Master’s Report January 2015

     All men are created equal. All women are not. Our late neighbor, Mr. Jefferson, might be surprised at this statement. His relationship with women, starting with his mother, was, for lack of a better word, shifty. What a fascinating man, bristling with contradictions, a bit like members of Oak Ridge Hunt Club.
     I delight in your eccentricities, yours and my contradictions, your kindness and your sometimes raucous humor. Thank God. No one in this club will ever be bored.
     2015 awaits. Let’s tear it up!
     Rita Mae and The Hounds
     Studies vary on this but “Ducks Unlimited”, Jan./Feb. issue 2015, just published a report on retriever caloric needs in cold weather: 80% more calories per pound.
     Foxhounds, while swimming across rivers, creeks and ponds, perhaps need a bit less. However, they do need more for, like their gun dog brethren, they might be out four to five hours. While the gun dog sits a great deal of time, the foxhound keeps moving.
     The other accelerated need is water. Hounds need more water for their digestive system. While they drink during hunting, we always have plenty of fresh, clean water once back at the kennel.
     Our food bills shoot upwards in the winter, as does the electric bill. You don’t pay the electric bill but you do contribute to the food bill via your dues.
     Three factors have pumped up the bill: winter, a new feed, a few more hounds. We changed the food last year as Chestnut Hill altered their feed. I like to try things for one full year and we switched to a bigger commercial brand, more expensive but no hounds have lost weight. Yes, we have a few with very high metabolisms. We could stuff them three times a day, they will stay lean. Also, our M line doesn’t put on weight until their third year. A few of them are lean.
     John and Toot monitor the food before I get to it. Chestnut Hill had proven wonderful plus it was a Virginia company and we were doing business with friends. We didn’t want to switch foods but necessity drove us to it and the hounds look good.
     Much as you’d like a touch of fat on them in winter, that’s the time you can’t add a little lard. Fat is warming but right now, mid-season, the hounds have reached their true hunting condition. During the bitter cold we pick them up as soon as the hunt is over. Even in the party wagon, their body heat helps.
     No Oak Ridge hound has ever suffered from hypothermia or frostbite. Now that we have the tracking collars, as always, thanks to Stuart Jones, this worry is off our shoulders. We are always working toward perfection concerning hound care and altering feed due to the season is one of those special tasks.
     As the food bills are up, we must find homes for some older hounds and we have two Z youngsters, just coming on one year, that we could give to someone. This is a blood line that needs to prove itself and if it does, we still have enough young ones to go forward. Maria, John, Toot and I (and any other whipper-in so inclined) will make a list, post photos and perhaps some of you will be kind enough to give a friend a home.
     Mid-season. Can you believe it? The hound work has been excellent. The weather has not. There were days when we had four seasons in one day.
     For all that and deer season to boot, we continually pushed out foxes, lately traveling in pairs. While we have enjoyed a few long runs, mostly they’ve been short. The fox either goes to ground or we lost scent in the wind or rising heat. Perhaps the rising heat loss is over, so I look forward to those true winter runs.
     We returned to Cherry Hill since our encounter with Flower. Miss Henderson told us that Flower had been to the back porch. She swore she had never seen a skunk that big. Yes, we agreed. Hounds, whippers-in and myself are hoping that Flower will keep to himself for the remainder of the season.
     Maria has helped with the fixture card, I’m still making the landowner calls. Call the huntline. The wonderful experience of being Amtrack’s first writer-in-residence put me back and on my return I had but one week to get things together.
     I especially thank Kathleen King and Kim Eastep in giving me a day of their time to help deliver landowner Christmas gifts. This year it took four days and I have seven presents still outstanding. This is an important hunt club function and a delightful one.
     I also thank Karen and Mark Catron for feeding us on Christmas day when we finished that day’s run. Kathleen, Kim and I will ever remember our Christmas dinner.
     Hounds and I will see you in the hunt field.
     Rita Mae

