We’re calling it early! The Hunter Pace will be held on the rain date, Sunday September 3.
You can describe the last part of our season as an artist would describe his or her income: chicken one day, feathers the next. 74° followed by snow flurries at Cherry Hill, snow and ice yesterday and today, March 14.
The foxes don’t care. We’ve had one slow day and one blank day, sure there was a boo-hoo but pretty much it was blank. The other hunts varied from long runs on one fox to foxes everywhere, a convention of foxes.
Sunday, March 5 the fixture was moved to Tea Time Farm. Maria cast up the creek from The Arena, always a nice cast to settle the bank, focus them as the creek is on their left and woods are on their right. They hit. Sounded great. I drove up to St. Thomas Equinus sign and waited. If hounds turned right, one can quickly follow, if left, stay put.
They circled, some of emerging in the large pasture at the sign, the southern pasture, then they dipped back into the woods and the cutover area. On a hunch, I have no idea why but I guess that’s the definition of a hunch, I drove down toward the now hanging by one hook old Tea Time farm sign, passed the stone jump, such a pleasant jump, reached the red gate and stopped. Listened some more.
Hounds kept circling, speaking. I opened the gate, walked into the field, stood still. To my left the hunted fox walking, not terribly concerned, crossed the farm road, sauntered into the pasture where I stood, paraded himself in front of me, shot the bird, walked to the remnants of the hidden pile and the old large round drag, paused so that I could admire his person, looked at the jump there, listened. Hounds cross the road so he trotted into the woods. A mid-sized red, full winter coat, quite a handsome fellow. I wonder was he auditioning for a part in the Sister Jane series? Never underestimate the ego of fox.
Maria heard my “Tally Ho”, rode up. She urged hounds to the spot where he trotted into the woods and they opened like the organ in St. John’s Cathedral. All voices raised, all on. They flew. What a thrilling sound.
On and on they flew. After three hours, Maria lifted them, turned for home and wouldn’t you know, they hit in the cutover cornfield, over at the slough of despond (remember your Pilgrims Progress). She and the whippers-in finally convinced them to move along.
A couple of hounds, footsore from the long hard runs over hard ground and rock in some places, needed to sit out the next three hunts. Yes, there were some hound noses out of joint but they’ll be out Friday, March 17 and Sunday, March 19, Closing Hunt.
This is why green tins of bag balm are in our little medicine chest. Works. Works for us, too but hope no one takes a notion to run over our territory barefoot.
Both Emert and Chellowe provided good runs.
What a glorious memory our Fall 2016, Winter 2017 will be. Our 24th year.
Which brings me to a preaching moment. May we have more and more years. May your grandchildren’s grandchildren have the good fortune to celebrate the bounty and beauty of Nature. Focus, thought, political engagement and doing all we can to secure property is the way. So think. Look ahead and look around. Let’s preserve all this for those who come after us including the foxes.
Kathleen King kindly agreed to work with the Nelson County Historical Society in the hopes of a fox hunting display. Some kind soul gave the society the first hunting horn used by Oak Ridge back in 1887. She’ll give us updates and marching orders.
ANIMAL SAFETY IN CRISIS
The fire at the large clapboard house perhaps a quarter of a mile up the road from Ashley’s got many of us thinking. Fortunately the people and five dogs made it to safety. One kitty is missing. Don’t know if she has been found.
Animal rescue and/or our fire department have no trailers to transport large animals in need. We can get the fire department a list of people with trailers but in an emergency at a farm it would be much better if the equipment was with them.
Once hunting season is over and once I’ve returned from a small tour, I’ll talk to Bette Graham, the founder and head of Almost Home. More than anyone, Bette has worked with county agencies. She’ll know the steps to take. None of us want to make a misstep. I have no idea of jurisdictions, etc. I just know our fire and animal rescue often lack this equipment.
Mark Catron has spoken to a few people and he thinks Southern States will put up some funds for a trailer. Another person with a wealth of knowledge is Dr. Jessica Ligon so I will talk to her early April. Dr. Ligon is our hounds’ vet. Apart from her skill she is very practical. There you have it. We’ll keep you posted.
After a hunt at the tailgate, you all heard the lament of the power washer. Unless you have a commercial grade power washer, a used one is about $5500 (I’ve been looking), if you squeeze two years out of them, good. Everyone politely listened. Mark said he would raise the money. He did not. He went out and bought a new Troy Built power washer, delivered it himself to the farm.
Hounds thank you, John and Toot thank you and I thank you.
Bob Satterfield spoke to Gene Dixon. The hunt would be more fun, easier to do in the fall. He was very willing to allow Chellowe and to be the venue. Gene, generous to a fault, has made so much land available to us over the years, when I tell other masters the acreage we have to hunt that is private land not state parks or state forests, all are astonished unless they are west of the Mississippi waters. Lynn Lloyd has joint meets in California at a fixture that is 80,000 acres. We’re all lucky.
The weather, wildly unpredictable, worked against make-up hunts. I refuse to hunt into April because the vixens are heavy. Usually they stay close to their den but should anyone go further, we can’t take that chance.
In a normal season we average about 62 to 66 hunts per season, depending on where the holidays fall. That is a good average. If I add in the second and fourth Wednesdays for September and October that bumps it up by four hunts. I would really like to add every Wednesday after Opening Hunt. The more hounds go out, the better for the pack. The afternoon hunts are small fields because not many of you get off work but we have never had a blank Wednesday. Should I write that? Will it jinx the future? I don’t think so. That 4 o’clock fox keeps a precise timetable plus he’s hungry. But if we don’t have the staff to do every Wednesday after Opening Hunt, we can at least keep to our second and fourth Wednesdays.
