Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Bobby Joe Pillion Loved to Hunt

bobby pillionBobby Joe Pillion, 1989, after judging the first Piedmont-Midland Foxhound Match / Douglas Lees photoRobert Joseph “Bobby Joe” Pillion died at home in Millwood, Virginia on January 12, 2014. He was seventy-nine.

“I just love to hunt,” he often said.

That’s how he concluded just about every foxhunting conversation we had. I can see him saying it, with a shake of his head and a thoughtful smile.

Bobby Joe was one of the most beautiful horsemen I have ever seen crossing the country. He whipped-in to the Blue Ridge Hunt for more than thirty years, riding nimble and athletic Thoroughbreds of such a uniform type that people trying to describe any new horse of that sort would simply say, “That’s a Bobby Joe horse.” In fact, you never knew which horse he was riding because they all went the same for him.

Bobby Joe was chosen to be a judge for both the 1989 and the 1991 highly publicized foxhound matches between the Piedmont and the Midland packs, both held in the Piedmont country. The matches were fashioned as a modern replay of the Great English-American Foxhound Match of 1905 and held in the same country. Sporting journalists came from England as well as the U.S. to cover the matches.

Bay Cockburn, ex-MFH, Race Rider, Huntsman

bay cockburn.leesDouglas Lees photoBay Cockburn, ex-MFH, hard-riding huntsman, and former winning steeplechase jockey and trainer, died of complications from melanoma on December 25, 2013.

Confined to a wheelchair for the last fifteen years of his life as the result of a riding accident, Bay was an aggressive race rider and had been referred to as the Evel Knievel of all huntsmen. He represented the epitome of invincibility in the saddle until one fateful day, while exercising a hunter over a straightforward coop that he had jumped countless times, he fell and was left paralyzed from the chest down.

He stayed in the game as best he could, training steeplechase horses, and despite the wheelchair, he continued to live the only way he knew how: full speed forward. I saw him at the races one day propelling his motorized chair, rocking perilously over the lumpy ground across a hillside until it finally toppled over. Friends rushed to right him and rearrange him in his chair, and he continued his hurried progress to get a glimpse of his horse at the next fence. Just another of many falls to ignore. Bay maintained his training license and remained active through 2013.

Bay rode in sanctioned races and point-to-points from 1991 to 1997 with twelve sanctioned wins to his credit. I saw him steal a race down the stretch at the Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point one year. He was lying second trying to overtake the leader. He anticipated just when the jock in first place would turn around to check on him. His body went quiet as if he had resigned himself to second place. The jock in front checked on Bay, was satisfied he had the race won, turned back to the wire and went to sleep. Bay got into his horse like a whirling dervish and passed his victim just before the wire.

Chip Anderson Was a Hunting Man

chip anderson3Huntsman Chip Anderson lay terminally ill on the morning of December 7, 2013 as the Santa Ynez Valley Hounds met for their Opening Meet at Master Steve Lyons' KickOn Ranch in Santa Barbara, California. Before hounds moved off, word came quietly to the Masters that Chip had died. Lyons chose to withhold the sad news until after the meet, when, along with the announcement, he dedicated the day to Chip.

I got to know Chip when I was editor of Covertside magazine. He submitted a hunting story to me for publication, and I was riveted. I published a number of his hunting stories and loved every one; they were full of adventure, suspense, danger, and exotic locales.

Chip was mad-keen to hunt. Whatever the game; wherever the habitat; he devoured the experience. He hunted wild boar with foxhounds in California, with Ariegeois hounds in Italy, with the Aidi dogs of the Berber tribes in Morocco, and with the Dogo Argentino on the South American pampas—sometimes with guns, sometimes with short swords, and sometimes with daggers in close combat. He was, for a time, a professional guide for dove and pigeon shoots in South America, and he wrote a fingernail-biter about shooting a cattle-killing jaguar that he tracked with a pack of dogs, one of which was a foxhound from the Tryon Hunt in North Carolina that he had bred while huntsman there.

D. Harcourt Lees, Jr., ex-MFH

dhlees1-bmpIn nearly a half century of foxhunting, I have never seen a more handsome, elegant, and classically turned-out man astride a horse in the hunting field than Harcourt Lees. Nor did I ever meet a kinder or more pleasant gentleman in the hunting field. For me, he epitomized the grace and courtliness of a bygone age. It was an honor to know him, and I shall never forget him. What follows is the obituary of this sportsman/businessman/civic leader as released. -Ed.

With the passing of Douglas Harcourt Lees Jr. on July 21, Warrenton and Fauquier County, Virginia lost not only a respected businessman and sportsman but also a living link to a simpler time of grace and civility. Mr. Lees, 91, suffered a stroke on July 9 and was hospitalized briefly before returning to “Blackrock,” the Lees’ family home on Springs Road.

Jim Atkins...Huntsman...Virginian

jim atkins2Douglas Lees photoJim Atkins, the well-known and greatly admired native Virginian huntsman, died on Tuesday, June 25, 2013, after suffering a heart attack. Although Jim had retired from hunting hounds, he was highly respected as a judge of foxhounds, most recently judging the Crossbred Ring at the Bryn Mawr Hound Show earlier this month.

Jim served as professional huntsman for the Old Dominion Hounds (1978–1987), the Piedmont Fox Hounds (1987–1989), and finally the Warrenton Hunt (1993–2005).

“Jim has to be recognized as one member of that exceptional group of natural huntsmen from Rappahannock and upper Fauquier Counties,” said Dr. Will Allison, ex-MFH of Warrenton. “As boys, they grew up hunting to put food on the table. They developed an innate feeling for game.”

Commander Bill King: A Life Lived to the Fullest Measure

Commander Bill KingWilliam Donald Aelian "Bill" King died recently at the magnificent age of 102 at his home, Oranmore Castle, in County Galway, Ireland. He was a highly decorated submarine commander, a world renowned sailor, boxer, athlete, organic farmer, writer, and family man.

Also, he was a lifelong follower of both the Galway Blazers and Lady Molly Cusack Smith’s Bermingham & North Galway Foxhounds, with his late wife, the author Anita Leslie, whom he met in Lebanon during the war in 1940. Anita was a daughter of Sir John Randolph Leslie and Marjorie Ide, a daughter of General Henry Clay Ide, a former American Ambassador to Spain and Governor of the Philippines. Anita had been previously married to the well known Russian cavalry officer Colonel Paul Rodzianko who was appointed chief instructor of the Irish Army Equitation School in 1928. She wrote seventeen books, including Lady Randolph Churchill, The story of Jenny Jerome, the life of Sir Winston Churchill’s mother, and Sir Francis Chichester, the biography of the famous round the world yachtsman.

Bill held the distinction of being the only submarine commander to command a British submarine on the first and last days of World War II, such were the perils of such a dangerous command. He was also the last surviving submarine commander of the British Navy from the last war.

Sad Times for Goshen Hounds

Nick and the houndsNick Hartung and houndsThis has been a difficult year for Goshen Hounds (MD) and its members. We have lost four men closely associated with us: former huntsman Nicholas Hartung, board member Bruce Sieling, ex-MFH Hansen Watkins, and, most recently, Irving Victor Marken Abb.