than being with the group. Just takes time. They are surprisingly good about loading up on the party wagon. Yes, a few need to run laps around the wagon but they finally load up. And the puppies immediately rush to the top tier of the trailer so they can see outside. You know they might miss something otherwise and this group doesn’t want to miss a thing. We are preparing ourselves for that first deer jumping in front of their noses. What a shock. A few will go after the deer but this class is very wanting to please so a call should bring them back. Remember, the youngsters are seeing everything for the first time. They’ve already seen foxes because the foxes patrol the kennel. I always fear that unkind words are spoken.

As to the wildlife, our bears, plural, are much in evidence. Docile, they keep to their routine but they’ve been hell on the feeder boxes.

More wild turkeys than I remember and rude, too. Those pompous lead hens will stop in the middle of the road and shoot the bird at you, forgive the pun. Really, this younger generation, no manners at all and their parents are even worse.

Hawks, owls in abundance, as well, which means a bumper crop of small game which means happy foxes.

That’s the home fixture report. Now on to our Oak Ridge kennels.

Roughly an acre and a half plus are fenced and cross fenced. We also have a third of an acre or more to the south of the kennels with a narrow creek through with if we ever need to expand. We are fortunate to have so much land and we always have acres across the road that could be used.


One story high, cinder block construction with a concrete floor, a slanted roof, and three rubber base painted bays inside and a tiny room with an even tinier bathroom and sink, a refrigerator for meds and a small desk.

Each bay has a partially covered back section which can be closed if a hound or hounds needs to be sequestered. The floor is also concrete.

Immediately behind this is a trench, concrete, which carries water and waste to a buried tank. You have to lift off the cover, let everything run down, then put the cover back. There are two of these tanks in the main kennel which are pumped out each year before cubbing. There is also one at the Puppy Palace, thousand gallons. Because we keep the heavy lid on, we have not endured overflow which would happen with these torrential rains. This system which was costly to install and necessary, according to newer state laws, cuts down on odor.

If in the narrow aisle you face the bays, the first two bays to your right open out onto an enormous run which wraps behind the side yard, more on that later, to another large yard containing a pond, small, and two condos along with a raised wooden bench. There is also a condo in the section of the run closest to the kennels.

Hounds love, love, love their condos which have removable doors for summer, replaced in winter along with straw.

Housing choices make for happy hounds. Some like the raised benches inside, others want to curl up in their condos or lounge on the porches built on to the condos. The porches delight the hounds in all but the most inclement weather.

Also, inside the main kennel is a whelping room which doubles as a recuperation room. This space has good ventilation and is easy to keep warm when bitterly cold. The concrete floor has rubber mats such as you use in your trailer. And yes, they can be chewed to bits faster than you can realize but they are easy to replace and if a hound is bone weary, the mat helps. Also, it’s easy to clean.

To the left of this is a feed room with built in wooden coffers, shelves and this room can be closed off.

To the right of the whelping room is the large feeding room and draw pen. This is two stories high, a concrete floor and three ways in and out.

You can open the draw pen door from inside or outside but if you are inside you have to have help in lifting the heavy outside bar. The bar closes upon to thick wooden doors.

The sides are 10 or 12 feet high so this, while roofed, has plenty of ventilation. It’s easier to keep hounds warm than cool.

Large troughs are used to feed and they are hosed out daily. Part of this space has a loft for storage. We put the summer fans up here when fall comes along with some odds and ends.

Our dream is to extend the floor across the space. We would not enclose below this room as we still want the ventilation. This would be our office and with lots of windows, we could monitor hounds in the main kennel and the side yard without going out there which, of course, changes their behavior. We’re lucky, they get along but it’s helpful to observe them among themselves.

The little room with the drain and bathroom is too small for an office, plus mud slides in on the bad rains. Comes in right under the door. It’s easy enough to clean but this isn’t a place to put records. Too difficult to protect plus the humidity won’t help the papers.

