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Penn-Marydel Joint Foxhunt in the Arkansas Delta


2017/02/04












By Tommy Brannon, MFH

With the Mississippi River as a backdrop, foxhunters gathered in the Arkansas Delta the weekend of January 21-22, 2017 for two days of back-to-back action chasing coyotes. The joint meet included Penn-Marydel foxhounds from three packs: Longreen Foxhounds and Cedar Knob Hounds from Tennessee, and Shawnee Hounds from Illinois. The weekend’s hunt was hosted at Clear Lake Farm near Blytheville, Arkansas, home of Midge Ellis (Jt. Master of Longreen) and her husband Mike.

This is the third season that Longreen has been hunting this Arkansas territory. It totals approximately 8,000 acres and consists of row crop and land in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Most of the land lies between the levee and the Mississippi River. The soil is gumbo, with sand and silt mixed in, and is surprisingly firm footing. The row crop land had been mowed after harvest so there was no cotton stubble. Several ATVs followed each day’s activities, and they had some difficulty navigating the mud; but the horses moved around fine and quite often at speed. It has been said that horses are the original all terrain vehicle.

Saturday’s hunt was on Mr. Greg Hart’s land north of Luxora, Arkansas. Riders gathered for a stirrup cup and green ribbons were pinned on coats as a show of support for Cedar Knob’s Master Albert Menefee, who is recuperating from a horse accident. Fifty two riders followed, as 24 couple (48) of hounds were cast along the Mississippi River moving south. Susan Walker, MFH and Huntsman of Longreen, brought 7 ½ couple; Dr. Mark Smith, MFH and Huntsman of Shawnee brought 7 ½ couple; and Rob Caldwell and Clare Pinney of Cedar Knob brought 9 ½ couple. If these hounds had had a kindergarten report card, it would have had a big check mark by “plays well with others.” 

If anyone had a nervous horse at the outset, the nervousness did not last long. Hounds struck a line right at the first cast and everyone was off for a fast run, which took the edge off many horses. The line paralleled the Mississippi River and the coyote was viewed by Longreen Whipper- In Mark Harris, Peppy Butler of Cedar Knob, and Karen Kressenberg, MFH and Huntsman of Mells Foxhounds, who were all riding together. The open terrain enabled the coyote to pick up speed and, in spite of the large pack in pursuit, was able to outrun hounds. Susan and most of the staff were able to keep up with the pack, but both fields were left behind, as well as the ATVs. Susan called up the hounds, and after a refreshment break, she cast hounds again, this time going north through CRP land. With the hounds unable to find another good line, Susan ended the day of hunting, and riders trailered to the Ellis’ home at Clear Lake Farm for a sumptuous meal.

Saturday evening’s festivities included a Black Tie (Scarlet if convenient) Hunt Ball, where newly acquainted fox hunters tried to recognize each other – unmounted and without hard hats. Music was provided by the very talented Soul Shockers and the dance floor was full most of the night. 

One fun event of the evening was a whip cracking contest. Each contestant was given one shot at getting the loudest crack from Midge Ellis’ whip. The land owners of the weekend’s hunt were the judges, but were probably influenced by the crowd’s applause. Harry Caldwell, son of Rob and Joanna Caldwell, beat out his twin brother Charlie, as well as his dad, to win the contest. 

Most of the guests’ horses were being stabled across the street from the ball at Suzy Langston’s Circle L Equine Stables. At the end of the party several ladies crossed the street, donned muck boots, and carried their formal gown skirts to check on their horses. Not to worry; Suzy provides great horse care.

It rained Saturday night and Sunday morning was cooler and wetter with clouds and misty rain. Susan declared it a raincoat hunt and most riders availed themselves of wet weather gear. Hounds were roaded from Midge Ellis’ house across the levy to the first cast on the Langston’s farm. There were 23 ½ couple in the combined pack on Sunday. About 30 minutes into the hunt, hounds opened on a line in a wooded area and moved south. Four deer popped out of the woods, followed by three coyotes. The field viewed two of the coyotes running together in the open, paralleling the woods, but the hounds ran in the other direction. Lee Alexander viewed the coyote the hounds were on, running fast with hounds keeping true. Everyone took off into the wind at a gallop for a fast run in the open through muddy but firm ground interspersed with large puddles. After several miles at speed, Harriet McFadden the First Field Master decided to give her horse a rest, but urged those who wished to gallop on. Several did, until hounds checked near a farm road. The coyote ran out of the permissible territory and Susan called the hounds up.  After a refreshment break, she cast again but this second draw was unproductive. A steady rain began to fall, so all returned to the Ellis’ house to dry out and enjoy another delicious meal.  
      

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