Bill Johnson’s sudden death on October 26, followed a few days later by Vey Martini’s unexpected passing, then our wonderful Anne Henderson left us, plunging all of us into sorrow. The services for each of our friends reminded us of why we loved and admired them. Many of you came, some driving great distances so we could be together in this mournful time. Each of these individuals would want us to remember the good times, the laughter, the bracing chats at tailgates.
In time, each of us will rediscover the joy they gave us, celebrate the joys to come. If we don’t embrace life, we repudiate their memories. Our challenge is to live life up to Bill, to Vey, to Ms. Henderson. I believe you will.
Heat and drought didn’t deter our hounds. They found scent, would lose it, press on and find it again. The runs, mostly short, offered some reward. Hounds did enjoy a few longer runs.
However, the rains have come, the mercury has plunged. The only impediment now is deer season. We have about another month of that. Our quarry sits tight so it takes more to get them up and running. Also, occasionally deer hounds, left out, join our hounds. The kids stick to the way business.
Grays will soon start breeding, followed by the reds. This is the best time of every season. The hardest part is keeping your fingers and toes warm. You can forget the cold during a hard run; it’s the checks that get you. Still, it is as they used to say back in the 1940’s, “very heaven”.
November 26, Saturday, the Waldingfield Beagles hunted from Tea Time. It appeared a hopeless day: windy and the tail end of that damned drought. Casting down by the lower barn, Amy Burke, carrying the horn, moved northward. The north branch of the Rockfish River, way below offered some rising moisture and strange to report, the tiny little feeder creeks still trickled. After 15 minutes of brisk walking, with some of the field casting a nervous eye at the steep drop to their left, we pushed into the area where my northernmost pasture abuts the creek between Jim and Joan Klemic’s land and mine. Zap. Out shot a flying rabbit, zigging and zagging for all he was worth. Beagles hopped on that hot line, immediately and we ran up and down, into brambles, over rocks for an hour and a half with only a few checks. That was a sporting bunny who finally ducked into a safe haven. Amy, still energetic, pick hounds up near the run-in shed by my house. What a tour de force of exciting hound work on a day I wouldn’t have given a nickel for, really. Goes to show, you never know.
Unfortunately, not one Oak Ridge member was there to see this incredible run. Nor was there any food back in Headquarters. Bob had dropped off the drinks in the morning but that was it. Page Turner hurried to Ashley’s. All that was left was fried chicken but we were all famished. Not one piece remained.
Thanksgiving weekend jams everyone’s schedule. In the past we have had some participation for beagling. Granted, it’s never as much as I would wish but I must realize, at long last, that few people love hound work as much as I do and even fewer want to run on foot. It’s not reasonable for me to expect you to join me as I listen to that music.
Speaking of music, our hound chorus grows louder and deeper. The young entry, now part of the pack, are learning to sing as opposed to squealing. Oh, there’s a high pitched squeak every now and then but they’re getting it. How that sound makes those sultry July and August walks worth it and how I wish Stuart Jones were with me to hear it. The fuss from him if someone sang soprano! I’d counsel patience. He actually listened after venting and once the singers learn to harmonize, we were like two little kids, silly with happiness.
We exhibited a bit of nervousness hunting from Cherry Hill, Friday, December 2. Turned out it was lovely to be there. We felt Ms. Henderson and she sent us a few foxes. One was viewed running out of the territory. The other one, elusive, kept the hounds focused. As you know, Cherry Hill is not easy. The fox has all the advantages. Maria cast counterclockwise, starting from the graveyard. At the end of the day, hounds had reached the huge pasture across from the Brethren church on Variety Mills Road.
With only one whipper-in, Becky Birnbaum, one is always a bit nervous near a paved, well used road. The pasture, filled with cattle, seemed just fine, a hint of scent down by the creek but the day was done, so we thought. The cattle charged the hounds who ran toward the road. Becky, not a second’s hesitation, rode right at the cattle driving them down to the creek. Thank God, Priscilla, Sue Satterfield and Jane Andrews, each leading a field, flew up to the fence line. Hounds now had a wall of horses as Becky kept pushing the cattle down and away. Everybody made it to the trailers in good order. Quick thinking, good work. Cheers for all.
The next hunt at the Cistern, colder, saw another long run with interruptions. The best part was the coyote they were chasing ran 6 feet in front of John Morris walking the fixture. Fearless fellow, both of them!
Before signing off, I must mention the Fashion Show, November 13 at the Paramount. A smash. We wondered if anyone would come to this inaugural event. Come, the place was packed. The string quartet established the mood, Dorothy Chhuy’s paintings put us right into the foxhunting vistas and the models, walking down that runway like pros (some were) displayed the best turnout ever.
Mark Catron came up with the idea, organizing most of it. Marian Maggiolo of Horse Country selected the models, the clothes, the music for the runway. Truly, it was fabulous. Lynn Lloyd, MFH of Red Rock Hounds, flew in from Reno, Nevada for it and Jane Winegardner, MFH of Woodford Hounds drove over from Lexington, Kentucky. Grosvenor and Rosie Merle-Smith, MFH of Tennessee Valley Hunt as well as their daughter Nicolette added to the MFH number. There may have been more and forgive me for not knowing all that. I was working the show, a little lecture with slides, thanks to help from Dee Phillips, on the history of hunting fashion. Did anyone remember the talk about fabrics, cutting on the bias, garters? No. They all remember underpants and bras. What fun. Lynn wants me to bring this to Reno. Now Marion and I and Mark are not exactly unwilling but it has crossed our minds that we may encounter strippers. Mercy. I think Mark is already looking at flights. Marion and I are scandalized, just scandalized.