I would like my whippers-in, John and Toot to have access to hound papers, medical records, etc. A computer up there would help, too, as we could get into the MFHA stud book whenever we needed something. There’s no way we could put a computer in that tiny room.

We would like a place to sit down, talk over the hunt, etc. Right now we try to cram into a truck with double doors, huddle together for a little bit around the tailgate table. Being able to review a hunt after it has just concluded allows us to iron out some wrinkles, most especially to review hound performance. As we each cover different territory we each see different things.

This is a dream, one we’ve had for years but in the fullness of time, I believe it will come to pass.

As it now stands we have one full staff meeting once a year usually at Mary Shriver’s. She is excessively generous so this year we had it at Tea Time and we will probably move it each year until we get our true office. You’d be amazed at what we cover. To give you an idea, this year, I posed three questions which led to many others.

  1. How do you know when hounds have overrun the line?
  2. How do you know when hounds are running heel?
  3. How do you know when the fox has doubled back?

Maria brought aerial maps of our territory and Mary and Dee brought more maps from the MFHA seminar and Becky brought a grill! (She brought other things, too) but our Becky B. lashed her big grill onto her truck. Sonia helped her lift it off. I think we have resourceful and creative ladies here.

I mention all this because it might please you; interest you to know what goes on. We all look forward to being able to do this on a more regular basis right there with our hounds.


This is the octagonal building you pass when we ride back to the kennels coming from a westerly direction. Four pie shaped rooms feed into a center space with a large drain, the hose hangs overhead. You can wash out this kennel in the blink of an eye. The fourth bay stores food, broom, and mop.

If you close the outside door and the outside window, open the door into the kennel you can keep it warm or open and keep it cool. The outside runs are nothing like the huge runs at the main kennel but they each have condos.

As this was originally built for puppies, we didn’t need a lot of space and we were careful about the chain-link fencing. Puppies can crawl under, through, do the damnedest things. The priority was safety, fresh air, cleanliness, and sunshine. Each bay has a mud flap entrance for hounds and each bay has a raised bench now that this isn’t used for puppies anymore. One bay is used as a backup whelping room but now that we have the big whelping room we may change this. There is quite a bit of light in this kennel.

If I could do things over I would build a gigantic octagonal kennel because cleaning is quick, the shape lends itself to conserving energy. The ventilation and natural light are so healthy, pleasant. We now use this for old hounds, a retirement place with some younger hounds they are also. The small puppies are up in the grey kennel which I will come to later.

I forgot the side yard at the main kennel. It’s just that, to the right of the kennels, secured so the hounds can’t get in. Two condos and one big outside water trough take care of the hounds in this space who are some of our more sensitive girls.


Another very large space at least one quarter of an acre. This is Herb’s old four horse trailer with a big pitched roof and surround porch and steps. Inside is a raised area across the nose which we bed with straw in winter. Lucite panels are slipped into the side slats and a heat lamp, as well as a big fan, is fixed to the ceiling.

This area like all of them uses a frost free pump. On the bitterest of nights the big outdoor water trough freezes. The indoor buckets have only frozen on the subzero nights but it takes a lot of refilling on a winter’s day. A wonderful new condo is also on these grounds along with too many pine trees.

Gyps in season are put up here as it is further away from the other kennels. The distance goes a long way to keeping order. It’s harder on John and Toot but better for hounds.

Oak Ridge hounds enjoy an abundance of space, light, fresh air, and shade. They can run and play to their hearts content. Happy hounds are easy to work with plus why have hounds if you don’t give them the best?


A gambrel roof building about 14’ x 12’, 10 foot high ceiling, insulated, with a wrap around porch on two sides with a railing. Very warm in winter and the porch, as well as a raised bench, plus a small, low condo help in summers.

The puppies and mom come here. After weaning, the mother returns to the kennel. We introduce her again to her friends over a period of days, returning her to the grey kennels later each day. We’ve never had a problem but why take a chance? The inside of the grey kennel has a raised bench where mom can repose if she needs a break.

