Huntsman. Artist. Mother. Chef. Neil Young fan. Rennaisance woman Eleanor Hartwell, 47, hunts the mostly crossbred 28 couple hounds of the Bridlespur Hunt near St. Louis, MO. With her family deeply rooted in the sport, Eleanor started hunting at an early age and followed in the footsteps of her mother, Betsy Park, the first female professional in the United States. Eleanor kindly shared with e-Covertside a few tidbits and factoids that easily make her one of the most interesting people in hunting.
e-Covertside: How did you become involved with hunting?
Eleanor: My mother had a pack of Bassets (Flint Hill Bassets) until she started hunting The Millbrook in 1978 (I think) ... she then merged the bassets with the Sandanona Beagles and became the Sandanona Harehounds. My first day foxhunting was from the Smithfield Church on my ten hand pony when I was seven. I foothunted from when I cannot remember. Later I whipped in to her at Millbrook until I left in 1990. What a grand time!
e-Covertside: Name three things you never hunt without.
Eleanor: Horn, St. Hubert's medal and phone. I have had a couple of wrecks in the last couple of years, best way to get help as soon as possible when one is out in the country alone and no one really knows where you are!
e-Covertside: What makes your territory unique? What types of modifications have you made/will you make for this territory compared with your previous experiences?
Eleanor: We actually have difficult country here at Bridlespur due to the number of limestone cliffs along the creeks. The creeks fortunately have great bottoms, but the cliffs sometimes make it hard to decide which end to go 'round. It is easy to get thrown out if you make the wrong choice! There are also a lot of cattle in the area which means a lot of work paneling and getting it open. Our current home country is relatively new- sixth season- so there is plenty of work to go! There are fortunately plenty of coyotes, bobcats and resident kennel foxes!
e-Covertside: What are your goals for the pack and for the organization?
Eleanor: To encourage the kids, to open new eyes to life outside a riding ring, to expand the country and make it a viable place for whomever comes along after me!
e-Covertside: Any memorable experiences you’d like to share?
Eleanor: Have to think on that one...judging the Western Challenge with my mother in '05 was pretty cool, growing up at Millbrook, ditto, and the joint meet with Millbrook and Piedmont back in 1993 was fun!
Bob McEown/Rural Missouri Magazine
e-Covertside: Ford, Chevy, GMC or Dodge trucks?
Eleanor: Ford. Dodge is good too.
e-Covertside: What hobbies and interests do you persue outside of hunting?
Eleanor: I am an artist, although I have not done anything signifigant in a while. My website is www.eleanorhartwell.com.
I have a daughter, Madeline, who is eleven and has finally found her sea legs and has started hunting with me. She hunted with me with the foothounds from the time she was tiny, first from a backpack, then from a baby jogger. I will never forget the day she dropped her "Ellie" (a stuffed elephant from K-mart) in the middle of a huge alfalfa field. Now, Ellie was her binkie and it was absolutely necessary that she be found. We found it with some effort on a few peoples' part! In fact, Ellie has had many adventures, including being left in an Indiana motel on the way back from some dog trip back east. I called the motel, they said they had it and would send it right away. A week or two went by and the substitute I had bought in case of such emergency was not cutting it. I called the motel, they said they would send it. A few days later, a package arrived, but they had gotten Madeline's elephant mixed up with a woman in Virginia Beach who had left her earring! I coaxed this woman's name from them and called her and asked her to please send Ellie back, I would send her the earring. It turned out she was a high ranking Mary Kay rep and more than happy to send back M's fairly noxious elephant. She told me that Mary Kay's motto was, "You can eat an elephant, one bite at a time!"
e-Covertside: What is your favorite band/music artist?
Eleanor: Well, there are lots of those but my first love would be Neil Young in all of his incarnations, followed very closely by the Grateful Dead.