What I Did This Summer

The Iroquois hounds and huntsman Lilla Mason in the summer clover, as captured by Eloise Penn. Do you see any hounds you recognize?

YOU’RE right–I’ve neglected you lately. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about you. But this has turned into a busier-than-usual summer, which happily has provided some fodder for blogging, though not all of it is strictly hound-related.

For many of the folks I know here in central Kentucky, this is yearling sales season, and, by dint of my job as bloodstock business correspondent at Daily Racing Form, that means I’m busy, too. Fortunately, even for those of us whose lives are about to be consumed by the Thoroughbred auction season, the summer so far hasn’t only been about work. We’ve had some good playing, too, and that’s one reason I’ve been away from the keyboard more than usual.

Summer hound walk has been especially interesting this summer. On Saturday, I got out with huntsman Lilla Mason and the hounds, and what an interesting morning it turned out to be! Because a local farmer was working with his cattle in the area, we relocated from the usual starting point and into a beautiful nearby field that featured hills, thick clover, and a pond. The move didn’t bother the hounds a bit, and this was my first opportunity to see two of the pack’s most beloved young characters out at the same time: Paper and Driver.

Paper, you will undoubtedly remember, was a puppy last summer and joined the hunting pack in the fall, where he acquitted himself well. Although Driver is one of the new puppies–and there are a bumper crop of those, because Baffle’s litter is nine hounds strong!–Saturday’s comic relief was, once again, initiated by Paper, last season’s class clown.

What's THAT, Paper? Photo by Eloise Penn

When the hounds stopped off for a dip in this new pond, they unexpectedly met up with what they quickly sussed out were two suspiciously unflappable characters bent on world destruction, starting right here in. this. very. pond. This plot obviously competes with Harry’s Complex and Mostly Secret Plan for World Domination. In the interest of good reporting, the houndbloggers asked Harry about this and he said, “They’re ducks. Fake ducks. Give me a break.”

Paper, not having gotten word that decoys, in the duck world, mean ducks that aren’t real, was the first to raise the alarm. He did have a point: ducks that aren’t real and that don’t seem intimidated by a fully grown foxhound are kind of creepy, especially if you are a foxhound, and it’s not clear what they might do next if they aren’t scared enough to fly away when you bark at them. But Paper gave it his best shot, and it sounded like he was saying something along the lines of: “Weird thing alert over here!”

They've got it surrounded--the world is safe! Photo by Eloise Penn

The other hounds heeded his call, and, to give him full marks for bravery, it was the BA litter’s Bagshot, one of this year’s puppies, who was the first to put his actual nose right on the object, which obliged by bobbing merrily (or in a sinister manner, depending on what age and species you were at the time). This encouraged a few other puppies, but they evidently needed some reassurance, so Bagshot, having survived the first risky encounter, touched it again. And guess what? Nobody died.

Many thanks to Eloise for catching some of the encounter with her digital camera!

I expect saving the world from the predations of a couple of old duck decoys will rate highly on the puppies’ essays on the topic of What I Did This Summer. Which gets me to thinking. What would we have to write about on that subject? Sassoon the horse (as opposed to Sassoon the hound, the big woolly standing in the middle of the pack in front of Lilla) would write: “I got back out with the hounds on summer walk for the first time in more than a year! That was worth dancing about, so I did.”

Sassoon does the Happy Houndwalk Jig. Another great photo by Eloise!

Mr. Houndblogger watched the World Cup, along with 1,999,999,999 other people, we’re told. Mrs. Houndblogger indulged in some happy childhood memories by visiting with “the shakeytails” at the recent Lexington Junior League Horse Show (yes, I am a fan!) and learned, among other things, how not to catch a loose horse.

But, mostly, I’ve gotten back in the saddle and found myself thinking dreamily about … the upcoming hunt season. It’s within view!

An interesting aside from history …

This was too short to make an official Bedtime Story, but we found an intriguing note in a biography of Bror Blixen, The Man Whom Women Loved: The Life of Bror Blixen by Ulf Aschan. Blixen, you might remember, was the husband (and later the ex-husband) of author Karen Blixen, of Out of Africa fame. To see a picture of him, click here. To rekindle your fond memories of Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in the movie, click here.

In the biography, Aschan quotes a letter Bror Blixen wrote just before Karen arrived in Africa to marry him, and in it he said: “I am planning to take her up to Naivasha to Uncle Mogen’s place where I have arranged a lion gallop using Paul Rainey’s dogs.” There was a footnote  to that line, which explained that “Paul Rainey, an American, brought the first pack of lion dogs out. He was to have sent a guide to show them the way, but the guide never appeared. It was probably just as well, for Blix’s Austrian friend, Fritz Schindelar, was pulled from his horse that day and badly mauled by a lion. He died a week later.”

Good grief–lion dogs? I’ll just leave you with that thought. Yikes!

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