Puppies are kept here until at least six months old. I work with them almost every day except when I’m on the road. It’s really playing with some horn calls and running around the area which is a square about half a football field maybe a tad larger. It’s next to the five bastards so no one is out of the gossip loop.

Keeping the puppies close has drastically cut down on training time once they go down to the big kennels. We are very careful about this and initially take them down for an hour, monitored. Each day it’s a bit more time. However, I will feel better when I can put half-grown puppies in the yet to be built second trailer run.

There you have it. With the exception of the ladies planting flowers last year, our kennels aren’t pretty but they are tidy and serviceable. Hounds are happy and we have few problems with sickness or parasites. The only real problem we’ve had was kidney failure due to old age. I believe our hounds stay healthy because they are not in crowded spaces, have with the exception of the Puppy Palace, and many choices as to where to sleep and play. In good weather they all choose to be outside. Of course, keeping current on all their shots, monthly worming helps, too. And that is your complete kennel report.

Rita Mae

2015 Spring Hunter Pace results

Thank you to all participants….the riders, the workers, ground crew and spectators. Our event would not have been as successful without your help. Congratulations to our winners:
Full Cry:
1st – Kathleen King, Jacque Franco, and Amy Burke
2nd – Sandra Dawson and Sue Migliore
3rd – Joy Watkins
4th – Becky Birnbaum and Meghan Custer
Second Flight:
1st – Maria Johnson and Mark Catron
2nd – Liz Taylor and Marty Szczur
3rd – Cheryl and Budd Riddle
4th – Meredith Peyton and Christine Mahoney
1st – Barbara Barrell and Kathleen Anderson
2nd – Karen Catron, Julia Scheibel, and Cameron Thomas
3rd – Elesteen Hager and Evelyn Mawacke
1st – Lynne Gebhard and Cate Albright
2nd – Jaimee Dolan and Tristin Lucas
3rd – Jane Gatewood and Brigid Albright
4th – Schuyler Hall and Harriet Albright
Again, congratulations to all the winners…..ribbons will be forthcoming shortly….

Master’s Report March 2015

The daffodils are up but two days ago we could see the snow swirling on the top of the mountains. By April 15, I figure the last of the frosts are over but this year, who knows?
If any of you are interested, I am judging the Maury River Hunter Trials this year, April 4, Saturday at the Virginia Horse Center. Schooling starts at 9 AM and the first class is that 10 AM. Not having a computer, I can’t tell you how to get the class list but there’s something there for everyone and I’m sure our foxhunting friends in The Valley will be there (Editor’s note:
Here’s how it works for you. Anything I judge, anywhere, anytime, that an Oak Ridge member rides in, I will be tougher on you. I expect impeccable turnout, I expect a sparkling horse with clean tack. As to what happens on any course, there are so many variables but I repeat, I will be tougher on you. Any ribbons you ever win when I am in the chair will be more than fairly won.
I have two reasons for this. I would never wish any contestant to think I favored my own. Secondly, I want people to see how proper Oak Ridge people are. As to our members, good manners and friendliness, I am never in doubt.
Next week we start the youngsters back in the arena. In prior years we gave hounds a month off but the mini Ice Age did give hounds more rest than usual, hence an earlier start.
We bid goodbye to our beloved Allie, entered into 2006 and Vandal, entered into 2005. What good long years they enjoyed. As with most all our hounds, John walked into the kennels and they appeared to be asleep.
Both hounds hunted briefly closing high and Allie found the second fox, the one they put to ground in the big brush pile. Vandal was content to stick right by me. I’d look down, he’d look up. I recognize that not too many hunts would allow an older lady or gentleman to go out a bit, but we pick them up when they fall too far behind. They live for this and if they can keep up for an hour, why not? They are so happy and they make me happy. I rather hope what I reach that stage that like Vandal, you will humor me, a rider on each side to jolly me along. And if the Fates are kind, I, too, can fall eternally asleep after a good hunt.
Sisters and brothers, what’s the point of being alive if you don’t grab mane and kick on?

