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Articles

Longreen – Shawnee Joint Meet


2021/01/03


Harriet McFadden and Imogene Erb (standing) with grandson Oscar Atkinson and his children Walker, Stewart, and Vivian.

Huntsmen Susan Walker (grey horse) and Kallie Wallace with the combined hounds from Longreen and Shawnee.

By Tom Brannon and Harriet McFadden; photos by Tom Brannon

On the weekend of December 5-6, 2020 the Longreen Foxhounds, kenneled at Rossville, Tennessee, and the Shawnee Hounds from Southern Illinois held a joint meet at two of Longreen’s fixtures in Mississippi.

 Dr. Mark Smith, MFH of Shawnee Hounds said that the first week of December is the opening of shotgun deer hunting in the Shawnee National Forest where his hounds hunt, so it is not safe to be out on horseback in that territory. Alternatively, he brought 7½ couple hounds to Mississippi to hunt with the Longreen Foxhounds.

A house-full of Shawnee members, including huntsman Kallie Wallace, made the trek south for some good hunting. Many of the Shawnee hounds share the same Pen-Mary-Del bloodlines as the Longreen pack, and both packs hunt together at least once a season.

The terrain of the two fixtures hunted that weekend, Eastover Plantation near Clarksdale, Miss. and Birdlands near Como, Miss. couldn’t be more different. Eastover is delta farm land, with rich black topsoil row crop, interspersed with thick hardwood bottoms, bayous, and drained by deep ditches. It is criss-crossed by dirt tractor roads, which are good for galloping, and one narrow paved road. There is also a catfish farm. The thick mud will cover horse, tack and rider in just a few minutes, and if one’s horse is shod, he won’t be for long. Riders were encouraged to mud-knot tails and spray their horse’s legs and underbelly with Laser Sheen, so the mud would wash off. Wildlife is abundant at Eastover and the land is so open that unobstructed views of both quarry and working hounds are common – sometimes at the same time!
 
Birdlands is in the uplands and was developed in the 1930s as a picturesque bird hunting preserve. It has grass pastures with coops over the fences, planted pine stands, fallow fields and natural hardwood forest, with a few drainage ditches that can be a challenge to cross on horseback. Wildlife is also abundant and it is exciting to watch a coyote pop out of the woods not 20 feet away!

The following is an account of the weekend’s hunt by Harriet McFadden, former MFH of Longreen and owner of Birdlands.

Saturday December 5, Eastover Plantation, Clarksdale, Mississippi.
 Allison and Whitney Crews arrived first, after a pre-foxhunt, duck hunt at Bobo Brake. Besides the mallard greenheads hanging from the trailer, there was also a spread of scotch eggs, donuts, and various stirrup cups. Good thing, too, because Susan Walker’s, MFH, truck was broken down in Tunica, hauling four couple hounds and her horse, Winston. Wes Lawson was called to rescue her, and she arrived at the meet, cheered by the “on timers.”

After months of learning to be patient, brought to us by COVID-19, we were up to the challenge of waiting. We milled about, talking, and one master recommended, “You better just start drinking because Susan is going be awhile!”

The riders were congregated in the mud near the trailers when the Shawnee Hounds paraded toward us with military flash between their Master of Foxhounds, Mark Smith, and huntsman, Kallie Wallace. It was a stunning sight, watching seven and one half couple hounds tightly packed, winding their way through discs and seeders to the Joint Meet with Longreen’s hounds. The combined pack of Penn-Marydels and a few crossbred hounds were roaded over the plowed field to the first covert.

The huntsmen cast the hounds with their horns into the Cigar Woods, and you might as well have heard an announcer declare, “And they’re off!” The hounds found almost immediately and worked south. They crossed the deep ditch into the finger woods, separated to the east and west by a narrow field. The first few voices were quickly joined by the entire pack.

As the hounds fanned out, coyotes scattered in every direction. Two rust colored ones came out the west side and ran towards the bayou, but were not followed by the pack. Then another lighter-colored coyote crossed the ditch to the north where the hounds had come through a few minutes earlier. The pack was desperately trying to separate all the scent and follow one coyote. When their cry changed pitch, their drive was on full view as they raced across the ditch and pushed their prey out the north end of Cigar Woods.

They ran parallel to Young Road back towards the trailers, made a clockwise loop and found the coyote again at Harris Bayou. The coyote was in the lead with the pack pressing in hard and fast.

The whippers-in begged their horses to lengthen their strides and the masters settled low and quiet over their steeds to give them freedom to follow. With furlongs to go, Field Master Kimber Woeffel urged her menagerie of ponies and brave souls to find another gear and keep up with Caroline Dulaney and Walker Atkinson, our youngest riders. They were tearing across the buckshot mud of the delta behind their coyote on an imaginary oval track around the bean field.

Standing in the center we could see the entire race as it unfolded around us. From the start in the Cigar Woods and around the bend the foxhunters flew. They raced into Will Young’s duck hunting area near Rinehart Bridge. When the hounds checked at the blinds, their exhilarated huntsmen called them home. The winded horses and riders walked back across the miles of mud, happily telling their stories of the day’s run. The adrenaline flowed as hunters were spurred by hounds in full cry! Will Young, our kind landowner, was waiting for our return to get a play-by-play of the day, something all 25 of us were ready to recount!

Sunday, December 6, Birdlands, Como, Mississippi.
The meet was at 9:00 am with a cold but cloudless sky and even more children than Saturday. We rode down the driveway and west to the unthinned pines. Our pack began to bump up scent here and there. After the intensity of the run on Saturday, the young hounds had to be steadied by their competent huntsmen, Kallie and Susan.

Further on, the scent was picked up in the horse pasture, as one hound found and drew the pack to the spot. Other hounds cast about looking for the direction the coyote had taken, but the scent was dissipating in the morning sun.

Rounding the corner into Twin Lakes covert, the exuberant young hounds, spoiling for a find, babbled here and there, then broke north to Butterball Creek. They ran in the creek bottom bursting out into the Turkey Woods, home of wild turkeys. The hounds made a hard turn south in front of Mark Smith and checked.

The equestrians of the West Tennessee Pony Club got to see the hound work because they stayed up close to the Masters, following them over logs, coops and ditches. The youngest members saw it unfold with the landowner in his ATV, so everyone experienced the unpredictability of wild game.

We even had four generations of one hunting family out that day – Imogene Erb, watching through her binoculars, was there with her daughter, Margaret, grandchildren, Oscar and Jocelyn, and great grandchildren, Walker, Vivian and Stewart. They were joined by the other three sibling members of the Pony Club, Warren, Heloise and John T. Milnor.

After the hunt, members came back to the Birdlands Circa 1836 log cabin for lunch. Afterward, Shawnee folks left for their long drive back to Illinois.  A joint meet not only cements friendships, but also provides an opportunity to trade horses and swap hounds to improve the genetics of the pack.

After the hunt, we learned that our fellow Longreen member and dear friend, E.Q. Vance had died early Sunday morning. Just the day before, Susan made her phone call to him to tell him about our fantastic hunt in the Delta. He loved hearing about it, as he did every encounter he had with his friends. He showed us how to be a good listener, to laugh easily and to be kind.
 

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