We drove to the pasture, but there was not much music in its vicinity or in the other places where we stopped. We decided to go back, since it was very close to 11:30. "Soon they'll be collectin' the dogs," said Crane. "It's a courtesy to pick up any dog you see and bring him back to the castin' ground, where the owner can pick him up. Some dogs are skittish in their ways, and their owners might be all night lookin' for 'em. If they don't make tomorrow's cast, they're likely to be scratched, don't you see."
We tooled along past the casting ground, seeing several dogs fastened to a long chain. They seemed tired. On one side of the road a hunter was blasting his auto horn to summon his dogs. On the other were two hunters blowing what looked like miniature Viking horns. All three blew at once, the auto horn loudest and furnishing the tenor music. "It's a courtesy not to blow your horn till after 11:30," Crane said. "Otherwise a hound might think he was bein' blowed in and find himself scratched."
Except for one exciting interlude on the second day, each of the three days passed similarly. We would attend the cast in the early morning darkness, move out as dawn broke, stop often for talk with hunters standing by the side of the road or get out of the car in taut silence to listen, trying to locate a working pack.
Sometimes we would hear the music from far off, sometimes we would listen in vain. Once, on the second day of the hunt, we suddenly found ourselves in the very center of things. We had trekked into a clump of woods when suddenly straight at us came what seemed like a regiment of dogs. Yipping and squawking, they were all around us. "They've made a bother," Crane said, meaning they had lost the scent. "The fox mojoed 'em here." He pointed to the evidence of a sharp sideward leap the fox had made, causing a change in the line of his scent. The dogs' momentum had carried them past that point. Now they were sniffing the ground in an eager, confused way. Some hunters came by.
"We almost saw the fox," Crane told them. "He manipulated 'em right here." One dog, No. 56, opened. "Fifty-six hit it!" shouted one of the hunters, moving forward and pointing. The pack streaked off after the fox, some barking, some running silent. A hound labeled No. 8 suddenly appeared, paused and took a different route—"running cunning." "That's the cuttin'est dog I ever seen!" Crane exclaimed, wearing a look of disapproval. We slogged off through the woods to return to the car.
The hunt was officially over at 11:30 on the fourth day. At about three o'clock the hunters assembled at the Durant to await the posting of the winner and runners-up.
Some dogs can be tired, explained a worried lady hunter in a lilting Kentucky hills accent, and "have their tails up, but my Honey Bee, she carries her tail low whether she's tahrd or not. Some judges are goin' to say Honey Bee is tahrd just because she don't carry her tail up."
But it turned out the judges knew their business better than that. Honey Bee finished first in speed and drive and first in trailing to win several silver cups. The hounds with their tails painted blue did not win anything. The overall winner of the trial, announced with a whoop, was No. 7—Yazoo Baby Rose, owned by A. N. Nichols of Vaughan, Miss.
As Nichols, a stocky man with a sunburned face, was being pounded on the back and noisily congratulated, Crane remarked that it was unusual for a bitch to win against so many males. "But she's a beautiful, compact female with a great heritage of careful breeding," he said. Then he added the inevitable genealogical note: "Baby Rose is by Yazoo Gray Ghost out of Yazoo Rose Bud."
On every side the owners of lesser dogs than Baby Rose were being congratulated, and cups and ribbons were being passed out to the popping of flashbulbs. The trial was over for one more year, but the day's sport was far from finished. Here and there in the crowded lobby offers to buy and sell were being made and accepted or rejected as the case might be. Plans and hopes for future races were crystallizing as stud fees were arrived at and meetings arranged. And everywhere the talk of foxes and fox hunting ran on and on. As we left the hotel we heard a tall, slender hunter telling of one fox who had fooled a whole pack of dogs by crawling back and forth through a wire fence. "And all the time those dogs was tryin' to follow, squeezin' in and squeezin' out of that fence," he was saying. " Big Red was settin' up there on that hill watchin' 'em. I swear," he concluded, "that fox was laughin' at them dogs."