The Hat of Shame and other news

YOU know what they say about the best-laid plans. One of the houndbloggers had a plan that went well agley, as the poet said, at a recent meet. Well, it wasn’t so much the plan as the hound truck that went agley, right into a post.

When one is riding around in the hound truck, one feels as if one ought to help. So it was that when kennel manager Michael Edwards, collecting a hound at the end of the day just off a two-lane country road, asked one of the houndbloggers to please back the hound truck into position so he could safely load the hound, that houndblogger snapped to attention and did her best. Mr. Houndblogger is blameless in this; at the time, he was miles away, babysitting the house hounds. It should be said here that I am short, and the truck is tall. I should also point out that a dually is considerably wider than, for example, our faithful Tercel (the legendary Jeeves) or even our other faithful car, the Tucson named Brabinger (featured in this post).

In my attempt to back the hound truck into the side road where Michael stood waiting with the hound, I might not have done the Very Best Possible job of wrestling the truck into position for optimal hound-loading. There might have been a stone pillar involved. It could be that there is now a dent, perhaps even a significant dent, marring the beauty of the otherwise very lovely hound truck. Now, in his own defense, Michael was trying heroically to direct me from the ground, and I did hear him say, “Turn your wheel all the way to the left,” but I missed the part about “Whoa! Whoa! WHOA!” until I heard the CRRRUNCH that usually signifies that it is too late. I did, at least, hear that.

*Sigh*

Here is the result of the houndblogger-pillar-hound truck combination:

The Dent.

Now, when you do something as egregious as running the back end of the hound truck into a pillar, there’s really only one thing you can do to make up for it. Actually two things. One is to write a check to the Hound Welfare Fund and hope the hounds forgive you for messing up their nice ride. The other is to wear the Hat of Shame, which at least brings a smile back to the faces of the hunt staff.

The Hat of Shame takes a little explaining. In theory, it sounds like a good idea, which is probably why someone who shall remain nameless, we’ll call her Lilla, decided to order it in the first place. It’s a cowboy hat that is also a riding helmet. Again, this sounds great: a truly safe cowboy hat.

But then you put it on.

And then you see the problem. It. Is. Weirdly. Huge.

 

Yes, that’s why they call it the Hat of Shame.

I think there’s a reason that this hat is non-returnable. Besides, it will come in handy the next time some other hapless hound follower puts a dent in the hound truck.

An Eider Update

Beagle House’s newest resident, Clear Creek Beagles Eider, is settling in well to civilian life. His biggest accomplishment to date: learning how to climb and descend the Notched Hill. We don’t like to laugh at any of the house hounds, but, really, it was pretty comical to watch poor young Eider galumph up and down the stairs–once he figured out that was what they were for, that is. The first night he was here, we carried him up to bed, and the next morning we carried him down again for breakfast. I know, I know, but we did.

His worst stairs experience had nothing to do with going up or down–at least not on purpose. He was lying across the top of the stairs, relaxing happily, but then, inexplicably, decided to roll over. This was not advisable, because instead of rolling away from the stairs, he rolled toward them–and promptly rolled down them, having, apparently, forgotten that they were there. I didn’t see this, but Mr. Houndblogger reported that Eider righted himself about halfway down but then had too  much momentum going and, instead of making it to his feet, belly-slid down to the bottom. Once he came to a halt at the bottom of the stairs, he popped right up on his feet and stood blinking at the Notched Hill perplexedly. Fortunately, he was no worse for the experience.

 

Mr. Box demonstrates the fearsomeness of the Notched Hill.

Eider is learning a lot of other things, too, mainly along the lines of what are and are not toys. Eider’s favorite toys are the remains of several plush rabbits, rope chews, and an oversized tennis ball. Eider’s favorite non-toys are the garden hose, any sock, my Dansko clogs, the front doormat, my horse’s old martingale, the saddle pads stacked on my saddle rack, and any of the dog bowls. Pajamas are good, too.

Hooray for Hounds!

We noted with pleasure that Hickory, a Scottish deerhound, won Best in Show at Westminster last night. Congratulations, Hickory!

