Banbury Cross, March 20th, 10:00 a.m.--This meet was a joint special occasion, to host nearly a score of folks up from Belle Meade, Va., and a make-up for the snowed out Junior's Day. It turned out to be one of the best days of the year. I arrived at the meet with five horses on--two for guests (one who rode sidesaddle), one for our kennelman and sometimes whipper, my horse Beau and my young daughter's pony, Hanna.
After handing out horses to all, I began to strap on all the various tools I needed for the day: radio, horn, electric collar control, pistol, and, of course, a pocket flask for our visitors. Next, get electric collars on puppies in the hound trailer. We had emptied the kennel for the meet, plus one house hound, for 17 1/2 couple. A brief word to the staff, Sheila, Robyn, and Christine, and out came the hounds. We gathered them up while Master Gregg Ryan and the field lined up in front of the stable; Nelson and Wendi had some photographers on hand to capture the moment. When the hounds were settled enough to keep together, we brought them in by the fountain for some additional photos. A few words from Gregg and Nelson and we were off.
I called Barbara Lee, 1st whipper-in from Belle Meade, up to ride with me. She was of great value throughout the day and had a grin on a mile wide by the end. Junior Conner Poe rode out as a whipper with Christine, he told me later he only slightly dislocated his shoulder during the day and it was nothing to worry about. His sister, Casey, would lead the second field. One of the guests said they never ran so much before in a second field! Heading south we came into the heavily wooded Black Swamp. Here hounds opened but started back the way we came from, thinking this could be heel, and after a little check we moved them back south where they first opened. Here they picked and worked a little in that direction, but farther on I heard, then saw, several hounds moving out into the field a couple hundred yards ahead of us. Calling whippers to push the pack up we went forward to the lead hounds, which were now crossing the field from the ballpark into the Mount Airy islands a little to the west.
Here they checked by the run between fields. I saw Buca and Saddle start running, heads down, on the other side of the run going south. Not speaking yet, I knew they were on. I growled, "Come on, open!", knowing this would bring the rest of the pack on hard. Then they did and the pack flew to them. All now speaking, down through the woods into the Mount Airy ravine, they headed southwest. Down the path and up and around, then over the rail jump into the field behind the old house. Sheila had viewed a fox going back east but it wasn't the one they were on, as the hounds were flying across the fields west to Sam Fred Road. With Robyn ahead and Barbara behind me, we flew across the field towards what used to be Stoney's house.
At the crest of the hill I glanced to see the pack a field ahead at the fence along Sam Fred Road. Down the steep hill we went at full speed. There was no slowing Beau down now, the little TB brain had taken over. Taking my chances rather than fighting it, I let him go. At the bottom of the hill he leaped the run to the one dry spot, bounced off it to leap the next puddle...at 30 mph! Pleased to still be on but not sure how we managed that, up the hill at full speed to Sam Fred where the pack was now running north on each side of the road and crossing over to the west.
Still galloping, turning slightly right, we headed over the stone wall into the meet field. Here Robyn turned left to cross the road. We continued straight parallel with the road across the field to catch them further ahead. Turning left at the next crossing, Sheila was in the road as we crossed. The hounds had turned sharply west across the gallop field. Coming across, Robyn reports they'd gone to ground. Coming in with the tail hounds, we found the pack in the copse of trees by the burn pile on the den. Robyn had been running on the edge of the woods that line the road with the pack when she viewed the fox as he made an abrupt left hand turn, came out and across the field west. He went down and around the copse and up into the hole. While blowing to ground, the fields and car followers all met at the den for a little cheer. That's one.
Asking Sheila where she actually viewed that other fox, we headed for it. Into and around the old Mount Airy house we cast. Picking up a little, some low scenting and speaking, circling several times we just couldn't get it going. Already pleasantly surprised, considering the full moon the night before and open sky that day, I expected conditions would be difficult but with one good flat out run to start, we went off to find a hotter fox. North and west, back across the road, we headed for the Hog Lot and Ball Hill. Pressing west down the run towards the Hog Lot we had a little speaking but it seemed to be old line. Into Ball Hill we went with the hounds picking up the pace.