Speaking of coming up with good ideas, Ronnie Thornton kicked off our kennel upgrade with a challenge. She threw a big wad of cash into the bucket. It worked. What a fund raiser. I am reminded that fundraising is the second oldest profession. I must remember to ask Ronnie about that. The money rolled in and then Mark Catron dropped off a load of two by sixes. The next thing I knew the kennels were full of men wearing tool belts and two women as well, Sara Bateman and Kathleen King. Show me a girl with a power drill. Actually show me anyone with a power drill. The workmanship was precise and pretty fast. What a huge difference this has made already. We will save money on our electric bill, keep the water warm no matter what the outside temperature, and keep the hounds cozy, too. We are already saving man-hours. John and Toot are thrilled.
I do not have a list of everyone who worked on this project. If I can get one, I will publish it because we had quite a team. I cannot thank you all enough.
On another note, I ask your indulgence. Due to all that has transpired plus my rewrite (finished!) I have not gotten the jump signs painted. If I can get the fixture card put to bed, I will get the materials to the sign painter before Christmas. If not, immediately there after.
The response to this idea has been wonderful. I had not a clue to what an educated group you all are. Better yet, we can and do ignore it when we feel like it. Thank you for your patience.
What 2017 will bring us, I don’t know but I know we are equal to it.
Up and over,
If you intend to name a jump, please let me know your school colors. Getting to me now will allow us to put up the signs before winter hits. Also, letting me know now, will allow me to get these signs made all at once. Traveling back and forth to the sign painter’s is difficult.
Please send your $100 to David Wheeler. Send the name of your school and the colors to Lynn Stevenson, who will pass them on to me so I can get this done. If you don’t have a jump in mind, Maria Johnson and I will select one. So far we have 10 jumps picked out.
We are not allowing presidential candidates to sponsor signs!
Liz Taylor has written a check to rise to the Thornton Challenge. She wishes everyone to know it is not for the same amount but she did her best, which is very good indeed. Thanks also to Kristin Jones for her wondrously generous check…how thrilled we are and thank you to Tom and MJ Timmerman, who we miss very much, for their donation.
All of this is allowing us to extend the roof, the insulation, in the main kennels. Mark Catron has bought twenty-one 2X6’s so we can get started. We need roofing material and some lights, as well as heavy wood for the outside gates and stall mats to be cut and placed into those doors. Bill Johnson is in charge.
John and Toot estimate that this extension will save them four hours work per day during winter. The hounds will be happy, too.
I bought the propane heaters for both kennels which will save a lot on electricity and add more warmth. The cost of filling both large tanks $600 and we think this will last most of the winner as we need only keep the thermostat in the mid-50s at most.
This will also save on plumbing costs. We received enough funds for Nelson waterers but not enough for the installation which is complicated and expensive especially for indoors. This way, I’ve re-jigged the kennels so what we do have can be placed outside at a considerable installation savings. If you think hard enough, walk the kennels enough and always, talk to the hounds, you find a way.
Bob Satterfield says he will get our men (and ladies, if so inclined) together to knock out this roof and the installation.
Those winds played havoc with some trees down at the kennels. Too complicated for us to remove. Mark Catron has found a tree remover, a small operation, who will do this for us at no cost if we allow him to sell the lumber. He can’t get to us until winter but we have agreed.
With sadness laced with gratitude, we bid goodbye to Tattoo who died in his sleep and to that loving Baby Girl, who left us peacefully. They knew they were loved.
As great hounds leave us, youngsters take their place. Cotton, first year entry, a draft from Lili Wykle, impressed everyone. Flapper, another first-year entry, a draft from Deep Run, was confused at first but has settled right in.
The M litters, two from the first litter and more from the second, are now the leaders of our pack. Beautiful movers, keen and very biddable, we are thrilled with them. Dorky, from Orange County, also dazzles us and he has a real no-quit work ethic. His voice, basso profundo is unmistakable.
All of the young hounds, bred by us or drafted in, are doing so well. Lilac, no youngster, as always, is still the last one in. You have to beg her and she likes to drag it out but she does come to the party wagon. She also makes sure you see her roll in.
Last Sunday’s hunt, October 2, not the best of conditions but hounds managed a twenty minute run, a stop here and there and a rediscovery of the line. What will stay in memory is back at the tailgate when some of us looked skyward to see the female bald eagle pass over us low. Perhaps she was cruising the table.
WILLIAM WOODS UNIVERSITY VISIT
The students will be here October 21-23. We will need sixteen horses. If there‘s a change in that number, you will receive an email. Of all the things Oak Ridge does, this is one of the most important as well as one of the most satisfying. These good riders are the next generation of professional horsemen. All are in Equine Studies and those hand-picked to make the trip must keep a high grade point average. Most have never hunted and they quickly learn why hunting is the backbone of so many equestrian sports
In the past, you all have been so hospitable both on the field and off, that there visits are becoming legendary. The girls (mostly girls) who can’t make the trip want to know everything. When I visit in my responsibility as a trustee, they talk to me and I tell them I can’t select them. That is up to their department chair and the director of the whole program. But I do invite them to come here on their own, if possible. Oak Ridge will never turn away young person interested fox hunting. Isn’t it an energy boost to be out in the field with these young people? I don’t know who gets more out of these weekends: them or us? No matter, it is a win-win situation.