UPDATE TO ADD: One of Hickory’s co-owners, Dr. Scott Dove, is an honorary whipper-in at the Old Dominion Hounds, according to a story at Foxhunting Life!

You can watch Westminster’s video of the hound group judging on their site at http://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/ . A beagle, incidentally, was second to the deerhound in the hound group.

For more nice pictures of the hound herself, visit our friends at Pet Connection. Their contributor Christie Keith has a Deerhound named Rawley, so she was understandably happy with the result.

The result was all the more special because it marked the second time in three years that a hound has won Best in Show at Westminster. In 2008, the winner was the 15-inch beagle Uno. You can watch his Best in Show win–the complete class–here.

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!

Beagles, bassets, and dozens of running bunnies (with two videos!)

Clear Creek Beagles huntsman and joint-Master of Beagles Buck Wiseman with the hounds

IT WAS a sight for sore eyes and a song for sore ears (to make up a new metaphor). We’ve spent so much of this winter indoors due to the unusually bad weather, only getting out occasionally with the foxhounds. So when the end of February rolled around with the annual beagling weekend on the calendar, the houndbloggers hared over to Mercer County to watch beagles and bassets at work.

The Farmington Beagles usually attend this weekend-long festival of rabbit-chasing, but they didn’t cross the mountains this year. That left the hosting Clear Creek Beagles and the visiting Sandanona Harehounds from upstate New York, who cleared out of the Empire State just before another blizzard dumped a foot of snow along the east coast. The Sandanona Harehounds actually refers to two working packs that Betsy Park hunts, one a beagle pack and the other a basset pack.

You might not be familiar with working basset packs. Like beagles, they hunt cottontail and/or hare, and the field members follow on foot. But they’re longer and lower hounds, of course, and their voices differ, too: they have deeper, booming cry, which you will hear on the video below and can compare to the beagles’ cry in their video below. They are hugely, longly, floppy-earedly entertaining–and they are fine hunters, too.

The area where we met is winding down its cattle operation and has spent much of the last year restoring natural grasses. And what a difference that has made to the cottontail population! We hunt this vast acreage at least once a year, and in recent years the number of good runs had dwindled–except, notably, in the initial natural grass patch that started the reseeding project, where we always seemed guaranteed to meet up with a sporting rabbit. Last year’s lush summer probably also didn’t hurt our chances at finding more rabbits this season, but I think I’m a big, big fan of natural grasses as a positive reinforcement for game.

In one field alone, which we refer to here as The Bunny Patch, the houndbloggers saw 10 rabbits on Saturday afternoon with the bassets; other members of the field saw considerably more than that throughout the day.

Two of the Sandanona bassets with huntsman and Master Betsy Park at The Bunny Patch

One of the Sandanona bassets harks to the horn

If you’re expecting the really low-slung bassets of the Hush Puppies and Westminster type, the Sandanona bassets and other hunting bassets will probably surprise you. These guys are leggier, and their speed and agility surprise people hunting behind them for the first time. They excel at being cute, as all bassets do, and in their extraordinary deep and melodious cry–which we heard to great effect as the pack raced along in full cry around a pond, where their voices echoed off the ridge and water as if it were coming to you from centuries ago.

The multitude of rabbits provided a real challenge to the huntsmen this weekend. As Betsy Park put it, “There are too many rabbits. It encourages independence, which is not good.” And, in fact, there were so many rabbits whizzing around The Bunny Patch that on several occasions hounds could hunt by sight rather than scent, and from time to time the temptation would prove too much when random bunnies, simply getting out of the way of the pack as it hunted one rabbit’s line, crossed paths close by.

Both the beagles and the bassets had a phenomenal weekend with these game little rabbits, who kept them running all day. We expect both packs had a lot to talk about over their biscuits as they made their way back to Louisville (beagles) and New York (bassets).

Nate Lord, the best man to follow when out with foot packs. It's him you'll hear on the basset video, asking the field to keep out of hounds' way.

Without further ado, we’ll cut to the chase. Bassets are up first from Saturday’s hunting, and beagles are up second from their Sunday morning meet. The basset video has two tally-hos of rabbits at The Bunny Patch, and both videos show the respective packs in full cry. In the beagle video, you might recognize a couple of names from previous posts we’ve had. Eider, the first-season puppy, makes an appearance early in the video, and Sancerre (she who can catch biscuits while swimming) also gets called down for, not surprisingly, being a little wayward for a split second!

