Bedtime Stories: G. T. Roller

WE’D never heard of G. T. Roller, either, until a big box arrived from England earlier this month, filled with old hardbound copies of the old “Baily’s Magazine of Sports and Pastimes.” They were mostly from the nineteen-teens and -twenties, and, according to their bookplates, had once lined the smoking room shelves at London’s Junior Carlton Club.

Needless to say, these sumptuous volumes have been keeping the houndbloggers pleasantly occupied ever since. We first found G. T. Roller on page 167 of the April 1920 issue, as the author of “Hounds, please, Gentlemen!” His story was so wonderful (though sad for one hound and a most unfortunate porcupine), and such a peculiar testimony to the lengths to which hound lovers will go to find sport, that we had to bring it into the internet age, lest it be lost forever. Without further ado, we give you Mr. Roller:

” ‘Hounds, please, Gentlemen!’

“That’s the cry on all five continents where the Empire has, or is about to, paint the map red, also in an occupied country. For wherever two or three Britons are gathered together there will be a hunt, provided they can scrape together horses to ride, and dogs of any sort that can follow a line. The native gets clear of the cry at first, but later–well, he

‘Joins the glad throng,

That goes laughing along.’

and sees there is really something in chasing a small animal with a pack of ‘yap dogs.’

“Last year a certain Yeomanry regiment quartered near Damascus (they must be nameless, for I know their modesty), made up their minds to hunt the fox, the hare, the jackal or anything–what cared they which–as long as it was a hunt. A large litter of pups made the nucleus of the pack, and these were presented to them by the Transport lady dog (a mascot) many months before, and brought up by the Transport who love dogs–and mules, sometimes the porcupine (but more of that later). They–these ‘pariah pups’–were of the age to learn to hunt; but alas! no ‘old entry’ to help ’em along. So these sportsmen tried to teach them, so to speak, by hand. They laid an aniseed drag and loosed the horde of four couple (and the mamma) on the line. The horde assiduously hunted garbage–and on the outskirts of Damascus there is plenty of it–but refused the line entirely. The huntsman hunted the line on his own; it was thick enough, and ‘yoiked ’em’ on with hunting noises and the aid of about four whips. The attempt was laughed at, and the enthusiasts (for a time) were laughed at also.

“Patiently a few of the officers of the regiment set to work helped by a few troopers, real good types of sporting yeomen who knew the great game and didn’t give a hang for the laughs. They meant to get something out of nearly nothing, that would give the follower a hunt. It was uphill work and work done in the afternoon, generally pouring rain, after morning parade that they went out–ostensibly to exercise the Transport dogs, really they were teaching them. They never got quite what they wanted, but with the help of ‘Bellman,’ a cross between a spaniel and–well, goodness knows what, but a sportsman at any rate, drafted into the pack–they began to hunt. It was bad sort of hunting, but it was hunting. So often you can put up a fox or jackal and hounds will run at sight for a bit, and those mongrels did their best. Then in would come Bellman very late, but he’d hunt the line.

“Oh, you of the gallant shires, don’t smile, think what these keen ones were up against and the stuff they had to work with.

“One afternoon a certain Indian Cavalry Colonel came out with the much-scoffed-at pack ‘for exercise.‘ They put up a fox and hunted him in a sort of a way, till he checkmated hounds by descending a precipice. That same colonel was so pleased with the hound work, albeit erratic, that he helped enormously in persuading the enthusiasts to really get hunting going.

“They did, and the opening meet was held at the west end of ‘the street that is called Straight,’ mentioned in the Bible, but never as a hunting fixture in the Field or other sporting paper. It was warm that opening meet day. The hounds were brought up ‘Straight Street’ in the regimental hound cart (half a limber wagon, to speak the truth). When let out at the ‘rendezvous’ they hunted every garbage heap in the vicinity, keeping the whips busy, and finally got out into the country. Not a yard of scent, but about 1.15 they did have a bit of a gallop over an amusing bit of country, little banks and ditches, but enough to fire the hunting spirit in everybody; and they laughed no more. Several hunts came after this with varying success on the east side of Damascus, but giving pleasure to many.

“Then this yeomanry regiment got their commanding officer back from leave, who took over the pack and hunted them himself, showing good sport.

