Bedtime Stories: J. Stanley Reeve

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

The houndbloggers can’t say they knew very much about author J. Stanley Reeve when , in 2009, they picked up a slightly water stained copy of his 1921 book Radnor Reminiscences: A Foxhunting Journal. But he was, in fact, quite a figure of the day. Reeve, who lived from 1878 until 1960, was second cousin-in-law, if there is such a thing, to Theodore Roosevelt (himself a friend of Iroquois Hunt founder General Roger D. Williams) and of the famous poet Amy Lowell, too. Time magazine once described Reeve as the “seasoned and punctilious sportsman of Haverford, Pa.,” and Town and Country gave him the title of “the leading fox hunter of the leading fox hunting city in the country.” Better yet, we have since found a 2010 article by Terry Conway that gives a less formal but more delightful portrait of tonight’s Bedtime Stories author: ” a seasoned sportsman and snappy dresser celebrated for his colorful straw bowlers and, on occasion, a nearly orange suit.” Goodness.

A Radnor Hunt stalwart, Reeve also was on hand for one of the great runs in the history of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds, the so-called Lenape Run of February 1932, described in delicious detail here. The history describes “a 9 3/4-mile point–39 miles as hounds ran–in five hours and 20 minutes” that ended with only three riders remaining when the gallant fox was accounted for by the hunt’s bitches: huntsman Charlie Smith, M. F. H. Plunket Stewart, and Reeve.

Without further ado, we turn the evening over to Mr. Reeve:

“It has always seemed to me that those hunting people who never begin hunting until the regular season commences, in November, miss half the delights of the game. Anything that one gets real enjoyment from is worth a little hardship; and it certainly pays in regard to hunting.

“It seems like getting up in the middle of the night the first time one does it; but that good early morning smell; the hack to covert in the dark; and the glorious music of about 30 couples of hounds as they go swishing through the wet grass; a field of only three or four out and all in rat-catcher kit, and all with the same trend of thought! Who is the ‘lay-a-bed’ chap who says it does not pay? he’s never tried it; that’s the reason he talks as he does.

‘But what a blessing it is,’ as my father used to say, ‘that we all don’t think alike.’ Other wise, there would be no nice small fields in August and September, and we would not have that feeling, after a morning’s cubbing, of having sort of ‘put one over’ on the other fellows.

“The present generation of sportsmen–and especially the younger ones–are a bit prone to want their sport made easy for them. Motors, too, have quite taken away one of the most delightful parts of a day’s hunting; that of hacking to the meet and the hack home with a congenial friend; a good pipe of tobacco and maybe a nip or two from a flask; and, as Sabretache, in his ‘Pictures in the Fire,’ says:

“‘How often in riding to the meet have you met and been greatly amused by overtaking a chap who evidently had gotten out of bed that morning with the wrong foot first. Nothing is right with him or his world; horse won’t walk; there’s a button giving him Hades inside his boot; the bad-worded groom has put on the very saddle that he doesn’t like; it’s a rotten part of the country we are going into; not a dog’s earthly of a gallop, and, even if we do, the whole place is wired like a mouse-trap; then, cuss these motors that make his nasty, flashy, washy chestnut shy and go up on the bank; dash the wind that won’t let him light a cigarette; and if he ever rides that horse again may he be boiled; he’d sell him for half-a-pound of tea (rather a high figure to on him in these days); and why the devil grooms put on odd leathers and can’t take the trouble to burnish one’s irons, blessed if he knows … and so forth and so on! Poor old thing! He’s bound to be in trouble, a man like this, who starts out looking for it. First thing that happens to him is that the chestnut, who will not wait his turn at a gate, bangs his knee against it, and then, raking at his bridle, nearly puts one of his thumbs out of joint against the breast-plate; next thing, at a small place that a donkey could jump, the chestnut drops his hind legs in, and flounders and sprawls in a manner that nearly causes the owner to leave the plate. Know him? Of course you know him, so do we all!’