Up and Over,
Rita Mae

Found the full title of the book on quantum biology which is published by Bantam Books. “Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology” by Jim Al-Khalili and John Joe McFadden, Bantam 368 pages. I don’t have a price in dollars but it must be around 40.
Also, for those of you who like fiction, this is the bicentennial of Anthony Trollope’s birth so I’m sure there will be new releases, etc. Like Dickens and Surtees he could create living, breathing characters that stay with you. And like Surtees, he was a passionate fox hunter and by all accounts, a good one. Virginia Woolf said of Trollope that readers believe in the reality of his characters “as we do in the reality of our weekly bills”.
For those of you fascinated by Virginia Woolf, there is a new book out on her and her sister, Vanessa. Haven’t read it. Perhaps some of you have.
I pass these things on because who knows when you will be imprisoned by rains, winds, sleet, bands of pirates. (Do read the letters of St. Paul. What a drama queen. First I was set upon by pirates, then a great tempest blew up, once on land I was attacked by thieves, etc. etc. I do think it possible to be a good Christian and a critical reader, although I do better on one side of that equation than the other.
Ever and Always,

Now’s the time to air out coats and vests before putting them up. Clean your boots and stuff them with newspapers or trees, if you have them.
For those of you wanting to add bespoke clothing to your wardrobe, this is the time to be measured for cubbing. The cutoff date for Opening Hunt is about mid-August, cubbing mid-July, at the latest.
Dee Phillips and I stopped by LK design in Richmond to look at fabrics and chat. The owner and designer, Lilya, (hope I spelled that correctly) is good company. Dee, Mary Shriver, John Western, and Sara Bateman, all wear jackets made for them by LK. The prices are very reasonable and of course, the fit, is perfect.
She has many fabrics there but for the hunt jackets and vests, best you bring along an idea of what you want i.e. Tattersall for a vest, or white on white for the most formal type of vest. As for jacket fabrics, she has some gorgeous tweeds but you will want to consider weight, when you’ll be wearing a jacket, etc.
Do talk to the above-mentioned members who will give a positive referral, but then you’ve seen them, which is the acid test. Should you be interested: LK Design, LLC –    414 Libby Ave., Richmond, VA, 23226 – 804-282-3555. Be sure to mention that you are from Oak Ridge.

Now is also the time to order bespoke boots. You all know of Dehner, as well as Vogle. Mark Catron also knows of a bookmaker, should you want to ask him. If you order now, you will have your boots in time for cubbing.
Boots made expressly for you are not cheap but when you’re in the field for four hours or so, in all kinds of weather, it does make a difference.

The last hunt, cold, slick, Dodger the house mutt, who was old enough to vote, came along per usual. However, I had locked him up as he had a stroke. He knew how to unlock the door and walked all the way down to The Arena where John and Toot put him in the truck so he could participate.
He was there for Closing Hunt and so many of you gave him a treat. He had also been in the truck offering, I’m sure, advice to John and Toot.
He couldn’t get into the car after the Closing Hunt party so Maria Johnson helped me put him in. Easier with two as we didn’t hurt him plus he weighed more than you might think.
Like Vandal and Allie, he’s gone on. He knew more about hunting than most of us but was a gentleman and didn’t lord it over anyone except for Tally, the Jack Russell. Those of you keeping company with a Jack Russell understand.
I thank you for tolerating a cur dog in the field and ultimately, I suspect many of you got a kick out of them. He was always there; ready to go no matter how hard or far the hunt and he always came home to a bowl of crunchies, a big sleep in his bed with many cats snuggling up.

