Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound
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FHL WEEK, June 30, 2020

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Belle Meade Master Charlie Lewis Steps Down after 21 Years

charlie lewis.small.bella vitaCharlie Lewis whipped-in at Belle Meade for fifty years. /  Bella Vita Photogaphie 

Charlie Lewis announced his retirement as Master at the Annual Meeting of the Belle Meade Hunt (GA) after twenty-one years of service. Charlie has whipped-in to Belle Meade huntsmen for fifty years―to Master and huntsman Epp Wilson and before that to Epp’s late father, James, the hunt’s founder, Master, and first huntsman.

Over the years, Charlie has mentored several Belle Meade youngsters in the art of whipping-in, crossing the country, and growing into responsible adults. He served on the Belle Meade Hunt Committee as well.

“Charlie has been the go-to guy for fifty years,” said Epp Wilson. “He will tackle any problem for the Hunt. Whatever the problem or challenge, anyone in the Hunt could go to him and get wise counsel and advice. From landowner challenges, to friction between certain members, to building new hunt barns after fires.

“Our first fire was in 1978. No horses were hurt. It turned out to be a blessing. We moved the hunt barn and kennels from that location on the edge of the hunt country and next to a busy federal highway. We―Belle Meade Hunt, Inc.―bought twenty-five acres of land in the middle of our hunt country and built stables and kennels there. That was successful largely due to Charlie’s leadership and advice. That hunt barn burned in 2002. Again no horses were hurt. Again we rebuilt. This time on the same site.

“Charlie pulled the rabbit out of the hat and built us a new and better hunt barn. A gifted and energetic builder, he also built us a new club house, Boots Hall, at the same time.

“He has been the financial manager of our Hunt for many years. The man has so many talents. One of his best is his ability to take newcomers out in his truck and get views of the coyote, with hounds in hot pursuit. He has made many a fine foxhunting supporter that way, and some have become regular foxhunters.

“Charlie was instrumental in all the kennel upgrades. He is a gifted horse trainer, dog trainer, and people trainer. He has a knack for finding a win/win solution for even the most vexing of problems. He has the unique ability to listen―even tell you something you don’t want to hear in a way that not only doesn’t make you mad or hurt your feelings, you end up agreeing that he is right.

“We will all have to work extra hard to keep things going smoothly without Charlie. Rest assured we will be calling on him a lot for advice.”

Charlie Lewis Bronze 2020.smallA grateful Belle Meade Hunt presented Charlie Lewis with a Belinda Sillars Bronze foxhound in commemoration of his years of service as Master.

Belle Meade is one of those “destination hunts” in North America, discovered and cherished over these many years by foxhunters with an itch to travel and visit. And Master Charlie is one reason that visitors keep coming back.

Belle Meade is a family hunt and a community hunt. As a visitor to Belle Meade, you meet the foxhunters, as you would at any hunt, but you’ll meet non-hunting spouses—like Charlie’s wife, Trudy—and members’ children as well. It’s a place where ‘Southern hospitality,’ a well-worn phrase in this country, is not simply a phrase but a way of life, embedded in how the community relates to each other, to family members, and to their guests. The children are brought up as their parents were brought up, to treat others with respect. You’ll routinely hear words from the distant past—words completely unknown to most youngsters in the country today—like “yes, sir,” or “no, ma’am.”

Except for Epp, who whipped-in to his father and has hunted the country himself since he picked up the horn in 1985, I can think of no one who knows the country and how the quarry runs as does Charlie Lewis. If he’s not on a horse of late, he is filling the necessary job of ‘road whip’ in his truck. Charlie sees more of the hunted quarry from his truck than do those in the mounted field because he knows just where the coyotes will cross—vital for the safety of hounds when running coyote. And when hounds need to be stopped before reaching a state highway or leaving the hunting country, Charlie is there to stop them.

Charlie is one of the last great raconteurs. His après-hunt monologues at the hunt’s clubhouse, Boots Hall, for the benefit of members and guests have long been part of the Belle Meade agenda, and many of his little talks are as unforgettable as is Charlie himself.

Ed Maxwell, longtime and popular hunting member of the Belle Meade community, was appointed Joint-Master at the annual meeting. He brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and ability to the task. Ed may be taller in height than Charlie, but admitted readily at the meeting that “Charlie leaves some mighty big shoes to fill!”

“Ed is a natural hunter,” said Epp. “He was born to be a gentleman, a family man, and a hunter. His father took him deer and turkey hunting in our hunt country for many years before he even thought about getting on a horse and foxhunting. His lovely wife, Saundra, is the one who got him to ride horses and foxhunt.

“Ed quickly became a whipper-in, as he knew the territory and he understood hunting. He and Saundra have been tremendous assets to Belle Meade ever since―serving on many committees. Ed has been the Tally Ho Wagon Master for more years than we can count. It’s no easy task organizing twenty-five wagons and 500 people annually on Tally Ho Wagons. Ed makes it look easy. He is certainly an excellent choice to help lead Belle Meade into the future.

“Y’all come hunt with us,” said Epp, finishing his tribute, “and see for yourself the many things that make Belle Meade special. Come have your own Belle Meade experience!”

Posted June 26, 2020