Bedtime Stories: George G. Vest

An occasional series in which we offer a pleasant “good night” to our readers, courtesy of hunting literature. Sweet dreams!

Tonight’s Bedtime Story has a good story of its own behind it, and we have to thank one of our readers for drawing our attention to it. Here’s the gist of this fascinating tale. In 1870, Kentucky-born George G. Vest was a lawyer in Missouri when he was hired by a farmer named Charles Burden. It was an unusual case, and one that will resonate with hound-lovers everywhere. Burden was suing his neighbor (who also was, as it happened, his brother-in-law) over the death of Burden’s best foxhound, Old Drum, who had been found shot multiple times along the bank of Big Creek. Burden’s suspicion fell on his brother-in-law, Leonidas Hornsby, because Hornsby, a sheep farmer who had been plagued with heavy losses from marauding dogs and wolves, had been heard to say he would shoot the first stray dog he saw on his property. Burden also had heard gunfire, followed by the wailing of a dog, from the vicinity of Hornsby’s farm on the night Old Drum had gone missing.

The case took a number of twists and turns, and after a series of appeals and legal maneuvers, it finally landed in George Vest’s office. On September 23, 1870, in the Old Johnson County Courthouse in Warrensburg, Missouri, Vest presented his closing argument on Burden’s behalf, and, really, on Old Drum’s behalf as well. His remarks quickly became famous and were widely distributed among dog-lovers as “Eulogy of the Dog,” and we bring it to you tonight, in full, in honor of all dogs, particularly those who are abused, neglected, in need, or killed for whatever reason, even, as sometimes happens, for the crime of being the wrong color.

For the record, Burden won that round of the litigation: the jury returned a verdict in his favor and awarded him the maximum $50. The case continued on appeal, but in the end Burden prevailed. Vest went on to be a U.S. Senator, serving from 1879 to 1903.

George Vest’s “Eulogy of the Dog”:

“Gentlemen of the jury, the best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter whom he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has he may lose. It flies away from him perhaps when he needs it most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is the dog.

Vest's "Eulogy of a Dog" is reprinted in full on a statue outside the courthouse in Johnson County, Missouri. That's Old Drum the foxhound in the place of honor, right where he belongs.

“Gentlemen of the jury, a man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground when the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he can be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince.

“When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens. If fortune drives the master forth an outcast into the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him, to guard him against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws and his eyes sad but open, in alert watchfulness, faithful and true, even unto death.”

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Samson’s baby pictures

Cottesmore puppy walker Nina Camm with Samson and friends. Believe it or not, Samson is the light-colored hound in her lap. There's no sign of that red color that's so easy for us to spot now!

LAST year, after we wrote about Samson’s trip to the United States, we got an e-mail from Nina Camm, the woman who was Samson’s puppy-walker in England. She explained that she had always loved Samson and was happy to keep up with his adventures since his departure from the nearby Cottesmore pack. We were delighted to hear from someone who knew Samson “back in the day,” and we asked her if she’d mind sending some baby pictures and any recollections she had. They finally arrived this week, and we are happy to be able to share them.

According to Nina, Samson was born on February 20, 2007, and came to her from Cottesmore huntsman Neil Coleman’s kennel and April 8 of that year.

“The first picture,” Nina writes, “shows his mates who became his ‘brothers’ whilst at walk with me. From the left is a hunting beagle pup Blenheim, next is the Belvoir foxhound Bellman, then Samson, who at this time was the youngest, and lastly, on the right, is beagle pup Dawlish.”

The thing you’ll notice right off the bat is how much Samson’s color has changed. He was a towheaded youngster, but he’s a redhead now–one of the things that makes him easy to spot on the hunt field. In fact, in his baby picture Samson looks uncannily like our own Mr. Box–maybe this is as a result of hanging around with all those beagles? He grew out of that pale coat color, though. Nina also sent along a sort of high-school-age picture of Samson and pal Bellman, which shows Samson’s coat beginning to darken. “This is when Bellman and Samson had become accustomed to collars and would go off walking around the village with me,” Nina writes.

Belvoir Bellman and Cottesmore Samson walking in England with Nina Camm

“Bellman was born on 10th January 2007, so was that bit older than Samson,” writes Nina. “Bellman had been with me at walk since 9th March 2007, so he, Blenheim, and Dawlish had their feet firmly under the table by the time Samson arrived. All four slept, ate, and played together.”

