I never met Ron Black in person, but I knew him so well. We’d been carrying on an email friendship for years. Ron died of cancer on September 5, 2017.
Over the years our correspondence covered all sorts of subjects—foxhunting, politics, world affairs. (He was for Hillary, all the way.) He scoffed at us mounted foxhunters for our preoccupation with horses and fancy clothing, and he would start most notes with, “How are things in the Colonies?” His sense of history was a huge part of who he was. And it was to preserve the history of foxhunting in his beloved Cumbria, after the despised Hunting Act became law, that possessed him to start a website and begin collecting that history.
That’s how John Harrison became friends with Ron Black. Harrison is currently hunting the Deep Run Hunt (VA) foxhounds, but twenty years ago Harrison was huntsman for one of the storied foot packs in the Lake District, the Ullswater Foxhounds. Ron was writing a book about the Ullswater. It was the hunt of Harrison’s boyhood, and he had returned to England from Toronto and North York (ON) to take up the horn there. It is a hard and dangerous place: climbing borrans (stone piles), crags (cliffs), and crossing the scree beds (fallen stone from the crags). It’s country that would ruin a horse the first time out. Harrison hunted the Ullswater hounds on foot there for eighteen seasons before returning to North America three years ago.
The Brits must be getting used to this. Teach the Yanks something worthwhile, like foxhunting, and they go ahead and change it. They did it first with the foxhound. A braggart named Harry Worcester Smith came along at the beginning of the twentieth century with his long-eared, mouthy, hare-footed hounds, and claimed they were better than ours! He put together a Great Hound Match and tried to prove it. We spent two hundred years developing the perfect model of what a foxhound should look like, and then along came another American named Ikey Bell who started another revolution. And just twenty years ago—yesterday in the proper scheme of things—a couple of rebels named Ben Hardaway and Mason Lampton started painting numbers on foxhounds. Whatever for?
Midland Striker 2015 was judged Grand Champion Foxhound at the 2017 Bryn Mawr Hound Show on Saturday, June 3, 2017.
Bryn Mawr is the one that got away from Striker last year. In 2016, this graceful moving, handsome Crossbred dog hound had a big year in the ring. He was judged Grand Champion at the Virginia Foxhound Show and at the Southern Hound Show. But the hat trick at Bryn Mawr wasn’t to be his. Now, Striker can add the Bryn Mawr notch to his collar.
My timing was perfect. With Bull Run March Madness now history, I managed to hunt Saturday, go to work on Sunday, and get sick on Monday. During the days before we left for Virginia, with my nerves activated by a recent snow, my anxiety focused on the fear that I would get sick before, or even worse, during our trip. So I am very content to be sneezing and stuffy now. Worse thing is hubby Rick is also now sick. Sicker than me. He is always sicker than me, even if he has the same thing. But this time he really is sick.
Before the trip, my field hunter Ozzy had recently recovered from a bacterial infection, but not before having lost some weight. Not being a good traveler, I did not want him to lose any more weight. So my pale, borderline pony Frankie was pressed into service for this trip. After picking up Mary’s mare Spyder, Mary followed me in her car to our staging area in the Walmart parking lot. Alas, no one thought to grab ourselves a quick Starbucks for the road ahead of time. Traveling solo, Trish’s horse was rocking her trailer, so we moved out pronto. Our four trailers would caravan to Virginia from there following Mary in her car. Mary needed to head home a few days early to put on a bridal shower so she had to drive separately. It is a pretty straightforward trip to the Funny Farm in Reva, Virginia. Plus we have done it before. As the convoy rolled along I was struck again with how beautiful this part of Virginia is. During our trip every time the mountains came into view we would point and exclaim, “Look, a mountain!” Reminding us why we come here.
Bull Run’s Spree was the top scoring foxhound in the Belle Meade Hunt Foxhound Performance Trials held in Thomson, Georgia on January 20 and 21, 2017. Of thirty-six hounds competing, Spree won three of the four scoring categories: Hunting, Trailing, and Endurance. In the Full Cry category, he was second.* His combined score led the field in points.
Six foxhounds from each of six hunts competed—Belle Meade Hunt (GA), Bridlespur Hunt (MO), Bull Run Hunt (VA), Farmington Hunt (VA), Fox River Valley Hunt (IL), and Mill Creek Hunt (IL). The three top scoring hunts, based on the combined scores of their hounds from first to third, were: Bull Run, Fox River Valley, and Belle Meade.
Trial Huntsman Sam Clifton was called upon during the award ceremonies to announce his choice—the hound he’d most like to take back to his own kennels. Huntsman’s Choice is an honorary award and receives no official prize, but, as in past trials, Sam’s reasoning for his personal choice was worth hearing.