with Horse and Hound

Better Living Through Titanium Road Trip, Part Four

Wateree Hounds, February 20 Lugoff Fixture

In February 2024, I decided to take a road trip to hunt my way across the US and back after finally being cleared to ride again after a massive back surgery.

Lugoff, South Carolina at Elevation 230 feet on the edge of the Piedmont

Huntsman riding near river while blowing horn, hounds following
Professional Huntsman John Rothell with the Wateree Hounds by the Wateree River / photo credit Gretchen Pelham

Located just outside of Camden, South Carolina is the town of Lugoff where the Wateree Hounds met for a Tuesday hunt. The fixture is a large farm bordered by the wide Wateree River.

The plantation is on the edge of the Piedmont, which is a large plateau reaching down the eastern seaboard between the Appalachian Mountains and the coastal plain. Live Oaks and Magnolia trees that line the streets are the easiest to spot as they don’t lose their leaves in the winter. Colorful camellias in bloom dotted the yards as we drove to the fixture.

Woman in hunt attire smiling and holding whip
MFH Lea Edwards / photo credit Gretchen Pelham

John Rothell has been the professional huntsman for Wateree Hounds this season. His mother is Lea Edwards, one of the joint masters. Both she and her husband grew up foxhunting, and now all three of their children continue to hunt in their adulthood.

I had decided not to ride this day but instead to roadwhip with my friend Clare Buchanan, who was the adored girlfriend of the late Kurt Krucke. Kurt was the professional huntsman for Tennessee Valley Hunt during my first year as Master, and later he was John’s mentor in the kennels (the new kennels for Wateree Hounds is dedicated in part to Kurt).

Hound in car, staring intently out the window
Luda gets a ride under the interstate overpass by kennelman Chance Comely / photo credit Gretchen Pelham

The fixture is very close to Interstate 20, and the hounds have to be hacked to the covert by way of an underpass. The hounds dutifully followed John under the passing cars, all but one. Luda, while hyped up to go hunting, has proven to not go near the overhead bridges. So Luda gets chauffeured by the kennelman, Chance Comely, to the covert. Luda was a typical hound, obeying every single command from Chance to get off the center console of the truck – for about 0.3 seconds. Then he would try again to climb up to get a better look out the windshield. Until Chance shoved him back again. I only got socked in the face by Chance’s fist once during this battle of wills. Chance was horrified that he had just punched some random old lady hitching a ride in his truck; I just laughed at his expression. Luda, of course, took the distraction of Chance’s punch to try again to climb into the front seat with us.

John brought out eight couple of hounds in a borrowed farm truck and a small livestock trailer, as the hunt’s hound truck and trailer were in the shop. This proved to be the day’s entertainment, as the small farm truck was unhooked and used by the road whip – until it died its death rattle on the back forty of the large plantation. Far from any roads and jumper cables. I was left to wait out Chance as he hoofed it for help. However, I was by the river bank of the Wateree River on a gorgeous day. I had zero complaints.

The last time the fixture was hunted the hounds got on several coyotes for a roaring chase. But on this day the scenting was difficult. The mostly American and crossbred hounds worked an old line for over an hour near the river but could not hold it for long.

Hounds milling around, with hunt horses in background
Wateree Hounds / photo credit Gretchen Pelham

Wateree Hounds is in its third season, and when the previous huntsman begged off, John volunteered to hunt the hounds this season. This is his first season with the horn. The board has hired professional huntsman Sam Clifton (coming from Rolling Rock Hunt in Pennsylvania) for next season, but John has caught the bug. He wants to stay in hunt service and is currently looking for a professional job for next season so he can enter the Professional Development Program of the MFHA. So, if anyone has a job opening at their hunt club for a professional, please consider this young gentleman.

The Atlantic Ocean

The next day I started my way up north to the destination of central Virginia. But I stopped in Carolina Beach, North Carolina (near Wilmington) to spend the night with a friend of mine who has a condo on the beach. These types of friends, with condos on the beach, are to be cultivated with care.  We ate fresh oysters and grouper fingers on the water.  The azaleas were blooming, and the live oaks were dripping with Spanish moss. Here I had made it from a height of 7,400 elevation to sea level, and it only took 2,800 miles.

ocean and side of pier
Carolina Beach, NC / photo credit Gretchen Pelham