Here is Samson today, so you can see how much his coat color has changed.

Samson, as photographed by Dave Traxler in December 2010.

Nina also sent along a picture of the Cottesmore’s puppy show program, which showed Samson’s name. “Sadly, Samson didn’t come in the top three, but I never worry too much about that,” she wrote to us. “As long as they hunt, I always think.”

Nina shouldn’t worry about that. Since arriving in the U.S., Samson has been a real asset to the Iroquois pack. Kennel manager Michael Edwards reports that Samson is outgoing and friendly to the people who work with him now, and Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason has been tremendously pleased with the red-and-white hound.

“He’s such a hard-working hound, and he’s invaluable,” Lilla said. “He always has his nose down. He’s quick to straighten out a line, and when they make a lose he’s often the hardest-working hound. He’s a leader to the puppies, for sure, because when he’s working hard they emulate that. He’s a top-notch hound.

Samson in profile. Dave Traxler photo.

“It’s quite a bit different hunting coyotes than hunting foxes, and you wonder how hounds will do when they come here and the quarry switches. To come to a different country where the smells are different, and where we have raccoons and skunks and different animals and trees and grass, I think it can take them time. Jerry was very complimentary of Samson when he hunted him last year, and this year I’ve really clicked with him. He loves hunting coyotes.

“We’re considering using him as a stallion hound, which is a compliment in our pack, because we only breed one litter a year.

“I can’t tell you how many times when I’ve been hunting the hounds, I’ve said, ‘Thank you, Neil!'” she added. “Because Samson is just a heck of a hound, and I’m so happy he was drafted to us. I really appreciate that Neil did that. The Cottesmore bloodlines have proven themselves to be superb on coyote. Coyotes run so much farther than foxes, and when you look down after a six-mile point, who’s there? Those hounds with Cottesmore bloodlines.”

When Samson is pensioned from the working pack, he’ll live out the rest of his days in happy and dignified retirement under the auspices of the Hound Welfare Fund. (By the way, our 2011 fundraising dinner and auction are coming up in March–watch this space!)

“If I won the lottery, I would be on the first flight over to see him and give him a massive hug,” Nina writes. “I know for certain he would still remember me, but until then please give him a big hug and kiss.”

Will do, Nina!

The Eider has landed!

Clear Creek Beagles Eider says a fond farewell to his best friend, Jean MacLean.

TONIGHT the houndbloggers are welcoming the newest resident of Beagle House, Clear Creek Beagles Eider. We think he’s probably some sort of cousin to Mr. Box, and in any case we know that both descend from the CCB’s great Major. Eider, now about two-and-a-half years old, started his hunting career last year with the Clear Creek beagle pack. We ran into him again this year at the end of November, when we went out beagling with Clear Creek Master of Beagles Buck Wiseman and whipper-in Jean MacLean. There, I’m afraid, Eider did not acquit himself very well. There were deer involved. And a lot of not leaving off their trail. And quite a bit of not coming when called. And called. And called.

Eider and Clear Creek Beagles Master and huntsman Buck Wiseman say au revoir.

And so it was, with great regret, that Buck determined that Eider–although he was a great character in the kennel and Jean’s favorite hound (she had raised and loved him from a pup)–needed a new home. Enter the houndbloggers.

Eider arrived this afternoon, on the very same day, it happened, that we also brought home our most ridiculous purchase to date: an early-1920s Victor Victrola wind-up phonograph. Yes, it was a folly, but who, I ask you, can really resist the delight of winding up a record player and then, as a reward, hearing it scratch out the tuneful strains of “With You” by Waring’s Pennsylvanians or the stirring fox trot “That Night in Araby” by Edwin J. McEnelly’s Orchestra?

Eider's eyes lit up when he heard the victrola!

(In case you’re wondering, we bought ours from Brian Gorrell at the Athens School antique show. He very kindly and enthusiastically explained all the technical stuff to us, about loud needles and soft needles, how to change them, and other interesting and useful things.)

Eider settles in for a good chew in his new home.