Please email Lynn Stevenson if you can spare a mount.
Many thanks, RMB
HAVE A BONE
Thanks as always to Priscilla Friedberg and Jim Finn for those monthly deliveries of cookies. Thanks, too, for the tennis balls and for removing a downed tree on the trail.
Gib Stevenson brought us some standards and rails that he and Lynn no longer use for our puppy exercises. As you can imagine, there’s a great deal to do to run a hunt club and we are so grateful for your generosity and your surprises!
Ronnie Thornton has given the club $2000 so we can start working on our kennels. Maria, Bob, David, the boys and I were floored by her generosity and so very grateful.
When I spoke to her to thank her, she threw down this challenge: tell people to match me in cash or in kind. That will get the job done a lot faster.
So I pass on her challenge. Ronnie will work her will on some of you and if that doesn’t succeed, watch out for her deadly charm. Hounds and I thank her above and beyond.
Most of you have seen Planter’s Peanut, Mr. Peanut with his top hat and single eyepiece on the ribbon, sometimes he has a cane, too.
Well, our foxes love peanuts. John and Toot order ten 50 pound bags of salted peanuts which they put into the feeder boxes along with the kibble.
Peanuts contain a lot of protein but here’s the best part, the boys also give them chocolate covered peanuts, 10 bags of 30 pounds. They swear the foxes can’t get enough peanuts.
I believe them, of course, but I think some of those chocolate peanuts find their way into other stomachs.
Where’s Mayor Bloomberg where you need him?
The Perfect Setting
Put a jewel in the right setting, the right metal (gold, silver, platinum) and it breathes. What is there about aesthetic harmony that dazzles one and all too often removes that nasty lump in your wallet?
Last Sunday, August 28, I had the good fortune to attend Ashland Bassets’ Beginning of the Season party. What a smash.
You drove through the simple, lovely gates to Rosehurst, up a long winding driveway to the top of the hill where reposes a Georgian mansion of brick and white wooden trim, etc. As I adore anything Palladian, I wish I had packed my bags. Surely I should live there.
To make matters even better, sitting to the side of the front door, on the lawn, was a bulldozer ready for future work. I want a bulldozer!
The door opened to admit me and I should add here that Vey Martini drove me up since I am still not to drive a long distance. She’s been a good sport about hauling me around. Standing on the other side of the door was a most attractive woman with a big welcoming smile, Jane Hurst. Behind her was a desk with Jean Roberts, formerly of Horse Country, Jennie, also from Horse Country and they received a small sum in exchange for silent auction number.
Lest I forget, Mrs. Hurst drives a zero turn lawnmower and does that huge lawn herself. I knew I was in the right place.
The number exceeded 100 and I suspect hovered close to 150. The age mix was terrific, lots of basset people, foxhunting people and those who did neither but were brought by friends or curious.
The food and spirits filled the kitchen. Everyone talked to everyone and within an hour I think I met most everyone there. Some people I knew and was so happy to see them. Other people like J. Harris Anderson, another writer, were great fun for me to talk shop with. He can be so sly and funny. He, by the way, will be our Master of Ceremonies for the fashion show November 13.
You know sometimes the stars align and this was one of those afternoons. Mary Reid, MBH, asked me to speak a little. I did and I didn’t go on. As the group was so mixed, I gave a brief overview of bassets, beagles and foxhounds since I have had the fabulous good luck to carry the horn for bassets and foxhounds and to whip-in, occasionally, to the oldest beagle pack in America. No one said a peep so I knew they were interested and I did keep it short. Ashland Bassets made new friends, kept old ones and won new members. By the way, they hunt Warrenton’s, Casanova’s and some Orange Countyterritories. Great fixtures.
Basset and beagle clubs hunt by permission of the Master of Foxhounds in their area. The fact that this club has won the trust of three separate hunt clubs tell you how good they are. Great pack, too.
Marian DiMaggio arrived early and as she always does just picked up the pace . She, Mark Catron and others of us are so excited about our fashion show we need ankle weights to keep us grounded.
I bring this up for a few reasons. If you have the opportunity to hunt with Ashland, do. I will take you up there. No fixture cards yet. None for us until mid-October but we are under different constraints as are most foxhunting clubs.
Also, do hunt with Waldingfield Beagles or Farmington Beagles. Our master, David Wheeler, whips-in to Farmington and I sometimes whip-in to Waldingfield. I’m sure David would be happy to arrange for any of you to hunt.
We will be seeing friends from the Warrenton area hunting with us. Many made promises and I hope they keep same.
Another reason for me to describe this is next year perhaps we could host a cubbing party a week before the first cast. What a great way to get back together. We have months and months to think about it. But think about this: what if perhaps every two months we had a potluck at a different home and your hunt staff answered questions? We might start with whippers-in talking about what they do, how they view fixtures etc. and then you all ask questions.
Many of you, I think, would enjoy details, have good questions and we would all be together without having to worry about cooling down horses, putting up hounds, etc.
