So off we went for a Christmas Eve meet at Babylon. A pretty day to be out, and surprisingly lightly attended. I suppose people were with their DNA families and so forth. Can't blame them I suppose, it certainly did not look like very hunty day.
The first draw confirmed it- in, thirty seconds, hound voices... Pow! Pow!! Oops...
As we drove around to the first draw, my pilot said, "I don't like these Babylon meets."
"Everything is so spread out. There is that creek right down the middle. You can't predict which way coyotes and hounds will run. If you get thrown out you have to run like crazy to get where you need to go. And even then you might be wrong. "
"And so tell me about the part not to like?"
So it was draw, go on, draw, go on...
Field catching up from time to time...
And on across another big Babylon field to the next covert.
Out popped Bucky...
Watch that giving of the glad eye, Stagboy...
I just got back from France!
So on we continued, a little run north,
We were in place to help cross- so easy, not at all like a French road!
but it didn't get to us. Sigh, back south.
And then some excitement- unfortunately not the best kind. These hounds, who are usually as deer resistant as can be, had one pop up right in front of them! Too much to resist, and so more stinging rebukes.
Stupid blue sky.... so another draw. Right beside the meet, and they struck, heading toward the creek!
Now I have to describe this creek, it is about the size of the Meuse at Chateau- Thierry and as swift as the Barle at Lanaker Bridge. Say 20-30 yards wide, a slow trot fast, and ten feet deep in spots.
So since they were heading toward the creek, which coyotes often cross, we put on our skates and zipped north. And the radio crackled. One Whipper-in- "I can't get across". Another Whipper-in- "Me neither, and my horse has had it!" Huntsman- "I'm stuck!!" Whipper-in D.- "I came off, my horse is swimming down the creek!"
And the whole field was pounded.
So off we went, and it was ON. We had a few hounds GPS'd, and that was all we had. Too far away to hear, and our last command was "Stop them!"
Good luck with that. We managed to get in front of them at a road crossing, got their heads up, and stopped. Whew!
And the lead hounds looked at us and all but said out loud, "Buzz off. We're working here. " And off they went, screaming.
That happened again, too- we had no chance to get them off that coyote.
And we saw BEAUTIFUL casts. You know how hounds will come out of covert a bit irresolutely, unsure, and overrun, needing a bit of help to get back on their line?
Twice, right in front of us, we saw that happen. It was like when the Wicked Witch of the West tells the Winkies, " Half of you go that way, half of you go that way", and they do, and you wonder how they knew which half?
That's what these hounds did. Any huntsman would have been proud to have made it happen.
So they cast themselves, splitting and swirling around- one spoke, another, and they honoured and onward!
Again, we saw that happen twice.
Yes, there aren't any pictures. I believe there are hounds behind that cedar tree a quarter mile away, but quien sabe? The pace was too good to inquire.
We were busy! "That way!" "Do you see them?" "They are crossing that way!" "We can't get there!" "Hold hard, turn around!"
And then along a hard road. And behind my pilot's shoulder, hounds in line ahead...
And through his ear...
"Staghounds, there is a coyote in front of them!"
"Why yes, Pilot, there is. I believe that is the way this is all meant to work. "
Pilot trod on the gas, and I said "Hold off, he's had."
The gallant coyote spun to fight, and the slashing counterattack backed the lead hound off...
But only for moment. The hound- wish I knew who- bore in again with cold calcium.
A little reinforcement, and it was over before you could say knife.
Nearly all the hounds in the run were there in sight, but it had been quite a speedy race.
(Remember, click on any picture to make it larger...)
"Hey Fellows, what's up?"
And here is something funny. After the coyote was good and dead, we hard some hounds- probably some night hunter's coon dogs- howling a mile or two off at the edge of the next town.
And two or three of ours left the pack and sort of started hunting off that way! " Well that one is as dead as Queen Anne, let's see what these local yokels have jumped up!"
Huntsman arrived about ten minutes later- he was heading our way in the
After making big praise with them, he brought them in. While dragging the coyote, which the hounds kept grabbing at.
"Hey, that's ours!"
Let's check the GPS for the stats on the lead hounds-
"Elapsed time- pdq:43.7."
"Distance: tenish miles."
"Speed- hauling a$s."
So we loaded them up- and they were ready for more!!
For what my opinion is worth, this was a first class run anywhere, and these keen little hounds under their hunting conditions take a back seat to no pack I have ever seen .
And they did it all absolutely by themselves. A tribute to their breeding, training, and DNA.
Back to the meet. Where staff were warming up. S was her usual fashion plate self, and everyone has been very pleasant with R's recent conversion to Islam.
Well S. looks a bit concerned still.
Remember D's horse, last seen swimming down the creek? We figured she would scramble out, but no- she was nowhere to be found!
Which brings us to the second, even better part of the day. Once we all realized that N. was missing, the hunt mobilised to find her. Some drove down stram to the nearest bridge. Others started down either bank, clawing through thorny vines and slick, cold mud looking for any sign of her.