Master’s Report February 2015

     No two foxhunts are alike. You could hunt the same fixture, same first cast, repeatedly. The results would vary wildly. This test, this continuous chaos, appeals to a definite personality, one that accepts, enjoys, perhaps, uncertainty. You can only truly hunt if you remain alert especially if you’re staff.
     On the football field, no matter where or when you play, it’s always one hundred yards, goalpost to goalpost. You have four downs in which to travel ten yards, thereby gaining another first yard. The field is ever flat.
     Hunting, unlike other sports, demands a protocol, centuries old in its present form. Prior to that it’s thousands of years old but the basics remain the same. Once you throw your leg over your horse, that’s it. Anything goes.
     Foxhunting really is a way of life more than a sport. Over the years, foxhunting frames your life. You look at non-hunting experiences sometimes in a hunting context, a more demanding context. The credit for this shift in your perspective goes to the fox.
     Like you, the fox is a predator. You have the advantage of size. He or she has every other advantage. Even borrowing a horse’s speed, the fox can engage in broken running better than any multi-million dollar halfback and usually outrun you. If he can’t outrun you, he leaves you in the lurch by other means.
The fox’s ability to process temperature, wind speed, terrain, distance, sound, scent killers is incomparable. Furthermore, he knows who you are and he knows the difference between when you’re wearing hunt kit and when you’re not. Such extraordinary natural gifts helps to explain why no two hunts are alike.
     Here’s another reason why. This is my thought on same, others may dissent. It is in human nature to look for patterns. For example, at Tea-Time Farm, we have the “water trough fox”. If I cast that way, I might pick him up (he is a dog fox) or I might not. If we do pick him up, he often heads toward the large black feeder box, also used far too often by the black bear. This forces us to negotiate a steep descent affording him some time from the hounds and a lot more time from us. I think of this particular descent as the Velcro descent. On the odd occasion, our water trough fox does the reverse, crosses St. Thomas Equinus Road, dashes into the woods. There he can hop into a den which is close to the road or he can, and sometimes does, go down into the creek there, emerging when he feels like it. By the time hounds discover his scent, where he clambered out, he’s safely gone probably enjoying a leisurely return to his den.
     Trying to establish a pattern wastes time. What works in human interactions costs you with a fox. Drawing for the water trough fox means you must wipe out any preconceived notion because if you operate on that, you are wrong-footed even if for a moment and it only takes a moment for him to dust you.
     First, you have to adjust to the fact that no, he didn’t go down the Velcro descent and, no, he isn’t going to circle back to do that. Cumbersome, time consuming and you have to admit you’re wrong. Humans aren’t very adept at admitting their mistakes. While you’ve zigged, he’s zagged.
     A fox can change his game plan so swiftly and at what seems to be a right angle. He may possess an ego, but he never has to defend it. Nor does he care how he looks to other foxes, humans, hounds or horses. All of his resources are employed toward one goal: to end the chase when he so chooses.
     So the only way to really hunt a fox is to throw your hounds out there, and follow them with this exception: if you hear or see them turning back, stop, wait a moment. If they don’t, kick on. If they do, pray you haven’t already fouled the line or worse, risked turning your fox. Our territory causes enough delays. Pretty much you try to stay on even terms with your quarry, but he can cross a swamp far easier than you can, he can befuddle hounds for a bit by running along a fallen tree trunk or better yet, a fence line and if he’s a gray, he can always climb a tree. (Many think a red can do the same. I don’t know.) But the horseman is at a disadvantage in rough territory or muck. Even the hounds can struggle in heavy undergrowth or dreadful footing. You press on and do the best you can but really, we’re pretty easy to lose unless on big open meadows.
     Those of you who have hunted for years, know the statement that a fox can choose when to end the chase isn’t Disney thinking. Foxes are recognizable as are hounds. One might have a large head. Another might be slender but with a deep red coat. Grays are what old timers called “slab-sided reds” meaning they had red on them, usually a gray body with a black tip if they had a tip. For me, the distinguishing feature is the white tip: always a red. But you can know who you are chasing if you’ve seen him a few times. And if he’s bored or tired, he’ll hit the den immediately. How, I don’t always know. Fox are magicians and can simply vanish. It drives the hounds to utter distraction. Me, too. On other occasions, this same fellow might grant you a thrilling run for forty-five minutes. Why? Who knows?