Another piece of news, Lynn Lloyd, MFH of Red Rock, Angela Murray, MFH and Scott Tepper, MFH promise they will come to our hunt fashion show. Maybe they’ll even bring others. Jane Winegardner, MFH Woodford Hounds, Kentucky says she will be there and Joan Hamilton of Kalarama Farm is coming. We will hunt Saturday, November 12 for our guests and then Sunday on with the show. I don’t know if I’ve told you all about the other masters.
Please bring your friends. Mark, of course, will be inviting all the masters and members of the adjoining hunts and we hope they, too, can be part of it all.
Anyway, think about occasional low-key get-togethers where we can dip into the details of hunting. If only we could get the fox to give a lecture. Maybe promising chocolate covered peanuts would be a sufficient bribe.
Up and Over,
P.S. Dorothy Haskell Chhuy will be bringing some of her watercolors and oils to the fashion show. As you know, marvelous work.
The “Daily Progress”, August 31, 2016, carried an article about a research team in Hungary at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest. The finding of the experiments and MRI scans seems to prove that dogs can understand some language and they interpret meaning in the left side of their brain which is what humans do. The right side of the brain processes pitch, emotion. If you say “good dog” in a level tone of voice, the dog may listen but if you say the same thing with a happy voice, the dog not only understands but is also happy.
Universities spend money on this. Most dog owners could tell you the same thing although perhaps not pinpoint the location in the brain. That’s like theUniversity of Tubingham in Germany, some years back, doing a big study which proves animals have emotions. I have no doubt about dog or other animal intelligence but studies like this certainly make me question human intelligence.
Returned to VCU for a checkup. I’m doing great and even a bit ahead of schedule. My hip and leg are weak though so now I must go to a Medicare approved gym for physical therapy three times a week. I asked Dr. Jiranek to make sure the therapist treats me like an athlete. I want to get back to high performance. As a rider himself, he gets it. For this I am very grateful. My goal is to be better, stronger than before. I go back for another checkup in about five weeks.
I can ride when I feel strongly enough. My plan is to see how I’m doing after two weeks of the intense therapy. If I’m advancing, strengthening, then I will mount up and walk 15 minutes a day for a week. After that I add another five minutes, etc.
My intention is to hunt hounds at 100, God willing. Here’s the deal: if you think you’re old, you are. If you want to keep going, you find a way and if that means more time in the gym, more sleep, then do it. Why would any of you listen to the blathering predictions of people concerning your state of being? Only you know you. Now if you want to fiddle with statistics and believe in averages, then you are average. I believe that average means the average of the deviance. The hell with it.
Canines do laugh. It’s a puff of air from their nostrils and/or mouth. They smile when they do it. Is your dog laughing at you? Maybe with you? Cats, on the other hand, don’t even bother laughing at us.
Wisdom from My Beloved Tallulah Bankhead:
“It’s hard being me. Even I can’t do it.”
ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE
The second half of our season was the best I remember since 1981. 1993 also enjoyed some good spots but once we slid into December, 2015 the good days piled up, the foxes ran and ran plus they showed themselves. The hounds made me and hunt staff very proud.
Deer season ended January 3, 2016. Usually it takes a week or 10 days for foxes to give up sitting tight. Boom. On the very day the deer hunters trudged home, the foxes shot out of their dens.
Valentine’s Day proved especially memorable. Hounds have a 17 mile run! That was what I clocked in the hound Tahoe. The pack actually ran more miles than that as they flew to Durrettown, came back half way, returned to Durrettown, then using the top of the ridge, headed back to Tea Time, occasionally dipping off the ridge for another run. We could see some of it and hear all of it.
As we could not hunt Foxden that day, the field finally turned back because that’s where the fox headed and circled in there for a bit. Maria, Mary and Becky were hard put to keep up but they wisely stayed out on 611, going into the uplifts and ravines once beyond the Foxden, but hounds, by that time, were so far ahead there was no way whippers-in or huntsman could possibly catch them. As you know, this is quite difficult territory even on a slow day.
Maria held up by Jim Klemick’s 611 gate and blew. Luckily, Tom Harvey drove to pick up mail and then into his property. He kindly opened the iron gates, and told the whippers in to go on in which they did. By now the mercury wasn’t creeping upward, it was starting to slip down. You could really feel it; Maria blew and blew as she returned to Tom’s open gate. It’s difficult for any hound to surrender a scorching line.
They began to trickle in. I thought they’d need oxygen masks but they looked good. Thank God for proper conditioning.
Tucker lagged behind. I sat by the mail boxes and waited. Half an hour later she walked down 611, a bit fatigued. I opened up the back of the Tahoe then realized I couldn’t lift her in thanks to my broken hip. As luck would have it, my wonderful neighbor, Ella Sue Parker, drove up 611 to pick up her mail. Seeing my predicament she hopped out of her car, lifted up Tuckers back end while I steadied the front. In she went. Ella Sue and I had a good laugh.
How many women do you know who would come home, nicely put together, get out and lift up a hound to help your neighbor? We have really good people in Nelson County and wonderfully understanding neighbors.
Tucker arrived at the kennels as John and Toot were wrapping up for the night. She was very happy to go inside as it was now cold. Lots of tail wagging. The miracle was no cut pads, no barb wire slashes. Some food, water and warmth and everyone fell asleep.
That is the longest hunt Oak Ridge has ever had in terms of miles covered and the longest one I have seen period.
Each succeeding hunt provided good runs, multiple views, all reds. The music echoed adding to the excitement.