Puppy Report (and many nature points) from the Clear Creek Beagles

The Clear Creek Beagles at their kennel near Louisville, Kentucky, this summer

The Clear Creek Beagles, being a foot pack rather than a mounted hunt, have a real advantage over their horsey brethren at this time of year. They can go still hunt on days when riders can’t due to poor footing conditions. It’s much safer crossing slippery, thawing mud on top of frozen ground on foot than on horseback, and it’s also much easier on the farm land. I can’t think of too many farmers who would be happy to see a field full of riders gouging deep divots into their land under such conditions–hoof-scarred ground makes for awfully rough terrain when you’re trying to drive your tractor or a farm vehicle over it.

The beagles leave hardly a mark as they go, which is why even in really challenging conditions when you would never send horses out,  you often can still have a good day out with hounds chasing bunnies instead of coyotes.

On Jan. 17, the Clear Creek Beagles had what sounded like a terrific day despite treacherous footing, and we thought we’d share their hunt report (including pictures) with you. The day had everything: excellent runs by sporting rabbits, a pair of puppies making their debut on the hunt field (very successfully, it appears!), changeable scenting conditions, and all the natural beauty and intrigue that a day out in the countryside can provide. So, without further ado, we give you the beagling report, from Clear Creek Beagles whipper-in (and photographer) Jean MacLean:

Nine and a half couple of hounds, a handful of people and two puppies met in the rain yesterday in the Camp’s Bunny Patch. The ground was still quite frozen with an inch or so of mud and water on top – quite slippery!!  The scenting conditions were so-so.

The field was introduced to (puppies) King Eider and his sister Enid at the trailer.  They were SO excited to be out on their first adventure.  They politely greeted all, leaving many muddy paw prints on everyone.
Eider
The pack quickly hit their first rabbit entering the briars.  The next hour or so was spent trying to sort out the many bunnies zipping around in the bunny patch.  They did an excellent job working the wet rabbit around the briars for the first fifteen minutes or so until three others were viewed out and away.  Hounds found it difficult to smell right on the ground (frozen & muddy) but were running the scent a few inches up in the air!!  Very cool to watch them adapt from noses down to noses half up!!  Eider and Enid quickly caught on to the fact that they needed to keep up with the grown ups!!
Enid (behind) sticking with old man Mason (foreground)!

Hounds ran a rabbit from the bunny patch down through the cedars by the lake and along the dam.  I spent a lot of time watching for beavers, but could not see any of them.
While we were out, the air and air pressure seemed to change a couple of times, making the scenting both easier and more difficult.  Hounds got up a very sporting running rabbit about 4:15 who kept the pack flying around for almost half an hour.  Eider and Enid were both seen with their noses down and looking like big dogs!  (Huntsman and joint-Master of Beagles) WPW used his face to clear some briars from a fence to help the hounds keep moving!  500 or so Canada geese flew overhead to enhance the hound sound!  The sun came out as it was setting and made the woods and fields glow.  It was a beautiful afternoon.
Clear Creak Beagles huntsman and joint-Master WPW, better known as Buck Wiseman with proof he met some briars
Nature points – 500 geese, many hawks, many rabbits viewed, many chewed down trees

Thanks for sharing the highlights of the day, Jean and Buck!

We were especially interested to read about the two puppies, littermates Eider and Enid, who seemed to make an unusually good start to their hunting careers. I also was curious to know why Eider is nicknamed “King Eider,” and asked Buck about that.

Buck’s response: “His name is Eider, but he’s a big kid, so we go with the big species of eider when we are kidding with him.” An eider is a kind of goose (think eiderdown). Jean added that this particular young Eider “has become the king because he is teacher’s pet and big and goofy! I have spoiled him rotten.”

Eider sounds like he he has a good and curious nose; on Tuesday morning, he reportedly was sniffing a fox line! I guess he was as pleased with his first day out as the Clear Creek hunt staff was.