“The pack killed hares and jackals–but let us breathe it in a whisper–never a fox. About this time they obtained one wonderful hound, an Arab greyhound, wonderful and weird with a Newgate fringe round his ears. But he ate up the ground like an Avro eats the air. The pack and the field beat the plain and if they put up a hare that extraordinary Arab ‘welsher’ would spot him and streak. If the hare doubled in a fold of the ground and got out of sight he was done. Then the Master would get up the long left behind pack with the aid of his whips, and hunt; once put up again the dog of the desert was sure to get him. ‘Funny hunting,’ you will say, but it was the best to be had and they all enjoyed it. Forsooth they had a field of eighty-five out with them once, and all to a man went home happy.

“But they had their tragedies, not counting when they were laughed at; Bellman was killed one morning, killed by an overzealous follower of the hunt; that was the worst. Another was the loss of the horn, the only horn the hunt possessed. Wildly did the hunt committee advertise for another. ‘The Egyptian Gazette,’ ‘The Palestine News,’ ‘Brigade Orders,’ even H.Q. cried aloud to borrow, beg, or buy a hunting horn, but alas! no horn forthcame. A cable to England brought one but long after hunting had stopped.

“Also they had humour, lots of it, but the best was when the hunt agreed to bag a fox and take him to the best side of their country, what might be termed ‘the vale.’

“If all facts of the case were known, it was not so unsporting as it sounds, but we have not the space to quote them.

“Albeit a fox was run to earth in ‘the home covert’–a cactus plantation–stopped in and guarded until the shades of night were falling fast, when out came the baggers with spades and a large sack. The sack was spread over the hole and digging started. Suddenly a terrible scrambling and rattling was heard underground and something hurled itself into the sack. They had bagged a porcupine! Unfortunately in the digging operations his near hind leg had been broken, so he was quickly put out of his pain. Everyone had a quill and the Transport ate him, and very nice they said he tasted.

Photo by Dave Traxler.

“So through many vicissitudes the hunt got through a season, making the welkin ring round the Damascus olive groves and the native to clear the way to the cry of ‘Hounds, please, Gentlemen!'”

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Hound of the Day: Driver

Driver blossomed into a leader at the March 26 hunt. Dave Traxler photo.

WE’VE always loved Driver, and following his progress from monster pupposaurus to goofy young long-distance swimmer to hunting hound has been an adventure, to say the least. Life around Driver generally is an adventure! As one of the Iroquois working pack’s few dark-colored (and most massive) hounds, he’s easy to spot on the hunt field, an added bonus for his fans following him across country.

And, lately, Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason says he’s been showing real leadership qualities. Over the last few weeks, he’s progressed steadily, showing more seriousness about his work–all of which culminated March 26 in his being selected as Hound of the Day.

In his first season with the pack, Driver has matured physically and mentally.

Here’s what Lilla had to say about his performance that day:

“I would make Driver the Hound of the Day, not because he contributed the most or did something particularly unique, but this was the day he really switched on. You know, it’s March Madness, and watching Driver I thought about the Butler team and some players who get so competitive, you can see in their faces that they are unaware of anything except the task at hand. That was Driver. He switched on with all the concentration, focus, and enthusiasm of any hound any day I’ve seen him hunt.”

Lilla said Driver has been regularly participating in the pack’s work, but that Driver’s skills and focus stepped up a notch to professional level Saturday, especially on the second run of the day.

“It was a very, very fast run, and we went very far in open country,” she explained. “So they really had to move, and there were no checks. It was just flat-out, solid running. And Driver was just on fire. He was always the first, second, or third hound–not that that’s what you necessarily look for–but he was a front-running, pushing hound, driving that coyote on. He was behind it, and, by gosh, if that coyote ever looked back, he’d be sorry. I’ve always thought that about Driver: boy, I wouldn’t want to turn around and see him running behind me!”

Before: Driver with Gene Baker on his first day of leash training in early 2010.

This is the kind of move everyone thought Driver had in him. Everything about Driver is, after all, big: his stride, his personality, his physique. Now, after a season with the working pack, he knows his job, and it shows.

“All the puppyness and softness was just gone,” Lilla said. “He was just a hunting machine. That was his big day. He turned into a real foxhound.

After: No more puppy fat now! This was taken after the March 13 Foxtrot meet.