“So different from the other kind of fellow, who, like the ‘lady’ who went to the ball-dance and said she’d had a splendid time–three falls, four Scotches, and a mazurka–is full of beans and benevolence, no matter what happens. When you meet him after the first scene of the first act–say after those men on the haystack have interfered with the plot as originally arranged by the high-class expert who is hunting the hounds–he has a nasty red mark bang across his nose, there’s a hole in his new ‘Hard-hitter,’ and the nice-looking bay five-year-old he is riding has a large consignment of Chester County distributed over his forehead-band and face. Mr. Fuller-Beans says, in reply to your inquiry about the bouleversement: ‘Not a bit, old cock! And he’s never put a foot wrong since! A real topper, and he’ll make up into one of the very best.’ And that nice, persevering young bay horse really does perform brilliantly in Act II, just because he realizes that Mr. Fuller-Beans’s heart is in the right place, and that a little matter like that fall over the bit of a stick that mended that gap is not the kind of thing that is going to choke him off or upset his temper. However, it takes all kinds of people to make up the world, and most of them are pretty nice, especially the ladies.”

Princes, Kings, Champagne, and a Scratch

HA puppy Hamlet, as photographed by IHC member Gene Baker.

IT’S hard to believe how much the HA puppies have grown! Iroquois Hunt member Gene Baker caught young Hamlet looking regal and mature–and wise beyond his years. Amazing to think he and his siblings are only seven months old.

To see the HA pups on the move, click here and here for videos from their hound walks. Thanks, Gene, for sending the photograph!

Kennel reception a hit

The HA puppies recently provided entertainment to visitors at the Iroquois kennel’s Champagne reception, hosted by the hunting hounds and the retirees.

The hounds hosted a crowd last month at the kennel's Champagne reception.

Now, when the Iroquois hounds put on a party they really, er, put on the dog. Their friends Uschi Graham and Kasia Pater, who also is the honorary chair of this year’s Hound Welfare Fund dinner and auction (June 4: mark your calendars!), lent a stylish hand and decorated the kennels with Persian carpets, potted palms, bronzes, and a work by Andre Pater.

Despite the afternoon’s very windy conditions, a good time was had by all–and the wind even died down eventually, making it easier to keep hold of your Champagne flute and hors d’oeuvres!

Iroquois member Robin Doller chats with one of the day's hosts.

Also within easy reach at all times: bottles of bubbly. Yes, the good stuff. The hounds know what they’re doing when they choose Champagne!

Many, many thanks to everyone who helped make the day so much fun, including Michael Edwards and Alan Foy for answering questions and showing off the hounds and their living quarters and Gene Baker and Blaine Holloway for providing a pair of handsome examples of proper hunt attire–and, of course, thanks to all the guests!

King’s Troop and the Foxhunting Tradition

One of the houndbloggers’ pet topics is the long and close relationship between foxhunting and the military, and we were especially excited to see a story touching on that shared history in the May 2011 issue of The Field.

The story on p. 80, which you can read online here, is about the King’s Troop. The King’s Troop grew out of the Riding Troop, a ceremonial troop that was part of the Royal Horse Artillery. In 1947, King George VI–he of “The King’s Speech,” if you’re a movie fan–changed the troop’s name to the King’s Troop. Upon King George VI’s death, his daughter Queen Elizabeth II left the name unchanged in his honor. The King’s Troop is a highly prestigious unit and, although the Troop’s function is ceremonial, its members are serving military and trained fighting soldiers. According to the Ministry of Defence, six members of the Troop are deployed in Afghanistan at any given time.

So what’s the hunting connection? The Royal Artillery has its own hunt (that link includes video; you can also see more video of their hounds here), and King’s Troop members frequently are to be found riding there. The King’s Troop also has its own hunt button. A few tidbits from The Field:

  • “In the hall above the door is a fox’s mask, the conclusion of a 50-minute hunt with the Derwent (24 February 1953) from Rowe Bridge to Howl Dale. The precise accounting of a boar’s head nearby is unrecorded.”
  • Neil Cross, the troop’s current commanding officer, commented on the King’s Troop’s close involvement in hunting: “It is important that we know how to get something extra out of a horse and how to ride the terrain. This is critical when towing a 1 1/2-ton gun carriage.” His words reflect the longstanding view among cavalry officers that foxhunting provided excellent training, because it taught not only a good seat at speed across country, but, more importantly, the importance of terrain and natural conditions in battle.
  • Patrick Martin, now huntsman for the Bicester with Whaddon Chase, is a former soldier who joined the King’s Troop in 1977 at age 17. “What my three years with the Troop taught me was discipline, respect for authority, and to turn yourself out to the top standard,” he told The Field.

