Autumn is a time of the year that stirs mixed emotions. For Poet William Cullen Bryant, it is a season of "...melancholy days...the saddest of the year,/Of wailing winds, and naked woods, and meadows brown and sere." But to the dedicated bands from coast to coast who believe in the pursuit of the fox with horse and hound, it is a time of joyful activity—the cubbing season is over and the hunt can begin in earnest.
In trying for a new look at this old and respected endeavor, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED dispatched veteran Photographer Toni Frissell to Maryland's Elkridge-Harford Hunt for an unusual view; and thereby unwittingly brought on some melancholy and a considerable amount of wailing winds. Photographer Frissell boarded a helicopter to obtain the magnificent aerial photograph shown at left. Her flight was later described by visiting Miss Nancy Nicholas in The Chronicle, a journal devoted mainly to news of fox hunting:
" Toni Frissell's helicopter warming up unseen on the far side of the house...caused no commotion among the unsuspecting animals until it roared ominously over the house and circled slowly overhead.... The panic was on. Hounds cowered under Huntsman Dallas Leith's horse, while two puppies bolted into the underbrush to be seen no more that day; horses reared, bucked or bolted depending upon their characters and most recent quantity of oats...." But the hunt members, made of sterner stuff, carried on and, remarkably enough, managed to run a fox for some 45 minutes before he went to ground, a tribute to their good-natured tolerance of an extraordinary distraction as well as their enthusiasm for the sport.
The helicopter's wailing winds were not, however, held against Photographer Frissell, who returned for Thanksgiving to record (on the ground) the elegance of the perfectly appointed riders on this traditional occasion (right). For some of the country's 96 accredited hunts, Thanksgiving is the more festive for being recognized as the day on which the hounds are blessed. (Others still follow the custom of holding the ceremony on the feast of St. Hubert.) The special, convivial air of the American holiday, combined with the color of this venerable sport, acts to swell the normal field of the Elkridge-Harford Hunt by considerable numbers.
The Elkridge hounds are a crossbred pack, developed by Voss over the 18 years he has served as Master of Foxhounds. The bitches are British imports from some of the finest English packs, including two from the Port-man, two from the South Dorset and one which was a special gift from the Duke of Beaufort.
Organized in 1878, in a part of Maryland where the original settlers were English or of English descent, the Elkridge Hunt Club has kept a devoted following. As new homes were built in the countryside and good hunting country became a rare commodity, a plight that has beset many clubs, Elkridge merged with the newer (1914) Harford Hunt in 1934. Now the hounds can run freely over the farm estates belonging to the combined membership of the two clubs.
It was four years after the Elkridge-Harford union that Voss became the second hunt's master, a position which he has retained—with the aid one year of a joint master—ever since. A man more completely immersed in the art and science of the chase would be hard to find. And as long as horses and hounds exist, Elkridge-Harford will keep the sport alive in its old and traditional way.