And she was found- with only her head above water. Uh oh...
She had been immersed in a swift, cold river for upwards of half an hour. Things did not look good.
But she was alive and breathing. Although her body heat was being stripped away, she did not have to struggle to stay afloat. And she was vertical, legs beneath her.
People gathered. The spot was a high bank, thickly covered with growth, fifty swampy yards or so from the nearest place where a vehicle could be brought.
But there was a little bit of shelving at the foot of the bank...
Every pocket knife started cutting vines. Ropes, blankets, and first aid kits were brought....
And, step by step, the rescue effort began. The bridle was taken off and a halter was substituted. A long tow rope was attached. Brave fools went into the river to pull vines away.
And eventually, between a dozen people heaving and her struggles, we got her mostly on the land!
Her ropy breathing and a surreptitious gum press augured poorly, though.
Blankets. Banamine. The broken leather halter replaced with a nylon one. Active external rewarming (thank you, nameless Dachau victims), as best we could, was started.
And more people showed up, people who had not been hunting that day but heard about the need from cell telephone calls. Now instead of six or eight people, a dozen could tail on.
Another big heave, and they got her fully clear of the water!
But just brute force this time, she was not moving.
More rewarming. A veterinarian showed up, a man whose own age and health made it very risky indeed to climb down the bank and evaluate her, lean over her head to give an injection.
She gave a convulsive plunge- I believe it was a marely version of
paradoxical undressing- and we lost a rewarmer. More people showed up. Ropes pulled her legs free from awkward positions to where they could be useful. Give her a chance to rest, get a bit of strength.
And in a bit, she started to stir. Pull the blankets off. Maybe twenty people on the ropes now, a valiant heave from her, and she was up!
Quickly, blankets on, get her moving away from this trappy spot, load her up, get her home to effective rewarming with a hot bath and a tasty steaming mash, stitch her up...
and she's fine.
The rescue effort took about three hours. There are two things I have to say about it. I have no place commenting, and I am sure lots happened that I did not see. But the great lesson of 2011 for me from Lewis and Debby, is that nothing good should go unsaid.
First, the specific actions of a few people stand out, in no particular order. One was a man who was there solely a the father of a daughter who hunts. He fell in the creek, got thoroughly soaked, and kept helping until the work was done. Unbeknownst to the others, he had gotten a good hard kick on the leg but concealed it. Thank you, C.
Our Huntsman is sometimes a bit, um, excited when hounds run. He found her and so was first on the scene, and largely coordinated the effort.
I picked that word over led or ran.
During this whole time he was calm, quiet, and focussed. He listened carefully and gave thought to suggestions. Some he adopted, and even the silly ones he rejected with respect and civility. He kept all the things going on in mind, running mental triage constantly. I do not remember hearing a single breath wasted on swearing. Impressive, R.
One of our subscribers had dismounted half way through the easy part of the hunt- she injured her back and was in some considerable pain. Yet there she was, in the thick of it all. Go, R!
At one point I turned around and literally bumped into the master of a neighbouring pack. I seriously doubt that his Christmas Eve afternoon plans originally included trying to rupture himself on a stinking creek bank, but when the opportunity arose... It's always good to see you, D!
I mentioned the veterinarian. Although this man is strong and tough, and hunts hard, he is probably in his late seventies and more aware than most of the dangers of a hard all or being well kicked, ever mind a swim in icy water. Yet he was in there like he was twenty and invulnerable. Wow, Dr. G.
One of our Whippers-in had a good hard kick in the face a few weeks ago, so recently that the bruises are still visible. Yet she was in there like crazy- going in the creek to pull vines away, lying on the horse and rubbing her- until she was, AGAIN, kicked in the face. It's easy to jump in when you don't know the price, but when you are still paying on the last one, S...
And finally, the horse's owner. He was there and VERY engaged. And somehow he was able to step back, let others make the rescue happen. Wise- he was too close, and his closeness might have kept him from making difficult decisions. I have seen it before, the victim's parent or spouse is seldom the best rescuer. You put her first, D.
I said this was the better part of the day, and that's what I want to talk about too. This was a perfect example of Hunting culture at its best. There were people there from all sorts and conditions of life. Important and no one in particular. Young and old. Rich and broke. Clever and not the sharpest. Beautiful and not so much. Strong and weak.
And everyone joined in. No one was too good to get dirty, pull hard, break a nail. No one had something more important to do. People used to wielding authority every day let others guide instead. The whole group was like a single thing, each individual abandoning self for the greater purpose.
Funny, it just crossed my mind that in the commercial marketplace N is probably a $5000 horse. On a good day.
You wouldn't get Dr. S to spend Christmas Eve grubbing in the mud for any $5000, or a bunch of the other people there either.
But for a horse in danger...
I like being part of the family that chose each other.
I'm sorry, Coyote. And thanks.