Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Orange County Hunt

orangecounty

Fauquier County, Virginia

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melvin.parker2Betsy Burke Parker photo

World-renowned huntsman Melvin Poe celebrated his 93rd birthday Sunday, August 25 by doing what only comes natural to the living legend—going foxhunting. Riding his favorite hunter and surrounded by Peggy, his wife of some fifty years, his four daughters, a bevy of grandchildren, neighbors, and friends, Melvin handled the horn and the reins with the cool confidence of a man one-quarter his age at what had to be a historic hunt.

"I can't believe he's still going strong," said Charlie Matheson, former president of the Orange County Hounds where Melvin served as huntsman some three decades. "He's an amazing man. We're so lucky to have him."

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melvin.parker2Betsy Burke Parker photo

World-renowned huntsman Melvin Poe celebrated his 93rd birthday Sunday, August 25 by doing what only comes natural to the living legend—going foxhunting. Riding his favorite hunter and surrounded by Peggy, his wife of some fifty years, his four daughters, a bevy of grandchildren, neighbors, and friends, Melvin handled the horn and the reins with the cool confidence of a man one-quarter his age at what had to be a historic hunt.

"I can't believe he's still going strong," said Charlie Matheson, former president of the Orange County Hounds where Melvin served as huntsman some three decades. "He's an amazing man. We're so lucky to have him."

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dhlees1-bmpIn nearly a half century of foxhunting, I have never seen a more handsome, elegant, and classically turned-out man astride a horse in the hunting field than Harcourt Lees. Nor did I ever meet a kinder or more pleasant gentleman in the hunting field. For me, he epitomized the grace and courtliness of a bygone age. It was an honor to know him, and I shall never forget him. What follows is the obituary of this sportsman/businessman/civic leader as released. -Ed.

With the passing of Douglas Harcourt Lees Jr. on July 21, Warrenton and Fauquier County, Virginia lost not only a respected businessman and sportsman but also a living link to a simpler time of grace and civility. Mr. Lees, 91, suffered a stroke on July 9 and was hospitalized briefly before returning to “Blackrock,” the Lees’ family home on Springs Road.

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Here is a concise history of foxhunting in North America from the seventeenth to the twentieth century, tracing the sport from its Colonial beginnings to organized foxhunting as we know it today. The work constitutes part of the first chapter in A Centennial View, published by the MFHA to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the Association.

washington  fairfaxGeorge Washington and Lord Fairfax hunting in the Shenandoah Valley

Hunting in the Colonies (1600s to 1775)
If you were a second son to a family of landed gentry living in the English countryside during the seventeenth or eighteenth century, you would have found your prospects considerably dimmer than those of your elder brother. Precluded, through the laws of primogeniture, from inheriting your father’s estate, you might have been tempted by land grants offered by the Colonial governors of Maryland or Virginia to emigrate, settle in the New World, and make your fortune there.

If you had an adventurous soul, you might have packed up your family, children, furniture, and, of course, a few of your foxhounds, and embarked on the voyage. Along with those tangible items, you would have brought your rural culture and a hunting heritage to these Provinces. By carrying on your habitual pursuits, you would make Maryland and Virginia the cradle of North American foxhunting.

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mary south.leesDouglas Lees photoMary South Hutchison, a powerful presence in the world of Virginia foxhunting, died suddenly on Thursday, April 4, 2013. Mary South—as she was known to visitors and members of the Orange County Hounds, exhibitors at the Virginia Foxhound Show, and members of the Virginia Foxhound Club—served the Orange County Hounds as Honorary Secretary for about twenty years and the Virginia Foxhound Club as Treasurer for about the same period of time.

“I don’t know what we’ll do without her,” Orange County MFH John Coles said. “Hers was a life dedicated to the sport. She was a traditionalist, and kept things in line for us.”

Coles’s Joint-Master Malcolm Matheson agreed. “She was the eyes and ears of the Masters in the field,” he said. “She didn’t mind stating her opinions, good or bad!”

He paused, then chuckled remembering. “And she was fearless,” he said. “One time hounds struck on the other side of a five-foot stone wall. She was one of only four field members to jump that wall. Even Melvin went around! We four had the hounds all to ourselves until the others caught up.”

jimmymary south.leesHunting with the late Jimmy Young, MFH, Orange County in 1996 / Douglas Lees photo

Mary South Hutchison lived in Middleburg and worked as a real estate agent. She had been battling cancer, but she was out and active right to the end, even closing on a property just three days before her death. The suddenness has shocked her community.

Joan Jones recently stepped down as president of the Virginia Foxhound Club, the organization that puts on the Virginia Foxhound Show. She and Mary South as treasurer have been the faces of the hound show for a good twenty years or so. With the show approaching in May, Joan finds herself trying to get a handle on all the financial matters, including the vendor spaces, that Mary South has for so long managed. Joan echoed Master Coles’s words to the letter.

“I don’t know how we’ll get along without her,” she said.

Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 in Middleburg.

Posted April 7, 2013

mary south2.leesFloat tubing on the Shenandoah River with photographer Douglas Lees