After another great Saturday hunt with Shakerag Hounds, I stood in the barn with sponge and rag in hand, giving the mud-coated tack a deep clean. After a bit of a slow start that morning, I was thinking the tack might not look much dirtier than when we started. But when hounds struck on that coyote, we flew across the Georgia countryside for a solid 30-40 minutes, and the Georgia red clay showed no mercy.
As much of a chore as cleaning tack may seem to some, I find it enjoyable after a good hunt. It gives me a chance to unwind after the excitement of the day, and to reflect on how the day’s events unfolded. As I was scrubbing, rinsing, and polishing every inch of the tack, a song called “Little Moments” by Brad Paisley came on the radio, and it got me reflecting on some of my favorite “little moments,” both in and out of the hunt field:
-Helping with hound “roll call” at the end of the day: treats in hand, hounds swarming around the huntsman, trying to give individual hounds their treats while the greedier hounds follow my hand’s every move. Gluttonous hounds jump up and put their paws on my shoulders, begging for treats, while the shyer ones towards the rear of the pack wait hopefully for their turn. The huntsman calls out an individual hound’s name, and I watch them come walking up to him, bright eyed, stern gently wagging.
-Summer at the kennels: standing amongst the hounds in their pasture, working on learning their names, as they all come up to me to investigate, “Who is this girl, and more importantly, does she have cookies for us?” Beginning to play with one named Muchacha, running with her towards the center of the field, and the rest of the pack follows. The always silly Saber comes tearing around the corner, completely circumventing the rest of the pack, just so he can come running towards me in the opposite direction and jump up towards me as if he’s saying, “Name me again! Name me again!” Seeing a puppy, Ladybug, run like blazes to catch up after a late start, and then trip over her feet.
-The kudzu hill: waiting at the bottom of a steep hill coated in kudzu, hoping hounds will find a scent, watching them zigzag their way through the kudzu towards the top of the hill. Hearing one strike on a line as Tobey flicks an ear in their direction. As they all begin to run across the top of the hill, parallel to where we’re standing, although they are out of sight, 14hh Tobey lifts up his head as high as he can, both ears perked forward, and follows the hounds music just before we head off after them.
-A hound’s eyes: Whether they’re standing up at your height, a paw on each shoulder, or sitting down, gazing at you, hounds have this honest, captivating look in their eye, and will look straight into your eyes, often times holding it as long as you look at them. It’s different for every hound too; one of the puppies at the kennel, Greatness, will often times throw herself onto my feet and roll over for a belly rub, with the happiest, most sincere eyes I’ve ever seen. Some of the quiet natured hounds stand below me, a more solemn look in their eyes, softly whimpering, while others eagerly leap up to see me, a ridiculous, happy grin on their face.
Everyone can reflect on their hunting stories and tell you of, “The great run that lasted x amount of time!” Of course our first hunts stick in our minds like glue. There are always going to be the days where everything goes perfectly, or the day that just couldn’t get worse, until it did. However, there are some small details to hunting that can sometimes get left out, or overlooked. What I’ve written here happens to be just a few of my favorite memories, but it may be very different for others. There are little moments that make this sport truly special, and no matter the age or experience of the participant, everyone comes across them. And as the song goes, yeah, I live for little moments like that.