So far, Eider is settling in quickly and comfortably. Harry is disappointed that Eider, like the hound puppies who visited,  is not a minion (“I am sure I ordered minions,” says Harry). But otherwise things are fine. Eider likes Nylabones, biscuits, the dog beds by the fireplace, and, oops, my woolly clogs (or, okay, how about these paddock boots?), and my home office (an Emporium of Potential Toys!). He is not yet sure about leashes or walks in the ‘burbs, but he’s happy to be with the rest of the Beagle House pack. It will take him a little time to get used to the new routine now that he’s retired from hunting in the Clear Creek pack, but, if Mr. Box is any indication, it won’t take very long.

We’ll keep you posted!

When the puppies came to visit

"This is MY house, and you are under my command," explained Harry when hound puppies came to visit. "Here, you must swear an oath of loyalty to me and pay me tributes in many delicious biscuits."

It turns out there are limits to Harry's authority, after all.

Hound of the Day: Sassoon

Sassoon, the giant woolly, showed his leadership qualities on Dec. 31, 2010

THE weather has played havoc with the season, but on one of the better days when it was safe for hounds and riders to take to the hunt field, one of our favorite hounds was the hero.

It was New Year’s Eve, and the hounds hadn’t had a good gallop over the hunt country in two weeks (weather, weather, weather, more weather again …). After the long period of freezing temperatures, the temperature climbed to about 45 degrees on a windy New Year’s Eve.

“You’d expect them to be obviously anxious to get out and a little bit hard to handle at first,” Iorquois huntsman Lilla Mason said of the hounds. “It’s not unusual when they’ve had that much time off. But what you don’t want is for them to just run through the first few coverts with their heads up. I had a feeling it was going to be a marginal scenting day, although I never really know for sure about that until the hounds let me know.

Iroquois huntsman Lilla S. Mason. Photo by Dave Traxler.

“The first covert we drew, I tried to move really slowly, because the slower I go, the slower they’re going to have to go. I wanted them to empty and settle down and start putting their noses down and focusing. They were surprisingly good. This litter of puppies is just so mature for their age.

“It was kind of weird, because, even though it was windy, in a way it was still: there weren’t any birds, we didn’t see any rabbits, nature was still. The wind was going to be a factor, because it makes it hard to hear the hounds.

“I drew the Silo Pond Covert, and then I went and drew the Cabin Covert, which I never do in that sequence, because that puts me going back west toward an road that’s the border of our hunt country,” Lilla continued. “But this pack is so easy to handle that I went ahead and did it. I put them in at the west end of the Cabin Covert and then asked them to come out the south end. They could have just kept going on west, on down the covert to the road, but they did just exactly what I asked. They’re such a good team together.

“From there we went into Barker’s, and in Barker’s they started feathering. Then they started speaking.”

Baffle's first litter for Iroquois, the puppies now in their first year with the working pack, learned a valuable lesson about geese. Photo by Dave Traxler.

The chase was on. The hounds headed due east, with their huntsman galloping just behind. “But straight east there was a pond with a gaggle of of geese,” said Lilla. “And if there was one, there were 500 geese. I’ve never seen so many. All at once, they took flight, and they sounded just like a pack of hounds. The puppies ran straight to the sound; it sounded like a pack of hounds from God! The puppies must have thought they were going to hark to the biggest cry they’d ever heard. It was funny, because they ran right out of the covert and then on to the pond, and then you could see them realize pretty quickly they’d made a mistake. They looked so disappointed, like, ‘Aaaw, darn.’ But when puppies get caught like that, it’s part of their learning.

“They were kind of hot, so I thought I’d regroup and let the older hounds catch up to the puppies that had made the mistake and let them all get some water.”

The gray fox can climb trees--a feat that probably will amaze the young hounds! Photo by Steve Wayne Rotsch/Painet Inc.

After that brief rest, it was on to Murphy’s Covert, where hounds spoke again. Lilla rode to the north side of the covert in time to see Sassoon and Payton pop out, noses to the ground.

“They tried to take the line north but lost it,” she said. “They swirled around and cast themselves back into the covert, followed closely by the puppies, who also swirled around and followed them back into the covert, right along the line Sassoon and Payton had taken.”

Lilla waited. Sure enough, out came Sassoon and Payton again. This time, Sassoon took the line a little farther north before circling around and returning to Murphy’s covert once again, speaking a little from inside the covert.

The Iroquois hounds earlier this season.