Master’s Report

Flower’s First Hunt…..
     Sunday, November 23, 2014, hounds met at Cherry Hill at  9 AM.
     Overcast, chilly but not cold, the ground was dry but a hint of moisture played in the air. You could feel a front coming in. The question for hounds and I, would it come soon enough?
     Ten couple rolled down the farm road, poked around in the tobacco sheds, kept going. Allie veered into the pasture behind the second tobacco barn and a few hounds accompanied her. Others stayed to the left of the road. Lots of feathering but no opening.
     Down at the creek, the black coop to one’s right, the pack bounded across the creek and worked with more interest. Piper opened, then Allie opened and Orchid jumped in but remained quiet. Within minutes the pack crossed through the creek to the south side and kept working. The bank rises, is steep, there’s but one path up. Becky Birnbaum rode up to the crest and moved along while Maria Johnson pushed ahead of the creek path. Hounds worked up, came back and kept on for a half hour, moving ever eastwards. Allie almost ran out of the territory but she returned to the horn. There’s thick mountain laurel at the tight end of the creek before climbing the hill and everyone nosed around in there. A den, at the base of a tree, attracted attention but no action.
     Finally, we rode to the top of the hill, could see Variety Mills Road. Pack together again, although Allie was lagging. We rode along the woods’ path at the edge of the big meadow, down we returned to the creek.
     A light wind presented no problem but the dried leaves and hard ground made scenting difficult. I hunted back the way I came, I rarely do that, but I thought hounds and I might pick up a fox in the pasture where Allie nosed about. Tried the edge of that, by the creek. Nothing, up we went to the lovely top of that chunk of land, made a circle, came down by the coop, steep, and drew the feeder creek. There’s a den there and I hoped that nice red had taken a stroll. Hounds raced ahead. Well, this went on and on with the same result, a bit of boo hoo but no real music or run. And we did pick up some of the red’s scent in the woods behind Miss Henderson’s sheds.
     Trolling the pasture, all at once the pack exploded. Joyous music. My back was turned as hounds circled behind me, came in front of me, ran back and the music filled the air. People started yelling. Priscilla Friedberg led First Flight. Just as I trotted up, hounds coming straight for me, I spied a large black animal. We have black foxes at Cherry Hill, a moment of hope surged. “Was a black fox visiting our red fox a bit early?” Hounds bellowed then shut up. Not a peep.
     The quarry, a skunk, large enough to be a cocker spaniel, fired. The lead hounds rolled on the ground, eyes stinging and a wall of fragrance wafted over the pasture. The skunk, not at all worried, ambled to the red fox den and popped in. If the fox minded, he or she had sense enough to be a genial host.
     The tail hounds came up and backed off. However, Mocha, a first year entry, knew her job was to dig. In she went, butt up in the air, tail wagging. Not a good place to be. Had I gotten off to grab her stern and pull her out, we’d both receive another blast and worse, the pack would come to me.
     So, I did the sensible thing, I blew the four distinct notes and sure enough, the first whipper-in to appear was Maria. I made her do it while I led off the pack. Fortunately, she didn’t have to dismount as Mocha listened to her and did notice, once she stuck her head out of the den, that the long end of a thong dangled near, too near.
     Had Maria wished to take revenge, she could have hugged me once were back at the trailers. She restrained herself but both of us wore a light dash of eau de peu.
     Kept hunting, but the poor hounds could only smell those skunked the worst.
     While this was not our best hunt, it certainly will go down as an unforgettable one.
     At the tailgate, Miss Henderson on her ATV, we all toasted the skunk which Amy Burke dubbed Flower, for the skunk in “Bambi”. Let’s hope that was Flower’s first and last hunt.

Thanksgiving Hunt and Master’s Report

     The Weather Channel, using the American model and the European, gives two different forecasts for Wednesday, Nov. 26. The European model predicts snow for Wednesday.
     Given that this is Thanksgiving Eve, so many of you have big plans, lots of people under roof, let me make an early call.
     If it does snow, I will cancel Friday’s hunt and move our High Holy Day to next Sunday.
     As you must braid, see to guests, this will be more difficult if the weather is bad. Even if it clears for Friday, braiding wondering if you can trailer out for Friday morning seems an unnecessary stress.
     If the weather holds and the American model is correct, of course, we will hunt.
     Look for an early call Wednesday evening. 540-456-8787 Huntline
     The bad weather, if it comes, should not affect Saturday’s foot hunt. That call will also be on the Huntline by early Friday evening.
THE CHILDREN’S HUNT…..please park at The Run-In Shed
      Thanksgiving, the second High Holy Day, is our children’s hunt. A brief review of our modus operandi is in order.
     Thanksgiving Hunt begins with awarding of the hunt button and colors.
     After this happy occasion, Huntsman and staff take a handful of steady Eddies, the children follow. As some are on lead line, this isn’t a long walk, usually down to the polo field. After the kids have walked behind hounds, perhaps seen a fox, they return to the trailers.
     Then the adults walk, trot down to the Arena where the rest of the hounds await us and off we go.
     Should a fox appear when you are with the children, here’s the drill. Stand still. The Huntsman will stand still. The whippers-in will stay with the hounds. Parents, friends will turn the children back to the trailers. Once the Huntsman and the Field Master determine that moving off will not frighten the kids or set off their ponies, adults will go toward the hounds.
NOVEMBER 29, Waldingfield Beagles, 3 pm
     Eat too much? Run it off with the beagles at Tea Time Farm, meeting at the Upper Barn. If you have visitors, children, too, this is an excellent way to introduce them to hunting with hounds. People are on foot, can get close to the beagles, see the action.
     The beagles run much like foxhounds but the circles are smaller, the range of the game, rabbit, being smaller. The biggest difference between beagling and foxhunting is when beagling, you are hunting a prey animal. When foxhunting, you are hunting a predator.
     Actually, when beagling, you hunt what the fox hunts. It is instructive for those fox hunters who wish to learn more about their quarry, but most of all, it’s great fun. Better yet, no one will part company with their horse.
     Following the run, we celebrate with a tea.
     Hope to see you Saturday.
     Oak Ridge, vast and beautiful, always delights us as well as our guests. November 9 proved no exception. True to form the day became warm. When hounds were picked up we had various temperature readings from 68*F to 73*F.
     Sixty five to seventy five riders went out. The number is a bit shaky because some returned early. There were thirty car followers. Hard to believe but yes, thirty, and the breakfast hosted over two hundred and twenty people including Oak Ridge’s wonderful Hollands and other landowners, without whom we would enjoy no sport.
     We picked up two foxes but scent didn’t hold. We ended on a coyote and there again, scent didn’t hold. Dee Phillips, whipper-in viewed and the field saw some lovely hound work. Not much of a run though. Then again, would it be Opening Hunt without unseasonable warmth and spotty scent?
     Mark and Karen Catron won the Jean Beegle Award amidst much cheering. Their name, engraved on the silver platter, now follows eight or is it nine others? At any rate, it is a high honor and much deserved.
     Wayne Dawson won the Guess-the-Temperature-at-Noon award and promptly donated the monies to the hounds.
     I was thrilled because the hounds did the best they could in the circumstances and also for the very first time I was able to sample some of the over-the-top hunt breakfast. I actually managed to eat half a plate, a victory of sorts.
     The formal season is now upon us.
     Good Hunting,
     Always and Ever,
     Rita Mae

