Snow may have crippled Atlanta, but the few inches that fell in Thomson, Georgia during Belle Meade's second annual "Gone Away with the Wind" Hunt Week (January 26 to February 2, 2014) did little to dampen the great foxhunting and lavish southern hospitality. The first day we arrived was warm and sunny, a welcome respite from a frozen Maryland. I was returning for a second awesome adventure with Belle Meade Hunt and had encouraged two more of my fellow Marlborough Hunt members to come down. Jayne Koester and her amateur-radio enthusiast husband Fred enlivened their trip by talking to all the Ham radio operators near Interstate 95 as they drove south. Following them was Gwen Alred, a member of both Marlborough and Potomac Hunt clubs, who also decided getting out of a frigid Maryland was a good idea.
Monday at 3:00 pm, after warm greetings from our southern hosts and welcoming remarks from MFHs Epp Wilson, Charlie Lewis, and Gary Wilkes, we quickly trotted across the road from the kennels and moved across open cattle fields. I was riding first flight behind my good friend, Belle Meade Field Master Jean Derrick, and it felt wonderful to be cantering across soft ground in informal ratcatcher attire!
“We have arranged to have ten coyotes on standby for your hunting pleasure today,” announced Joint-MFH Charlie Lewis as he welcomed guests to the opening meet of Belle Meade’s “Gone Away with the Wind” Hunt Week. It was Monday, January 27, 2014 in Thomson, Georgia. The footing was perfect and the sun was shining.
The following day it snowed, closing schools, paralyzing the Atlanta area, and prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency. The Belle Meade hosts were resilient, however, improvising substitute activities for members and guests for the very few events that had to be modified.
Hunt Week guests had come from the Blue Ridge Hunt (VA), Bull Run Hunt (VA), Golden’s Bridge Hounds (NY), Marlborough Hunt (MD), Millbrook Hunt (NY), Montreal Hunt (PQ), Moore County Hounds (NC), the Potomac Hunt (MD), Toronto and North York Hunt (ON), and the Whiskey Road Hounds (SC).
The Belle Meade hounds typically meet at three o’clock in the afternoon. In the warmish environs of north Georgia, Senior Master and huntsman Epp Wilson likes to hunt as temperatures are dropping and scent is improving. Of course it often results in riders hacking back in the dark, and even jumping fences after sunset—an adventure in its own right for many followers!
Although a Potomac Crossbred foxhound—Potomac Dapper 2011—happened to be judged Grand Champion at the Bryn Mawr Hound Show on June 1, 2013, Potomac huntsman Larry Pitts wants you to understand that he doesn’t breed Crossbred hounds.
“We don’t breed Crossbred to Crossbred,” said Pitts, who maintains one of the few pure American packs in the country for the Potomac Hunt (MD). “We breed an American hound to an English hound or to a Penn-Marydel as an outcross. We keep just two or three puppies, and we breed to the best one.”
Pitts breeds successive generations of his selected Crossbreds back to American hounds until the litters can be registered in the American Stud Book. American hound breeders need to outcross in order to maintain hybrid vigor, because the gene pool of American hounds is small.
Unentered Potomac Templeton was judged Grand Champion Foxhound at the Bryn Mawr Hound Show, a testament to the breeding acumen of huntsman Larry Pitts. He has a hound to appeal to every judge. If you don’t like ‘em too big, here’s a smaller one! If you don’t like ‘em too robust, here’s a finer one!
Ignored in Virginia and over-shadowed by his littermate, Teapot—judged best Unentered Hound at Virginia—Templeton went to Bryn Mawr determined to redeem himself.