February 20 we had a joint meet with Farmington at Reynolds Cowles, DVM and Evie, his wife, who could organize anything. Their hounds were in good flesh, drew so well. Footing, slick in parts, was mostly good, a little gushy in other parts it okay. Our visitors from Rombout Hunt went out with us Friday the 19th, then Farmington, then us again. Farmington spoiled everyone with their breakfast and good company. I particularly enjoyed watching the huntsman draw. I have not had the pleasure of watching him, he came last year (I think, time flies so). He made such good use of the territory, has an upbeat personality and the hounds hunted well for him. Good for Farmington.
As an aside, we have never had a blank day on our Wednesday afternoon hunts. Some slow days but not this season. Long runs, hard runs with people turning back for home once the sun sets and the temperature creeps into your bones.
The oddity was we had two 80°F days and hounds still pushed out foxes for good runs. That’s just unbelievable.
CLOSING HUNT – March 2, 2016
Dire predictions of snow and rain worried a few people but most foxhunters know that’s the best weather and indeed it were. The first cast, 10 AM, witnessed glowering skies, mercury in the low 40s. Raw but not bitter, a slight westerly wind did promise good scenting.
Hounds, cast, trotted up the hill, struck and didn’t stop screaming and running until 1:30 PM.
How to describe this spectacular day? Well imprisoned in the Tahoe, I listened intently at the first strike. Rode around to the back of that ridge and thought I heard the packs split. Sure sounded like they were on two foxes. The group closer to me circled twice then dipped down to the feeder box were Jimmy Carter’s, Mrs. Woods’ and my territory join. From there they took off again and the sound rolled away towards the south. I waited and in about 15 minutes the hounds came roaring back and were down below where the creek meanders. That creek, while not deep, has a good flow even in summer.
Sitting beside the ever diminishing hay bales, which we put out for the foxes to squeeze between if need be, two hounds began to climb the hill. Next, more followed. I should add here that what really squeezes between those old hay bales are mice and rabbits. Hounds ignored them, shot by me and dipped to the other side of the farm road. Then Maria blew and back they hurried down again to where there used to be a tiny wooden bridge over the creek. Floods have taken care of that and to the right of it is a nice little ford, sometimes muddy but always passable. Again, as I couldn’t see it, sounded like hounds were all together, now the music increased in volume.
So I backed out and drove down to the Standard Oil sign, beyond and parked up by the other hay bales with the two fox dens. Obviously, these foxes did not wish to waste money on gas. Why not just live across the street from the supermarket?
A line of hounds appeared on the top of Mrs. Woods’ high meadow, turned down into the pines and all in a line, noses down, speaking; they ran, trotted at times, turned back and snaked through the cutover. This was textbook stuff, hounds nearly nose to tail. They turned, headed back and finally wound up with me, then back down to the other creek which is a little bitty feeder creek, more room to fan out so they did. What beautiful work. The entire day saw them either in a line or running together if there was space. It truly was right out of a Nineteenth Century fox hunting book.
People began to return to the trailers in small groups. No wonder, they’ve been running since 10 AM. I did not see or hear one check. I heard slower going at times but the music was continuous.
We flushed out the three fox, maybe four and I think one was put to ground early and finally one was put to ground over on Jim Klemick’s. (This is my conclusion via hearing).
Maria headed for home but hounds struck again in the cornfield. Sounded like it for by now I was sitting at the lower barn, the shed row barn. And darn if they didn’t go away, heading north. The only route for a vehicle is to go up on 611. I did. I could still hear them so I paused at the pretty new house which is being built since we do have a fox that crosses there regularly. But no one came up through the ravine.
I heard them turn again back towards the south. I couldn’t hear how that happened but later learned that the entire pack headed for Jim’s most northern bridge. Thank God, Dee Phillips blasted up there and turned them back because 151 is close by. But turn they did heading back to the cornfield.
Finally, with efforts from staff, hounds gave up the line and walked out, hardly the worse for wear, I might add, and ambled out to the arena. Thence to the kennels. This is not only the best closing hunt we have ever had, it’s one of the best hunts we have ever had.
It’s a terrible thing to brag but our pack was super, the youngsters stepped right up to the plate. All worked as though of one mind. I was beside myself with excitement.
Congratulations to Maria, Dee, Becky Birnbaum, Candice and Sonia. (Did I forget anyone else who whipped-in that day?) As always, special thanks to John and Toot for their hard work and care. My happiest days are with “the boys” at the kennels or walking along with hounds joined by Maria, Sonia and Mary, when she can make it. In the past, Stuart was with us and I would like to think he was with us Sunday, March 20. He would have been so proud.
The kids get a month to six weeks off. Fortunately no one is foot sore, tore up or has burned through a lot of weight. We have a few hounds of high metabolism but even they look presentable and usually by season’s end they begin to have the “Tijuana look” as Judy Pastore would say. So whatever needs to be done at the kennels, we start now.
It’s a joy to stop by and chat with the hounds who exhibit such curiosity about what one is doing. I think they all know how well they hunted this season and they’re probably blabbing among themselves.
“Well, you know I pushed out the first fox.” Mustard might say.
“Oh, dream on, girl. You know it was Metal.” Magnolia, her sister, will sniff.
On and on, they chatter, reliving the season. Kind of like us.
HOUNDS AND THEIR FRIENDS
Priscilla Friedberg and Jim Finn still send a huge box of hound cookies each month. Hounds love their cookies. We have to hide them in a safe place or all would be gone in the batting of an eye.
All the M’s have been outstanding in their second full season. They are also beautiful and beautiful movers, too.