Master’s Report October 2014

Dear ORH Member,
     Cubbing started Friday, September 12th. Hounds opened in five minutes and never stopped until I picked them up two hours later. Each successive cub hunt was essentially the same story. All with multiple views until Friday, September 26 and Sunday, September 28. The heat came back on us, humidity so-so, but it slowed us down. For all that, hounds tried and tried, doing what was asked of them, even the first year entry.
     I am pleased with the hounds and await cooler weather. The people have been good, too. Everyone is hauling themselves out of bed in the darkness, tacking up, mounting up and riding full throttle until the last two hunts. Somehow it all works out and I am looking forward to a brilliant fall, foliage and hunting.
     We took a small draft from Warrenton Hun and another one and a half couple from Radnor Hunt. They’ve worked into the pack and are good citizens.
     We had many old hounds who pushed through the hard winter, but earned their retirement. Hence these two small drafts. Keswick and Deep Run have also offered a few hounds which will be a big help as our numbers plummeted. This is a testimony to our hound practices in that we can keep hounds hunting to a good old age, at least once a week if nothing else. What an assist that has been for our youngsters.
     Now with a young to middle aged pack, a few seniors out there, you have enjoyed the summer training which the older hounds put into them, as well as John, Toot, Maria, Sonia, Stuart and myself. Occasionally Mary Shriver could make it, but the core group was out there at 8 am every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Given our cubbing season so far, this has really paid off.
     The revitalization of the kennels, outfitting a stand alone wooden kennel with a gambrel roof up at the house, makes a big difference, too. Still need to insulate the gambrel kennel which was originally a basset kennel. For years I’ve tried to get that nice extra run fenced down at the Main kennel (we even have a donated trailer) but I haven’t been successful in the fund raising. So this will help us somewhat. The most important thing is it’s warm and tight.
     The goal has been to lower the electric costs, combat winter’s freezing of the water, as well as to provide plenty of recreation space. Bill Johnson will install our waterers and that, too, is a savings. As you know labor costs are a killer and Bill keeps coming through for us.
   The extra condo built by Wayne Dawson, Dave Pritchard, Bob Satterfield, Gib Stevenson, and Bill Johnson has proven to be a big favorite with the hounds in the large youngster run. If I forgot anyone on the building group, forgive me, tell me and I will correct my error.
     As we ramp up to another season, I think everyone has seen the improvements. Doesn’t mean there isn’t more to do. There always is but this summer has been a summer of progress.
     Thank you all.
     Up and Over,
     Rita Mae
COOKIES….we need more cookies…..
     Long lasting, no freeze waterers are modestly priced. Bill Johnson, as I said, will install them. They average about $250/waterer with one a double. We need eight. If anyone would like to donate one for the hounds, send a check to David.
     Lots of hound kisses to LIz Taylor, as they now have their own washing machine. The horses have their own washing machine, too, thanks to Mark and Karen Catron. Hounds have laundry, as do the horses, and this is a godsend.
     These demand a call usually two days before a hunt day due to harvesting, plowing for winter wheat, etc. And now deer season is upon us. This means we lose Carter’s land until January, 2015.
     This will be the first year that landowners may allow deer hunters to hunt on Sunday. Some will and some won’t. Right now, we don’t know what our various landowners will do. We know Miss Henderson will not allow any deer hunting at ant time, nor will Jim and Joan Klemic. Oak Ridge has a paying deer hunting club. We do not yet know if the Hollands will allow Sundaydeer hunting. We will tell you when we know. It may be possible, if Sundays are permitted, to hunt one quadrant of Oak Ridge while the deer hunters have the rest.
     This also holds for Gene Dixon’s lands. Some of those acres have paying hunt clubs.
     The new law has all of us scratching our heads, not just Oak Ridge.
     As always, we will hope for the best and support our landowners with whatever their decision. Always bear in mind, the deer hunters pay. We do not.
     Busy as Cat’s Hair,

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.