The King's Troop. Photo courtesy of Kuva1574/Creative Commons.

The King’s Troop is a thing of beauty to watch in its state duties, which include providing the gun carriage and a team of black horses for state and military funerals, as well as firing royal salutes on state occasions and royal anniversaries. the King’s Troop also takes over duties of the Life Guards at Horse Guards for one month each year.

Hound Blog Hunch Bet update: no Toby!

Sadly, the houndbloggers received word this morning that Toby’s Corner will not run in the Kentucky Derby after showing some lameness in a hind leg. To read more about Toby and his withdrawal from the Derby, click here and here.

Master of Hounds is still in the race, though!

Toby (right) and cousin Eider are feeling pretty glum about Toby's Corner's withdrawal from the 2011 Kentucky Derby.

And obviously we weren’t the only ones rooting for Toby’s Corner. Photographer Maggie Kimmitt kindly sent us a shot of this banner in Fair Hill, Maryland, where Toby’s Corner is based with trainer Graham Motion.

It’s disappointing news, but here’s hoping Toby’s Corner gets over his lameness quickly and returns to competition soon! Until then, it looks like our Toby is considering ways to console himself on Derby day. Drink responsibly, Tobes!

Photo by Gina Spadafori.

Way Back When: Joseph B. Thomas’s Huntland kennels

Joseph B. Thomas's Huntland kennel, photographed circa 1914. Author Alexander MacKay-Smith once referred to them as "the most perfectly appointed foxhound kennels and hunt stables in America." Photo courtesy of the Karen Myers collection.

VIRGINIA photographer Karen Myers has unearthed a real gem: a small collection of historical photos from Virginia foxhunting a century ago. To see the collection online, click here.

The houndbloggers were especially pleased to see an array of photos of the Huntland kennel, which housed the Piedmont hounds. Huntland’s owner and the then Master of the Piedmont was Joseph B. Thomas, who–according to MacKay-Smith–at one time kept 105 couple of entered hounds and 48 couple of unentered hounds there for three days of hunting a week.

An American hound at the Huntland kennels. Photo courtesy of the Karen Myers collection.

In his 1914 book American Adventures, published around the time these photographs were taken, author Julian Street described Huntland this way:

In a well-kept park near Mr. Thomas’s house stand extensive English-looking buildings of brick and stucco, which, viewed from a distance, suggest a beautiful country house, and which, visited, teach one that certain favored hounds and horses in this world live much better than certain human beings. One building is given over to the kennels, the other the stables; each has a large sunlit court, and each is as beautiful and as clean as a fine house–a house full of trophies, hunting equipment, and the pleasant smell of well-cared-for saddlery.

Thomas was drawn to Middleburg by the Great Hound Match of 1905, which inspired him to build this veritable temple to foxhounds. The “dashing, handsome bachelor and expert horseman,” as a 2008 Middleburg Life article put it, succeeded to the Piedmont mastership in 1915.

Huntland owner and Piedmont Master of Fox Hounds Joseph B. Thomas. Photo courtesy of the Karen Myers collection.

The Piedmont’s American hounds were a source of great pride to Thomas, who gradually came to favor what he called “the Old Virginia foxhound” that he felt was, in its ideal form, was “similar to the great British hounds of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries,” and he pointed to a Sartorius painting of Peter Beckford’s pack as evidence. In his 1928 book Hounds and Hunting Through the Ages (a houndblogger favorite), Thomas said this about the Old Virginia hounds:

After many years of experience, the author has become convinced that the most efficient pack hound in the world to hunt a fox is this Old Virginia foxhound. …

Such hounds may be considered deficient if they cannot regularly hunt hard at least three days a week, or more than this if required. They must have sufficient determination and stamina never to stop trying as long as their fox remains above ground or their is a vestige of aline left. A pack of such hounds must be able to account for foxes in the roughest woodland and hill country in July heat (as my pack is required to do), sound of foot, and sufficiently agile to negotiate the steepest of rocky cliffs in the North, as well as have enough nose and drive to kill red foxes in sandy Carolina. This pack must hunt with dash and style, carrying great head, negotiating burnt-over tracts, and pressing tirelessly for hours, if necessary, through briers, cane, half-frozen swamp water, as if there were nothing to stop them, and, gallantly killing their fox, come home with their sterns up, a pack in fact as well as in name. In grass country, these hounds must be able to outpace, under good conditions, the best of Thoroughbred horses.”