Lilac, old Bywater’s blood, is not exactly beautiful but she possesses a rangy body and can cover distances with ease. You can go to the bank on this hound and all of staff loves and respects her. She’s easy to pick out in the pack and gives good voice, too.
I know it’s harder for field members to identify hounds by voice and staff can’t always do it either, but some hounds are distinctive, high piping trills, others have basso profondos. We’ve got the full chorus and that’s quite helpful. If all sounded the same it would be harder for us and you know it’s hard enough during cubbing when you can’t see much and the leaves on the trees soak up the sound.
A few hounds will be retired with honor. As most of you know, I can find homes for some but most I use during summer hound walks and our “games” which are really lessons. Those older hounds are dipped in gold.
We have some bad girls. You can’t hunt Lupine and Luster together. They behave like two high school sisters who have gotten hold of Mother’s credit card. Throw Mustard in there and you have a hound secret sorority. I’m surprised our little divas haven’t asked for hound collars studded with rhinestones.
The boys aren’t much for rhinestones nor are they naughty but there are times when you work to get them to focus, it isn’t even a girl coming into heat before humans know it. That we can understand. The males of all the higher vertebrates are just undone by bombshells. No, its things like butterflies, a large passing cloud which casts a big shadow or, for whatever reason, an especially interesting stick. This is the reason we don’t hunt the boys by themselves. We have to put some girls in there to push them on which we tried to do, too. Once the weather turns, the temperature drops, scent intensifies, they do a good job. The other thing about the voices, they are uncommonly sweet.
Having said that, Cortez hunts like a gyp. Total focus, focus like Piper.
While one can generalize about the difference between males and females in the pack, they truly are individuals to which those of you who remember Vandal can attest. I have no idea where the hound learned to love beer cans but my suspicions are aroused by some of you in the field. It’s too much fun, isn’t it?
A CORINTHIAN CLASS
If you subscribe to the “Chronicle of the Horse”, once a month they include a glossy magazine edition, “Untacked”. This March/April 2016 edition is excellent. On page 50 begins a section on foxhunting fashion. It’s worth a look. The turnout in there starts in the 1950s. Not every fashion changes included in a photo. Most especially the 1970s, there is a photo of a huntsman in a coat with properly longer cut to the coat. Jackets began to creep up in the 70s and the 1980s photo shows same, but that 70’s huntsman would have none of it. Fortunately, that fad, short flaps, is dying out, mostly for practical reasons, a longer flat flap keeps you more protected and warmer.
I mention this because, as many of you know, I care about turnout. And I know all these nasty little details like hammerhead spurs are more correct than Prince of Wales which came into fashion when The Prince of Wales, in the 1930s, began wearing a shorter spur with a nub. It looks just fine, but if I were judging a Corinthian class and two people were tied, I would pin first the one with the older type of spurs.
In general, I favor what has stood the test of time. Breeches. Now we wear them with leather knee patches sometimes even leather butt patches. Is that helpful? Yes. Is it 100% proper? Well, maybe it’s okay in the hunt field but not in a Corinthian class. If you do have patches they will be of the same color and fabric as your breeches.
My argument to anyone who wants to make a change is, “Can you find it in a 19th-century print?” I always lean toward the tried and the true.
The two biggest changes I have seen are in headgear and coat color, almost uniformly black. I still believe you wear a derby or a tophat unless you are staff and then you wear the velvet cap. However, I have gone to other hunts where the Master insisted, ever so nicely, that I not wear my derby.
But do I seethe when you show up in my hunt field with a bubble head? No. It’s your head. But you can’t dream of wearing such a thing in a Corinthian class, where even the sandwich in your sandwich case is inspected. (No crust. White bread. Sliced chicken. No butter or mayo.)
Also, men carry flasks; ladies carry a square case with their sandwich and a rather dwarfed flask. Ladies may use sherry, gentlemen something more robust. Now in the hunt field you can put whatever you want in that flask, but not in class.
Veils. Depends on the attire. In the very old days, those of my great-grandmother, veils were attached to derbies and tophats and ladies could roll them up whenever they felt it would have the most devastating effect on a gentleman. Now you rarely see them except sometimes with sidesaddle turnout. Is there anything more graceful, more divinely feminine, then a lady riding sidesaddle? God bless any woman who does so and as most of you know, a woman is tight in the tack.
The reason I’m nattering on about this is the Corinthian class is our history, our remembering our dress traditions, thus honoring all those who’ve gone before. It’s such a lovely class and not seen as much these days at hunt shows as I would wish. As an aside: If your hunt has livery, you are allowed to ride in same in a Corinthian class. We do have livery, light gray.
In England a few more hunts ride in livery than over here, but I think there are some in North America. Masters don’t insist you ride in livery. Once you acquire your colors, you are allowed to hunt in livery, always considered an honor. You may also ride in navy blue which is quite smart. Many hunts allow green, such as one wears hunting beagles, but you wouldn’t wear green in a Corinthian class unless that was your hunts livery.
As for our gray, well, I do love it but I know one must have the coat fitted properly by a tailor or seamstress. You can’t buy livery off the rack. We have a few people who ride in our gray and they look smashing. When Mary Shriver and Kristin Ford rode in gray for the pair’s class at The Warrenton Horse Show, they did cause an appreciative murmur. The fact that they rode so well didn’t hurt either.