“He’s right where you want a first-season hound, really,” she continued. “He knows his nose, he knows the right quarry, he contributes, he speaks. Every step of the way on that run he was speaking, and that’s hard when you’re running out in the open like that. But there he was, mouth wide open, just screaming.”

That kind of drive is important in a working foxhound, but so are other traits, and Driver is showing those, to0, key signs of Driver’s maturity.

Driver and the pack. Dave Traxler photo.

“He comes to the horn, and he stops when he’s supposed to stop,” Lilla said. “When they  finally lost the line, he calmed right down. And that’s nice. He’s very easy to handle.”

Lilla mentioned March Madness, and, well, we wondered whether any of you who have been following the University of Kentucky’s rising fortunes in the basketball tournament have noticed what we did: is it just us, or does UK player Josh “Jorts” Harrellson look like Driver’s big brother? When he gallops up and down the court, he looks much more massive than his counterparts, and that black hair is kind of Driveresque. Let’s face it, it’s the same hairstyle our Driver sported back when he was a pup. Take a closer look:

Driver in July 2009.

And both young men have that power running style and plenty of agility:

Okay, so maybe it’s just us. But we do see a resemblance. One thing we KNOW is true: Driver’s got at least as many fans as Harrellson does!

Photo by Dave Traxler.

There’s only one more meet on the fixture card, and that will close out the 2010-’11 hunt season. But we still have a folder full of photos and video snippets to share from hunt season, including photos by Iroquois board member Eloise Penn and our intrepid neighbor/photographer Dave Traxler, plus video of hound work and some beautiful scenes from the hunt field. Watch this space!

Hound of the Day: Battle

Battle at work.

BATTLE is one of the Iroquois pack’s younger hounds. A member of the BA litter we’ve been following since their birth, he joined the working pack in 2010. But he’s already distinguishing himself.

The March 5 hunt was a great one, Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason reported. A gray fox led the hounds and the field of horses and riders on a rapid tour of the local coverts. “He came out of Bud’s covert and went to Tommy’s Dove Field, then through the Deer Covert, over to the Silo Pond Covert and on through the Cabin Covert, and then over to Murphy’s Covert, through Barker’s, and into the cliff behind the Schwartzes’ place,” Lilla said. “They finally lost the scent near there.”

Lilla collected the hounds, trotted them down a nearby road, and put them into a covert behind Pauline’s. “They immediately found a coyote, and we ran through Pauline’s Ridge, through Garden’s Bottom, through Gentry Cliff, over to the covert behind Robertson’s, through Athens Woods,” she said. “We went 14 miles in an hour and 15 minutes.”

On this outstanding day, young Battle came to the fore. “He’s always been in there doing the right thing, but all of a sudden that day he really came to life. He has the confidence to try to help on his own. When they would get at a check, he immediately would cast himself around like the older hounds do. Sometimes when a puppy does that they’ll keep looking up, like they’re wondering, ‘Am I going to get left behind? Do I really know what I’m doing? What’s the hound doing over there?’ They’re a little more jealous of each other. But Battle was doing what I call turning into a machine. That’s when they’re so efficient, and they know exactly how to frantically try to find the line again. They do it without even thinking; it’s instinct. He was just like an older, seasoned hound.

Battle on the trot.

“He’s gotten to be so big and rangy and strong,” she added. “He was always a confident hound, but now it’s the kind of confidence that if there’s a problem on a hunt, he can help with it.”

Battle’s BA littermates also performed well. “All day, you could have thrown a blanket over them,” Lilla said. “Everyone stayed up, and everyone was a help. And it went so fast. They were awesome.”

The Last of the Beagles and Bassets (with videos!)

The Sandanona Harehounds took to the hunt field in the late afternoon. Photo by Dave Traxler.

HUNT season is nearing its conclusion, so we take leave of the Clear Creek Beagles and Sandanona Harehounds with our final videos and pictures from last weekend’s “festival of rabbit-chasing” here in central Kentucky. For part one of this little annual series, including video from the Clear Creek Beagles on their Friday afternoon hunt, click here. Heck, while you’re at it, you might be interested to see last year’s videos and posts from the beagling and basseting weekend, too.

Today’s videos of the beagles and bassets include the packs in full cry and a view of a rabbit. First up, the Clear Creek Beagles:

And now the Sandanona Harehounds:

And, for more viewing pleasure, here’s a Smilebox with some photos of the weekend’s hunting.

