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TVH Goes Down To Georgia


TVH members show the sign for Grosvenor’s Hill: Epp Wilson, MFH, Gretchen Pelham, MFH, Grosvenor Merle-Smith, MFH, Rosie Merle-Smith, MFH, Carla Hawkinson, MFH, and Gary Wilkes, MFH (photo by John Hawkinson)

With a sip of fortification, TVH moves off. (Gretchen Pelham photo)

The huntsmen – Epp Wilson, MFH and Prof. Huntsman Ryan Johnsey (Gretchen Pelham photo 2014)
Tennessee Valley Hunt (TVH) “went down to Georgia” for a joint meet with Belle Meade hunt January, 2014, but with the roller-coaster and extreme cold weather, “the hunting wasn’t all that great down in Georgia,” Gretchen Pelham reported. Unfortunately, that is the situation with a winter-time sport. Some days the scenting is just right; others, the scenting conditions are not good at all. “The wind was up both days and the hounds never really settled. But there is a much better story - the Belle Meade Masters named a hill after TVH’s MFH Grosvenor Merle-Smith,” Gretchen said, and she sent the story. 

That’s the way with foxhunters (and probably other hunters, too). If the current day’s hunt is not so great, they recall another great foxhunting adventure from another time. And so it goes…

In January 2010 TVH had a three-day joint meet with the Belle Meade Hunt in Georgia. Belle Meade’s MFH and Huntsman, Epp Wilson, had last hunted with TVH’s MFH Grosvenor Merle-Smith when “Gro” was the huntsman for the Bull Run Hunt in Virginia several years before.  They had what Epp described as an “epic” hunt chasing fox.  So that January, the two huntsmen had finally organized a recap of that memorable hunt and the expectations of both men were very high. So the bar was set, and the hounds from both Tennessee Valley and Belle Meade were released from the kennels. 

Charlie Lewis, MFH of Belle Meade, invited us all to ride up front with him but cautioned us to be careful.  He said that a group from Virginia had come down the month before and four of them fell off on the first day.  He smiled and said in that slow, deep drawl, “We haven’t found those ladies yet, so keep your eyes open for ‘em!”

At one point Epp’s horse fell on a turn, and he called for a new one.  While he remounted the fresh horse, he wanted to know where the hounds were.  Of all those ten or so whippers-in, none of them knew where the hounds were. And the GPS receiver for the collars was not getting any signal.

So Grosvenor decided to go find the pack by himself.  Gro was whipping-in, but he had no radio or GPS receiver with him. He had only two days knowledge of the hunt country, but his inclination of the pack’s location was not where Belle Meade’s huntsman, Epp, thought they were.  So Gro took off by himself, while Epp led our huntsman and the Field in the opposite direction to try to locate the pack. 

In the rain, Gro stopped on a trail on top of large ravine in thick cover to listen for the pack.  A few minutes later he heard with the pack in full cry heading in his direction along the bottom of the ravine. Then the pitch of the hound’s voices changed, and he knew that they had accounted for the coyote below him.  There was no trail that would get him down to the pack, and the Georgia scrub was very thick.  So he jumped off Zuco, (his 18.2 hand, home bred “pony”) and started to lead Zuco down the steep ravine through the brush and scrub.  Since it was raining on that hard Georgia clay soil, he slipped and slid down the hill without his horse. The loyal Zuco then trotted back up to the trail and promptly left him.

Gro slid all the way down to the pack of combined hounds and found a big, black coyote.  He encouraged and praised the pack, but decided he wanted to keep the coyote for himself.  He had to wrestle the coyote away from the hounds who did not appreciate their prize being taken from them.  He finally got the smoky coyote up over his head with both hands while all the hounds leapt up on him, trying to tug it back down. 

That’s when Gro realized that he had no horn and there was no cell-phone or GPS reception in the bottom of that ravine. No one, including himself, had any clue where he was. He started to try to climb back up the wet incline, but he only got a few feet up in the wet clay before the hounds would jump up to grab a hold of their prize and drag both of them back down. He tried over and over, but could not wrestle the quarry away from the pack and get to the top of the ravine. 

Finally, some whippers-in found him from his repeated Rebel Yells and blew the hounds off him.  They had also found his “pony.” How Gro managed to re-mount his18.2 hand pony is yet another story.

So at the 2014 “rematch,” Belle Meade decided to name that hill where Gro slid down “Grosvenor’s Hill” in his honor.  What an epic hunt!

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