Monday, March 27, 2017

The Straggler

I'll be writing about my Virginia trip at great length over the next few weeks, but a few events really stand out as quite memorable or funny. My day with Farmington provided one of them.

B. J. Korol, Crickett, M.F.H. Patrick Butterfield and Dugan
Farmington, in Charlottesville, VA was the last hunt on my itinerary. The MFH is Patrick Butterfield,
 a friend and supporter of sporting art. Farmington's closing day meet was Saturday, March 18th, and I thought that might be an excellent opportunity for some photos - Pat leading a large, nicely turned out field at the end of the season. Pat's wife, Kaye, introduced me to Sherry Buttrick, the Master of the Farmington Beagles and suggested I follow her, since she knows the country.
Sherry Buttrick discusses the game plan with huntsman, Matthew Cook

Sherry invited me to ride with her instead of following in my car so we could "do a little driving and a little walking." I thought it sounded like a great idea. I like to get out and follow by foot whenever I can. I should have known that Sherry was Master of the Farmington Beagles since I've seen her many times at the hound shows, but in my defense, I can't possibly know everybody and everything. In case anybody reading this doesn't know the significance of this little detail, beagles and bassets are foot packs. Master and field follow on foot, not horseback. Get the picture?

We walked down to an open field above the river and watched the hunt for twenty minutes. When the hounds went into the next field, we quickly walked back to the car and drove off after them to get a better view. We made a right turn onto an unpaved road with a sign pointing to "Percy Woods" about a mile down the road. We got out and watched and listened for about 15 minutes before Sherry said she was going to the next field. Granell Delaney had joined us, and the two of them started off at a good clip. I hesitated for a minute before going after them, which was a mistake. As I ran after them to catch up, I realized I wasn't making any headway whatsoever. I shouted to them, to let them know I was behind them, but they hardly turned to look back. The country they hunt is extremely hilly, and as I was walking down the second steep incline, I was thinking to myself, "I have to walk UP this on the way back!" I kept expecting the "next field" to materialize at any moment, but all I could see through the trees was Pat and B. J. Korol on the road - way up on the next hill with Sherry and Granell not far behind them!
Whippers-in negotiating a steep hill

I finally reached them at the top, where they had stopped to listen, but no sooner did I get to them, than they took off again. I was pretty winded and had to take a minute to catch my breath. At this point I was thinking I must be terribly out of shape, even though I walk five days a week at the Manasquan Reservoir.
Thankfully, it was pretty level going at the top until we reached a clearing by a house. Percy Woods perhaps? Sherry and Granell bounded down a steep hill to the right of the path, but I heard the hounds somewhere off to the left and decided to wait and see what unfolded. The hounds were on a coyote (they pronounce it without the "e" on the end) and were in full cry! They ran right past me. I didn't see the coyote, but I saw the pack. The huntsman was hard pressed to stay with them. He rode by three or four minutes later. The field had been running hard as well.

A couple of stragglers. I know just how they feel!
Sherry & Granell bounded back up the hill like a couple of deer and then followed the field as it disappeared down the hill once more.
I realized I just couldn't keep up and decided to go back to the car. I ended up walking all the way back to the meet where the trailers were parked. Now I know what those straggler hounds feel like when they can't keep up with the leaders and loose the pack. They stop and listen for a while, and if they can't hear anything, they just keep truckin' back to where they started.

Later that day, I saw Pat, Kaye, Tom Bishop and a few other members of the hunt at the Warrenton Point-to-Point. One of them laughingly asked me how I liked walking out with Sherry, and had I ever been out with her before. With a wink and a smile, I told them I'd actually been out with her twice - my first and last time!

Ex- M.F.H. Tom Bishop demonstrates his inimitable style - in a comfy chair, smoking his pipe