     But I do know they must learn to do this. This is one of the reasons we’re careful during cubbing. We’re not only training young entry, we are hoping the young fox also learns. So far, they have.
     Back to a fox recognizing hunt kit. This is demonstrated often at Tea-Time. You’re wearing jeans doing chores. He watches and if I’m walking without the house dogs, I used to have a red fox who would shadow me. Sardine, the fox who had to have lived way over ten years old, and lived behind HQ, would sit and watch goings-on. The minute she saw me walking to the stable in hunt kit, she’d pop into her den. She was not a girl for Zumba.
     Many of you have had similar experiences or observations. When you tell non-foxhunters, they think you’re making it up, just like the incredible fall day a fox hopped a ride in the back of the late Posey Dent’s red Wagoneer with the back tailgate down. Actually, you couldn’t make that up. How we all screamed for Posey to stop, but she motored on and I expect her passenger took his leave when she braked at a cross roads. He certainly didn’t jump out before, as Posey could, and did boogie.
     These sightings, experiences, enrich you and also perhaps force you to consider the limitations of the human mind. We measure every other creature by our mental abilities. We are smart enough not to do this with our physical abilities. The reality is many animals can reason, can solve problems (hounds are great problem solvers) and can make a split second decision. No fiddling around. Many also have built-in intricate navigation systems. Others recognize themselves as individuals in the mirror. Most of the higher vertebrates are able to retain and respond to human language. They have their own languages, which use their bodies more than we do, but they also create different tones, utterances, etc. An interesting study, years back, proved that animals also know the difference between human languages. If a new human comes into their space, who speaks German as opposed to English, they know. As the fox is a canine, he will possess many of the abilities we find in our domesticated canines. What’s frustrating about all this is that for so many people, nothing is real unless a scientist proves same with a study. I always wonder about the control group myself. Those of us born with animals, raised with animals are accused of anthropomorphizing. I am not doing that. I freely admit that say, a fox, knows more in many areas than I do and, furthermore, has a brain that can process information at warp speed. I’m bumbling along at sixty miles an hour. Surely, you, too, are frustrated with other people’s inability to respect animal intelligence and linguistic abilities.
     As to linguistic abilities, it seems an understanding of “Whoa” comes and goes.
     All of this is for you to consider on a cold night. The more you study your quarry, the more you respect him.
     A brief example. On January 18, we hunted from Tea-Time Farm. The first run was ok but cut short by the fact that the fox crossed 611 and we did not have permission to hunt Foxden that day, which is exactly where he went. So I headed back to pick up a fox a two-couple splinter group had run. I did get the line, fading though it was. The fox had gone to the back of the kennels, which erupted. The sound filled one’s ears to the point where you couldn’t hear. It was so explosive for the kennel hounds were utterly wild, that staff had no idea where the hunting hounds were. Eventually, I did gather them behind the kennels. The fox was long gone and I was in muck. Instead of foiling his line, this fox used sound to get away. Pretty impressive. But then, that’s one of the reasons you’re out there.
     January 25, footing proved daunting at Cherry Hill. This provides a good example to review hunting etiquette.
     1. A Master’s feet are never to touch the ground.
     2. A Huntsman’s feet are never to touch the ground unless s/he so chooses to get into a difficult covert or to provide an extra boost to hounds that day.
     3. If a gentleman is present in First Flight, the Field Master may ask “gate, please” or he asks the Field Master for permission to dismount and open the gate.
     We had two closed gates, one stuck in the mud, and Jim Finn dismounted, opened same. For the second one, cattle in the pasture, he wisely remained at that gate while Sandra Dawson rode forward, crossed the creek to open the second. This was all properly and quietly accomplished.
