Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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bobby pillionBobby Joe Pillion, 1989, after judging the first Piedmont-Midland Foxhound Match / Douglas Lees photoRobert Joseph “Bobby Joe” Pillion died at home in Millwood, Virginia on January 12, 2014. He was seventy-nine.

“I just love to hunt,” he often said.

That’s how he concluded just about every foxhunting conversation we had. I can see him saying it, with a shake of his head and a thoughtful smile.

Bobby Joe was one of the most beautiful horsemen I have ever seen crossing the country. He whipped-in to the Blue Ridge Hunt for more than thirty years, riding nimble and athletic Thoroughbreds of such a uniform type that people trying to describe any new horse of that sort would simply say, “That’s a Bobby Joe horse.” In fact, you never knew which horse he was riding because they all went the same for him.

Bobby Joe was chosen to be a judge for both the 1989 and the 1991 highly publicized foxhound matches between the Piedmont and the Midland packs, both held in the Piedmont country. The matches were fashioned as a modern replay of the Great English-American Foxhound Match of 1905 and held in the same country. Sporting journalists came from England as well as the U.S. to cover the matches.

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+1 # Denya Massey 2014-01-22 08:23
Growing up in Blue Ridge in the 60's, I had a schoolgirl crush on this gorgeous guy who was riding for Mrs Greenhalgh on her equally beautiful Thoroughbreds. It was the picture of perfection. And he always spoke and smiled at us kids and we would be speechless. Sigh..... a movie star. I never lost that sense of delight in seeing Bobby Jo, and to me he never lost his easy way, his youthfulness, and his charming smile.
# Leslie Shepherd 2014-01-22 18:40
Bobby Joe. A fine fine man. A fixture in Blue Ridge Hunt Country. I too, thought he had movie star status. Should have been in a John Wayne film, but more handsome and smoother than Wayne for sure. I want Iona and Sarah to know that I will miss knowing Bobby Joe is in Northern Virginia, watching over the hunt country, and loving his family and friends...ride well my friend, Leslie
# Martha Wolfe 2014-01-22 10:08
Beautiful tribute, Norm. Thank you.
# Michael Sinclair-Smi 2014-01-22 15:24
News of Bobby Joe Pillion's passing hit me hard. I still see him as I did back in the early 80s when we first met. He had those Steve McQueen good looks and “Cool Hand Luke” air of imperturbabilit y -- a most unforgettable character that could have come straight out of a Gordon Grand story.

I admired him for his presence and for being a foxhunter through and through. He was a natural whipper-in. He seemed to have no aspirations to be a huntsman although he knew hounds. He sat a horse as if part of it and handled a whip with aplomb. He knew the country and could always find and bring on lost hounds. He knew where foxes would break, so time was never lost when Charley had gone.

Characters one admires are few and far between, but Bobby Joe is one of mine. He never attempted to be liked or recognised. Bobby Joe being himself was what most of us loved, and he will be sadly missed.

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