Sally Spilman Tufts passed away peacefully on January 1st, 2016 at age ninety-one. A passionate horsewoman and lifelong foxhunter, she was Joint-MFH of the Warrenton Hunt (VA) for twenty-two years.
How many times have I recalled the first time we met? It was the moment when I, a Northerner, learned the definition of a Southern Lady—a woman who could say the hard thing and make it taste like honey.
About thirty-five years ago, before I had even moved to Virginia, a friend from Massachusetts and I went for a day’s hunting with Warrenton. For whatever reason, my friend’s horse decided to stop at virtually every fence. We were proving to be the cappers from hell. I was embarrassed, but the word, embarrassment, had never been a part of my friend’s lexicon. He just kept trying. At one fence, after several fruitless attempts, a hospitable Warrenton rider offered to get on the horse and jump him over so we could catch up to the field. Even he was unsuccessful, so he and another gracious rider took us through a gate—the nadir of the day’s experiences. Thankfully, the endless day finally ended, and, back at the trailers, Master Sally Tufts came up to us.
Virginia Foxhound Show, Morven Park, May 24, 2015: Okay, says Hillsboro huntsman John Gray, if you don’t like Graphic, I’ll show you Siskin!
On May 9, 2015 at the Carolinas Hound Show, Hillsboro Graphic ’14 was judge Tony Leahy’s pick for Grand Champion of Show. Two weeks later, at the Virginia Foxhound Show, Leahy, judging in the Crossbred ring, chose un-entered Midland Striker over Graphic for the Crossbred Championship.
It proved but a minor setback for Hillsboro. In the final class of the day in the English ring, Judge Charles Frampton chose Hillsboro Siskin ‘14 as the Champion English Foxhound. So when the very last class of the day rolled around—Grand Champion of Show—English Champion Siskin faced off against Crossbred Champion Midland Striker, who had just beaten Siskin’s kennel mate, Carolinas Grand Champion Graphic, for the breed championship.
The other formidable opponents in the ring were un-entered American Champion, Orange County Kermit and Penn-Marydel Champion, De La Brooke Tullamoore ’11. But Hillsboro was not to be denied. Judge J.W.Y. “Duck” Martin crowned Hillsboro Siskin ’14 Grand Champion of Show. Crossbred Champion Midland Striker was Reserve, and Hillsboro leaves town with two Grand Champion foxhounds in the last two hound shows!.
When not following foxhounds on horseback, many foxhunters and their like-minded friends can be found following their local basset or beagle pack on foot—a perfect way to continue enjoying sport and a country lifestyle. Any foxhunter who thrills to the cry of foxhounds and hasn’t yet heard a pack of bassets in full cry must try a day’s hunting behind these wonderful hounds!
Even after dismounting from the saddle on a Saturday, many still yearn to hunt on before returning to an office on Monday. There are others who have hung up their tack for various reasons, and some who have never hunted astride yet love being outdoors on fall and winter afternoons. For all these sportsmen and women, the Ashland Bassets—hunting the territories of the Casanova, Old Dominion, Orange County, and Warrenton foxhound packs in Virginia—have provided a welcome window through which to extend one's weekend enjoyment of the countryside and venery.
Although 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:
Trainer Doug Fout and jockey Kieran Norris—the latter just out of the Novice Rider ranks this season—accounted for three wins at the Warrenton Hunt Point-to-Point at Airlie Race Course, Warrenton, Virginia on Saturday, March 15, 2014. Warrenton’s was the first hunt race to go off as scheduled this wintry spring season.
Fout’s and Norris’s three winners included Aero in the Open Timber Race. Aero settled into the third position in a three-horse, closely-bunched field. With a half mile to run, Aero drew up to the leader and pulled away in the final quarter mile for the win. Aero is owned by Alfred C. Griffin, Jr.