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On Saturday, sadly, we once again missed the Farmington Beagles, which means that we owe Sherry Buttrick and Forbes Reback another apology as well as a promise to catch them next season. We made it to the meet in time to see the Clear Creek Beagles head off at noon, then went out again with the Sandanona basset pack at 3 p.m. Both packs provided great sport. The bassets hunted quite a bit in thick, tall grass known as Little Texas, where they contended with passels of rabbits that made for a very challenging day for huntsman Betsy Park.

One of the Sandanona bassets. Photo by Dave Traxler.

The Clear Creek Beagles, on the other hand, hunted out in the open quite a bit and benefitted from less-rabbity country as the sporting cottontails generously ran one at a time, allowing for some nice runs–several pieces of which we caught on the HD camera. There are a few things to note in the CCB video. First, we’ve included a four-minute section, entirely unedited, that illustrates just how much these hounds, like the foxhounds, rely on scent–and when scenting is difficult or downright uncooperative, it can scuttle a run, to the rabbit’s advantage. That clip of the video also features a stylish “Tally-ho!” from Mr. Houndblogger as the rabbit shot past our feet on her way to the safety of relatively scent-repellent ground.

When we take first-timers out beagling, they’re often struck by how much advantage the quarry actually has, running as he or she does over home territory and often with the scenting to the game’s, rather than the hounds’ benefit. That four-minute video clip shows the real challenge of scent-hunting, as well as the beauty of diligent hound work.

One couple–and a lurking half!–of Clear Creek Beagles. Photo by Dave Traxler.

A second thing to note: CCB Mister. This tough little badger-pie hound and his packmate, Minder, kept “appearing in dispatches,” so to speak. Every time we were out with the Clear Creek Beagles, we repeatedly heard huntsman Buck Wiseman say, “Hark to Mister!” or “Hark to Minder!” as one of these hounds often picked up the line first and led the pack on. We have a nice little clip or two of Mister in action on this video. He’s easy to pick out due to his notably muted coloring.

The houndbloggers asked Buck to tell us a little about Mister and Minder, and this is what he said:

“Mister is the oldest working hound in the pack at 7.  He is by Mason ’00, who is still with us, but in retirement.  Mason with his littermates, Moonshine and Magic, were mainstays for years.  They were a litter by Draper ’90 out of Macon ’97.  Draper was an outstanding hunting hound.  Oddly, Macon was not, although I always liked her, and that litter of three were all tops. Mister is out of Mango ’97, who was Champion Bitch at Mid-America as well as being a very good hunting hound. All of them except Draper trace back to Woodfield Major ’94 to some degree or other.  Draper was almost entirely my old Rollington Foot bloodlines.
“Mister has always been a hound with a very good nose, but who will also drive along at the front.  He is a bit stocky in build to appeal to most judges, but he is a very balanced strong hound. Mister is also the sire of Scholar and Swagger, the two puppies who also were in the pack over the weekend.  Scholar was seen to pick a check across a roadway on Saturday.  It was his third time out.
“Minder is an ’07 entry by Scabbard ’05 out of Magic ’00, litter sister to Mason, Mister’s sire. Scabbard was by Moonshine.  Yes, I know, the breeding is too close.  The truth is, it was an accident in the kennel, but from it I have gotten Minder, his sister Mayhap, whose name you may also have heard over the weekend.  Their sister Matchbox is with my niece, Randall, in Virginia and also hunts very well.  Minder just really started coming into his own as a signicant force at checks and in searching at the end of last season.  He has continued to improve by giant steps this season.  Minder is, in addition, a very nice-looking balanced hound.”
One other thing to note about the beagles’ video is the red and white female you’ll occasionally see. Does she look familiar? Regular readers of the hound blog might recognize some similarities to a certain orange and white beagle the houndbloggers recently acquired from the CCB pack. In fact, she’s one of Eider’s sisters, although I can never remember which one: she’s either Eager or Enid! If Jean MacLean is out there reading, perhaps she will offer a positive identification for us.

The Clear Creek pack with huntsman and joint-Master of Beagles Buck Wiseman. Photo by Dave Traxler.

In our next post, we’ll return to the hunt field with the Iroquois foxhounds, whose huntsman Lilla Mason has chosen a young Hound of the Day, as well as an update on Driver.