Photo courtesy of the Karen Myers collection.

… and a Hound Blog Hunch Bet Update!

Speaking of the best of Thoroughbred horses, it’s almost Kentucky Derby week! The race is on Saturday, May 7, at Churchill Downs, and, as regular readers of the hound blog know, our very own Tobermory Box is attempting to become the first beagle to win it.

The Hound Blog Hunch Bet has now grown to an exacta, because Irish invader Master of Hounds remains in the lineup as of this writing, giving the houndbloggers the delicious prospect of a Toby’s Corner-Master of Hounds finish in the 137th Run for the Roses.

And here’s another reason to root for Toby’s Corner: his breeders and owners, Dianne and Julian Cotter, are foxhunters. Both hunt with the Misty Morning Hounds, a drag hunt near Gainesville, Fla. Dianne is the honorary hunt secretary, and Julian is one of the field masters. They also host the hunt’s opening meet every year at their Snooty Fox Farm in Alachua, Florida.

Toby's got a reason to smile: he likes Toby's Corner's chances!

To read more about the Cotters–and about how Toby’s Corner’s mother and paternal grandmother almost became three-day event horses instead of the dams of two Derby starters–click here.

There’s one other Hound Blog Hunch if you’re the kind of player who likes to bet trifectas: Shackleford, because there is a well-known place in the Iroquois Hunt country called Shackleford Hill, not far from the hunt’s headquarters at the old Grimes Mill.

And if you’re looking for a horse to bet that has nothing whatever to do with the hound blog, as far as we know, the Beagle House hounds have made their picks. Except for Bingo, a teetotaler who also doesn’t gamble. We respectfully suggest $2 across the board on Midnight Interlude (Eider’s pick) or Stay Thirsty (Harry’s choice).

On a more worrying note …

Could Eider, Beagle House’s newest resident, be part vampire? Evidence below.

Got garlic?

Toby’s on the Derby Trail again!

Our Toby is working out again for the Kentucky Derby--just in case!

WE can hardly believe it, but the hound blog’s little white beagle, Mr. Tobermory Ice Box, could be heading back to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby on May 7–for the second year in a row!

This is big news for a couple of reasons. First, while the houndbloggers haven’t researched this extensively, we think it’s pretty rare for a beagle to run in the Derby. Second, because the race is for three-year-old horses only, it’s REALLY rare for a beagle to run in the race in two consecutive years.

Last year, our Mr. Box was part of an all-box exacta, as you might recall. His namesake in the 2010 race, Ice Box, finished second. This year, he hits the Derby Trail again, thanks to the stunning (“It wasn’t stunning to ME,” says the white beagle) last-to-first upset victory (“I didn’t find it upsetting,” interjects the beagle) by Toby’s Corner in Saturday’s Wood Memorial. He’s got green and red silks.

And here is Toby is his Corner. Hmmmm.

Toby's eyes are alight at the prospect of another chance at the Kentucky Derby!

The houndbloggers first picked up on the equine Toby’s Corner back in February when he won the Whirlaway Stakes, and we kind of hoped he might head Derbyward. He looks much more likely for the race now, after his Saturday victory over the previously undefeated Uncle Mo, last year’s two-year-old champion.

Asked how he’s managed to become a Derby contender for the second year, Tobermory Ice Box credited his many names and nicknames, as well as the fact that he’s originally from Derby City: Louisville, Kentucky. He thinks he might also have been born in May, but he can’t be sure. A former member of the Clear Creek Beagles hunting pack just outside Louisville, our white beagle originally was named Clear Creek Beagles Icebox. We added Tobermory when he moved in with us, and so he is variously known as Mr. Box, Toby, and Tobes.

For a video and photographic look at Toby’s workout regimen (possibly the real secret to his success), click here and scroll down.

This year, of course, he has another house hound to  help him prepare for the Derby. That’s his cousin and another former Clear Creek pack member, Eider.

Clear Creek Beagles Eider has joined Toby's workout team this year.

And, by the way, the 2011 Hound Blog Hunch Bet could get even better. There’s another possible starter this year named Master of Hounds. We kid you not. Stay tuned!