There you have it. A brief overview. I haven’t addressed tack or garters, etc. but that’s another issue. Am I asked to judge Corinthian classes? NO. Everyone knows I am ruthless. I am asked sometimes to judge hunters in the field which I enjoy doing. Do I observe you in our hunt field? Indeed, I do and I thank you all for clean tack and a tidy appearance. Pulling yourself and your horse together on a dark, cold winter morning is no mean feat. Well done.
P.S. I have never seen a turnout class (it would not be called Corinthian) where ratcatcher is judged. As the rider has more range of personal choice I think a ratcatcher class would be great fun.
BE TRUE TO YOUR SCHOOL
By now many of you have ridden over the seven sisters or seen the seven jumps, each one named after a seven sister, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Bryn Mawr, Radcliffe, etc. Each sign is in the colors of the school. Sara Bateman, ex-MFH has given them as a gift to the hunt.
If you would like a jump named for your college, university, or high school, $100 will buy two signs, one for each side. As many of you have attended the same university, you can go in together. Based on the number of UVA and Tech graduates alone, we could name many jumps. The purpose of this is twofold: to have some giggles and raise some money. To be able to identify jumps, should we need to get to them quickly, is an advantage.
We also encourage you to build new jumps if you so desire. We could use a bank jump, another tiger trap and so forth. And what’s prettier than a stone jump built out of limestone or slump brick? The fieldstone is okay but hard to fit together and falls down more easily. A two foot stone jump with a thick tree trunk or telephone pole on top is very pretty and inviting. We used to be able to pick up telephone poles and electrical poles for a few dollars, but they won’t sell them to the public anymore. Also, railroad ties, zigzag jumps, are really easy to build and give a rider a few choices.
If you want to name a jump, I will get the signs made. You will need to give me your school colors but don’t give me the check. Send that on to David. My cats will try to cash the checks or eat them.
For those of you who wish to build a jump or have us do it, identify where you want it, walk the area with us to make sure we, and you, if you’re building, set it correctly. It’s less money if you build it and scrounge the materials, but we will do it and bill you for the lumber, stone, etc. Of course, natural jumps, with which our territory abounds looks tidy and good. Also, not much cash outlay. You need to cut up some fallen hardwood and drag to site or have us do it for a small addition to the $100 for your sign. Small as in $20 for hounds. My experience, and I bet it is yours, too, is horses take a solid jump seriously. However we do have a few airy ones and the reason for that is we want Oak Ridge members and horses to ride over everything. This way if you are at another hunt, say with many stone jumps which they have more north of here, you and your horse will be fine.
We’d like to start this at the home fixture but over time, if our land owners allow it, we would build more jumps there. Some fixtures this is easy, others, not so much, but we can always ask.
What about coops? They are easy to put up which is why you see so many of them throughout the hunt world. We have them at various heights. I’m not opposed to coops but my sense is, if you jump what we have here, you’ll be fine elsewhere. My hope is to expose you to a variety, but anyone who wants to build the coop, go for it.
New York University’s colors are purple and white. I haven’t selected my jump yet but I will. Waiting for you all to join in.
Here’s another question: should we have a small sign, blank on the opposite bottom side of the jump or discreetly nailed to a tree? Should you encounter difficulty and a dismount at said jump, your name will be painted on that sign. Cruel? Well, not really cruel, but I have found the potential for humiliation a spur to focus. The worst part of it is this isn’t like a bottle and a poem. Your name (and eventually mine somewhere) will be inscribed for hunting eternity.
Well, once the hip is fixed, I need to work hard on my riding skills. Do you want someone saying about a jump, “Oh yeah, Charlotte’s jump?” (We don’t have a Charlotte but someday we will. Used the name so no one thinks I’m picking on you. I will pick on you, but not at this moment.) Of course, you don’t want your name attached in people’s minds to a jump. This really is motivation to improve.
Oak Ridge enjoys good riders. Our first flight often winds up being first flight elsewhere and at the end of the hunt; Oak Ridge is all that’s left. Still, we can all improve. Think on this but do come through for your school. We will have such fun with this, plus will learn where we all studied. I’m going to do one for my high school, too.
Up and Over (Really)
P.S. If anyone was born in another country, we can make a sign for your birth nation. And by the way, we are glad you are here.
A READING LIST
Years ago, Suzanne Hogg asked me to put together a reading list for fox hunters. Perhaps one of you can start this project and I can add to it, but I haven’t the time. I do have a good library and for me everything starts with Arrian but many of you might not feel the same. I am sure though that all of you would agree, “Memoirs of a Foxhunting Man” by Siegfried Sasson is a must. But do consider this if so inclined.
At our last hunt there, Bill Yancey and Neil Stout, Bill’s son-in-law, told us of future plans for that wonderful property. Neil also cornered Libby, a pug puppy he bought for his wife. Once on the ground Libby took over. Lynn Lloyd hunts with her pug in the pack. If the dog gets tired, she picks her up. They are tough dogs and utterly beguiling… as are Bill and Neil
Sandra Dawson led first flight, when asked, and Wayne Dawson whipped-in. Meghan Custer worked with Becky Birnbaum regarding with whipping-in also. Thanks to all.
As I often miss what’s going on in the field, my focus being the hounds, I may have missed thanking someone. Hopefully Bob and Sue will correct this oversight. It is gratifying to see members work to learn their duties as none of them are easy.
A SILVER LINING
A benefit of not being able to ride, following the hunts in the hound Tahoe (a gift from Donna Gaerttner), I’ve seen things I would miss otherwise. This will help me improve territory for next season. Rest on your laurels and you get a fat ass. We can always do better.