     Jim, both times, remounted like a man in his thirties. How he does this, I don’t know, but he does it. John Western closed the gates.
     For the record, Jim and Kevin McKenna, two seasoned hunters, routinely perform this service. Both of them making it appear effortless.
     The basic rule is this task should first fall to a gentleman unless, for some reason, he is incapacitated. Some of you may see this as sexist, but foxhunting operates under the assumption that a gentleman looks after a lady. Really, I don’t see this as sexist. <en like being men and I owe, over the years, my ability to ride up to hounds to the services of gentlemen.
     Should a gentleman not be present in the field or say he is back in Third Flight, then this falls to the youngest woman in First Flight. We have young women still learning the protocol of the hunt field. Often this task is performed by Kathleen King, who is one year older than I am. She also has a perfect horse. Kim Eastep also is quick to get a gate. Then again, Kim is much younger than either Kathleen or myself.
     The moral of this tale, apart from admiration for our seemingly ageless and helpful gate volunteers is, if you are female, under fifty and reading this, practice. If you are under forty, practice more. If you are under thirty, we expect to see you remount in a single bound. Okay, maybe a step, then a hop.
     One other rule, someone stays back with the gate closer. When he remounts, you both move off.
VINCENT MIGLIORE – March 1, 1958 – January 17, 2015
     Saturday, January 24, 2015, many Oak Ridge Club members filled St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Glen Allen to say goodbye to Vinnie Migliore. The church was filled with people who came to bid farewell to a bright light.
     In America, we seem to measure success by outward trappings, especially money. Vinnie was successful by material standards, but his true success rested on deeper strata. He loved unconditionally. He spoke from the heart and he gave from the heart. He couldn’t turn a blind eye to suffering. If he could help, he did. It’s a wonder he didn’t wear himself out helping others. People would hear his voice and smile before they saw him. If Vinnie was around, everything would be all right.
     He lifted his glass to toast his good fortune and to toast yours. Best if it was Woodford Reserve and then we’d all toast life in general.
     Vinnie didn’t talk about Christianity. He practiced it. Through his works ye shall know him. And we did.
     He was so handsome and a good athlete. That and his warm personality attracted women. And yes, he did marry a beautiful woman, as one would expect, but Sue was/is so intelligent. She could keep up with him. He had the great sense to marry a true life partner, someone who loved him enough to bring the best out of him. They brought the best out of one another. This vibrant and abiding love brought forth a daughter, Alyssa, who took the best of both.
     His daughter delivered his eulogy, a testimony to the man, a testimony to why a father’s love is critically important to his children. Those of us privileged to hear Alyssa, voice steady, will ever remember what she said and how she said it.
     And we will ever remember this buoyant, exuberant, lovable and loving man. To that end we publish Vinnie’s List of Guiding Principles. His own words are a better tribute than anything I can write.
     In Sympathy,
     Rita Mae Brown
Vinnie’s List of Guiding Principles:
1.  Always do the right thing.
2.  Live each day with courage.
3. Take pride in your work, and always work hard.
4.  Always finish what you start.
5.  Do what has to be done.
6.  Be tough, but fair.
7.  When you make a promise, keep it.
8.  Be prompt; always be on time.
9.  Talk less and say more (learning to listen).
10. Remember that some things aren’t for sale.
11. Know where to draw the line.
      (By Vinnie Migliore 2015)
     After leading First Flight, through hateful mud at Cherry Hill, Priscilla Friedberg, joined by her tall son, Andrew, attacked the persistent problem we’ve endured at the eastern crossing of the main creek. They cut out the exposed roots and cut branches off the fallen tree trunk on the other side of the creek. As this is our only crossing except for the one straight down from where we park the trailers, this will be a great help to us.
     After that, these two walked all the way up to Lem’s Hideaway to cut branches, etc. off the tree across the path there. As that is a difficult, narrow passage, it’s now clear. We always have foxes at Lem’s Hideaway, if they choose to come out.
     Thank you to mother and son. If any of you have ever worked on tail clearing with Priscilla, you know why we call her “Chainsaw Momma”.