“This went on a little while, and it was just beautiful hound work,” Lilla recalled. “You could tell they kept losing that line to the north, and they kept going back into the covert and speaking. You just never know if a coyote is concealed in there or what. You just have to let the hounds work it out. But to see the leadership of Sassoon. It was so clear. He just took charge: ‘The line’s fine here, here, here—no, not here. Gotta go back and try again.’ He kept coming out of the covert at the same place. They’d come tumbling back out of the covert and make a big cast with Sassoon in the lead, then go tumbling back into the covert behind him. That’s the experience a hound like Sassoon can offer your pack when the pack really needs it. When things get complicated, they look to a hound like him for that kind of leadership.

“They couldn’t find anything in Murphy’s Covert, and Sassoon was telling me the line seemed to be going north. To the north is a kind of scrubby covert that all year I have called ‘a covert of interest.’ It’s not much of a covert, just a long strip of scrubby weeds, and it’s not that wide and not very high. We don’t even have a name for it. It’s just sort of a scrubby fence line. But every time I’ve put the hounds in there they’ve spent a lot of time in there, even on a bad scenting day. It’s been a good training covert for them. They draw it really thoroughly. But it was odd, because it didn’t seem like enough covert for a coyote to sit in there.”

Another sort of gray fox, outside the Grimes Mill headquarters of the Iroquois Hunt Club.

Kennel manager Michael Edwards, who also serves as a road whip on hunt days, was in a good position to see what happened next. Sitting in his truck on the opposite side of the covert from Lilla, Michael spotted what appeared to be not a coyote, but a fox, dashing by. He was too far away to see the quarry in sharp detail, but he could tell even from a distance that it was small for a coyote. Michael later speculated that it was a gray fox or, possibly, a red fox with a lot of gray in its coat. That’s an intriguing development that seems all the more likely given that two local landowners’ automatic wildlife cameras recently have gotten images of gray foxes.

Iroquois Hunt kennel manager Michael Edwards spotted the quarry.

Whatever it was, the hounds had captured its scent and got on the line, blazing out the west end of the unnamed “covert of interest.”

The pack flew back to Barker’s, circling around and around in that covert and running between it and the back of Schwartz’s in the small circles that are typically for running foxes. They eventually made a lose in Barker’s. They  worked back to Murphy’s Covert and spoke briefly there before making a lose again. At that point, with hounds getting hot in the warmer weather, Lilla called it a day, still pondering the appearance of a possible fox at a time when we rarely see them.

The Iroquois field members always welcome a variety of game. Foxes will add a different spice to a day’s hunting by providing some days when hound work is the feature of the day, instead of the fast galloping sport that coyotes provide. There’s room for both in the Iroquois hunt country, and, while we continue to love the bold moves of hard-driving coyotes, we also hope to the foxes stick around–especially for days like New Year’s Eve, when we’ve been buried under snow and ice for weeks and our horses are no longer at peak fitness!

Huntsman Lilla Mason and the Iroquois hounds

“It wasn’t clear whether it was a red or a gray fox, but I would tend to think it was a red,” Lilla said, “because I don’t know why a gray would run out in the open like that. Usually, by this time of year, we don’t have any foxes in our hunt country, so it’s interesting that we found one. And now I know what’s been in that covert all this time.”

A fox or two will add a new element to the puppies’ education, as Lilla pointed out. “Especially if it’s a gray,” she said. “That will be a whole new dimension for the puppies, because a gray fox will go up a tree, and foxes just run so differently from coyotes. I guess Sassoon will have to explain that to them.”

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 33,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

 

In 2010, there were 99 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 164 posts. There were 397 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 1gb. That’s about 1 pictures per day.

The busiest day of the year was July 20th with 404 views. The most popular post that day was Puppies of Two Species.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were petconnection.com, chronofhorse.com, houndwelfarefund.org, facebook.com, and en.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for full cry, full cry hounds, puppies, hounds, and coyote.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Puppies of Two Species July 2010
7 comments

2

MFHA hunt staff seminar, part 4: Wiley Coyote April 2010
1 comment

3

Houndbloggers Abroad: Hunting’s historic clothiers (a tale of goss, coodle, and ventile lining) October 2009
2 comments

4

HWF auction: A peek at some of the art March 2010
7 comments

5

Beagles, bassets, and dozens of running bunnies (with two videos!) February 2010
4 comments