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Melvin Poe Dies at Home at Age Ninety-Four

Remembrance

Melvin Poe Dies at Home at Age Ninety-Four

Norman Fine

melvin.90thMelvin Poe at his ninetieth birthday celebration / Douglas Lees photoThe world of American foxhunting lost one of its best-loved and most highly respected personalities with the passing of huntsman Melvin Poe, age ninety-four, on Saturday September 13, 2014. That’s the sad news. The good news is that Melvin was able to ride his horse and hunt his hounds to the very last year of his life.

In foxhunting circles he was referred to simply as Melvin. Everyone knew who you were talking about. He’s been a fixture in North American foxhunting for more than sixty years and a celebrated legend for most of that time. He’s immortalized in a dramatic oil painting by Wally Nall; he made the cover of UK’s Horse and Hound in 1991; he starred in Tom Davenport’s 1979 foxhunting video documentary, Thoughts on Foxhunting, narrated by Alexander Mackay-Smith;  he was the subject for Peter Winant’s wonderful book, Foxhunting with Melvin Poe, The Derrydale Press, 2002; and in 2011 Melvin was inducted, along with his brother Albert, into the Huntsmen's Room at the Museum of Hounds and Hunting in Leesburg, Virginia.

Melvin grew up in the Virginia countryside. He was the boy to whom his friends turned to identify trees, birds, and animal tracks. His father, uncles, and brothers were all enthusiastic hound breeders and hunters. Melvin and his contemporaries represent a vanishing breed of countryman who knew the woodlands intimately and all that grew and thrived therein. And baseball! Melvin and his brothers loved baseball and participated in organized league play into their adult years.

The Red Rock Hounds and Their Country

rr.nancy.wild horsesWild horses in Nevada's high desert / Nancy Stevens-Brown photo

I want to tell you about Lynn Lloyd’s Red Rock Hounds and the country they hunt as a short introduction to our feature story, "How Old Hounds Pay Their Keep at Red Rock." In that story you’ll read how Lynn ingeniously transformed her elderly hounds from a burden to an asset! The old hounds pay their way by increasing membership and caps, and they throw off side benefits by helping to train young hounds and staff. And I have to believe that many hunts could do something similar to their own benefit.

The Red Rock foxhounds hunt the coyote over the high desert of Nevada, near Reno, where cowboys in dusty western hats, vests, and chaps lope after hounds in their Western saddles stirrup-to-stirrup with properly attired foxhunters posting to the trot in their English saddles.

How Old Hounds Pay Their Keep at Red Rock

rr.nancy.retired houndWhat to do with the old hounds? / Nancy Stevens-Brown photo

Most hunts are beset by similar problems: what to do with old hounds, how to attract more members, how to pay the bills, how to train staff, how to train young hounds. Lynn Lloyd, MFH and huntsman of the Red Rock Hounds (NV), found that the solution to one problem provided the key to solving several others.

What to Do with Old Hounds
The average hunting life of a hound is perhaps six or seven years. That means it is retired from the pack at age seven or eight. Beyond that age, most hounds start falling behind the pack, lacking the foot and endurance to maintain the pace over a full hunting day.

But with several years of life still remaining for the retired hounds, most hunts are hard-put to expend their limited financial resources to keep and maintain them. And here’s where Lynn Lloyd found a way to turn a burden into an asset.

Were Donor Millions Squandered in "Groundless" Lawsuit?

nodh.klmDonors to animal rights organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) need to think hard about how their charitable dollars can best be spent to improve the welfare of animals. Recent events suggest that local animal welfare shelters might put those dollars to better use for animals than does the HSUS and their cohorts. Driven by the fanatical certainty of their ideology, HSUS and others risked ethical misconduct and wound up losing millions of dollars in a frivolous and groundless lawsuit.

HSUS vs. Circus
A lawsuit brought in 2000 by HSUS and other animal rights organizations against Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus turned out to be so tainted that twenty-five million dollars have been paid by the plaintiffs to the circus owners in settlements. In 2012 the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) paid $9.3 million in a settlement for its part in the false claims made. As the lawsuit fell apart, other animal rights groups abandoned the action.

In May of this year, HSUS and others paid another $15.7 million in settlement fees as part of the same failed lawsuit, bluntly described by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia as “groundless and unreasonable from its inception.”

Watch Your Language, Bud!

NormanReaders of our e-magazine FHL WEEK have perhaps been puzzled by the stilted avoidance of common everyday words that might be considered offensive in a different context. In a recent book review, we camouflaged the word, “s-e-x,” by replacing the middle letter with a hyphen. In recent hound show reports, we used the word “female” instead of the b-word.

While it grieves me to avoid the use of natural language, I do it to reduce the chance of having our e-magazines labeled as spam by any one of the many spam filters that stand between Foxhunting Life and its readers. Thanks to the glut of junk email that bombards us daily, responsible mass-mailers must take unusual steps to ensure delivery of their email to all recipients.

Foxhunting Life uses iContact, a highly responsible mass mailer, to manage our distribution list and to mail FHL WEEK to the more than four thousand foxhunting enthusiasts who have registered to receive it. When we send our e-magazine to iContact  for distribution, if our text contains anything that their algorithms determine could be considered spam, they notify us, and we make the necessary changes. So, if we sound silly sometimes, that’s at least one of the reasons why.

Posted July 22, 2014

 

Autumn Morn: Ode to a Huntsman

michael powerHuntsman Michael Power / Douglas Lees photoAlthough this poem was written in tribute to a huntsman in his prime, it is especially poignant because it seems to prophesy his tragic end.

Fay Bohlayer, a member of the Shakerag Hounds (GA), wrote the poem in 1981 for huntsman Michael Power on the occasion of his move from Shakerag to the Warrenton Hunt (VA). Ten years later, Bolayer’s poem was read at Power’s memorial service after he suffered a fatal accident in the hunting field. It could as well have been written for that sad occasion.

Power was a keen, hardworking, talented huntsman, and he showed exceptional sport at Warrenton. I watched one day as he had someone throw a coat over a barbed wire fence, which he then jumped to stay with hounds.

Once Bohlayer asked him which he thought was more fun: hunting or racing. Power replied, “Whichever I happen to be doing at the time.” She recalls one day behind Power when hounds were running, and to stay with them Power galloped without pause straight toward an iron gate, which he jumped. Bohlayer chose not to follow Power’s line, and after the run she came up and apologized for going around. “Not at all,” he piped in his Irish tenor. “It’s your sport, but it’s my living. I must go.”

Here’s Fay Bohlayer’s tribute to Michael Power:

Looking at the Huntsman

nodh.klmNo hunting all summer. The huntsman must be having himself a nice vacation, right? Wrong. There’s an old saying that “foxes are killed in kennel,” meaning that all the good work you see in the field during the hunting season is established during the off-season in the training of the young entry and in the making of the pack. Feed, care, routine, discipline, and exercise through the hot summer months all add up to performance in the field. Then there’s the whelping and care of the puppies who will be entered not this season, but the next. All told, summer is an exceedingly busy time for any huntsman who plans to field a high mettle pack of hounds and show good sport.

As the summer weeks slide by and the start of the informal season approaches, Foxhunting Life will have a look at the huntsman in the next few issues, including some of the legendary huntsmen of the past to see what they had to teach us about the handling of hounds in the field. Chances are, when the season comes alive, you will see your own huntsman employing similar techniques in the handling of his or her hounds in pursuit of the quarry.

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