Col. Rex Denny, MFH of Cloudline Hounds, who regularly shoots his age at golf and has developed a passion for antique cars, hunted his hounds for the last time on his 80th birthday. Col. Denny has served two terms as the Western District representative for the Masters of Fox Hounds Association and is known for his candor and sense of humor.
He is also credited as being one of the first huntsmen to bring acceptance and respectability to hunting the coyote. When the Dennys moved to Texas in 1973, his wife, Marjorie Denny, MFH, passed on her excellent riding skills to local Texans who were unfamiliar with English riding, and these students became the hunt’s first members. The combination of Rex’s and Marjorie’s abilities brought keen sport and family loyalty to Cloudline.
The morning of April 25 arrived with a steady beat of Texas rain on the windows as the Colonel prepared for his last outing as huntsman. No phones rang to question whether hounds would go out, as all members knew, rain or shine, the Colonel would go out today. Canceling was not in his vocabulary. Trailers lined up, and as though being rewarded for their loyalty, the rain ceased and left a warm, humid, overcast day.
Although no one expected hunting this late in the season to be stellar, for late April in Texas, the overcast sky was something for which to be thankful. Just before the meet, hunters gathered for a photo by Akhtar Hussein, a world-renowned photographer and one of the many members that has made a lifestyle change to include hunting with Cloudline.
Randy Waterman, MFH of the Mooreland Hunt (Ala.), and his wife, Robin, were guests of the Denny’s for the weekend’s festivities, which also included the Southwest Hound Show. While the stirrup cup was being served, Waterman asked the Colonel which of the hounds from the show would be hunting today. The Colonel replied, “All of them, of course–we breed them to hunt.”
The pack included Petal, a Crossbred bitch who took reserve grand champion of show the day before. She also took the same title the following weekend at the Central States Hound Show (Kan.). The Fun Begins As hounds moved off from the meet, the Colonel asked Waterman, to ride with your correspondent, who officially started hunting the hounds in 2000 after becoming joint master. But today she would ride in her favorite capacity–as whipper-in for her father. Col. Denny took the 17 couple of American and Crossbred hounds through the familiar countryside and around to the back of Cloudline, everyone enjoying the camaraderie between him and his hounds.
As the field crossed Marj’s Heights and neared the infamous Cloudline Woods at the bottom of the hill, hounds opened briefly. They lost on the off side of the hillside, and the Colonel patiently watched while the hounds recast before guiding them down to the hay meadow at the base of Bryce’s Ridge. At the bottom of the hill, just at the base of the woods, Waterman observed, “What a day for the Colonel, to be out with his hounds. And what memories he must be recalling!”
The Colonel brought the hounds to a check, and he noticed someone consulting their watch. He almost visibly stiffened his resolve, making it clear to all that the fun was about to begin. Eastward he swung hounds, into a pasture of high grass on the edge of woods bordering a deep ravine. The pack plunged through, seeming to know that this would be the last draw of the day. Just minutes later, on the far side of the ravine swollen with the recent rains, a second-year entry, Gremlin, gave confident voice. Gentry and Waterman quickly crossed the ravine and watched hounds hark to the line, heading due east in the open about 40 yards off the ravine.
The field had to hold and watch the hounds fly by–with not a single trailing hound–before heading at breakneck speed to a large coop that required a swift turn to the right upon landing. Hounds were still in full cry as they navigated the heavy underbrush, heading east toward a county road. The field pursued across the wet hay meadow to the post and rail jump that would land them on the aforementioned hardtop road. Gentry jumped this and turned due south to protect hounds if they crossed, leaving the Colonel on the inside track of the chase.
Coyotes Take Heed
Just before the field reached the road, Fieldmaster Leon Bennett, MFH, noticed hounds sounded as if they were making a turn and led the field and the Watermans on the shorter route back to the same ravine, but much farther down. They crossed what’s called the “Snowy River crossing,” as it’s so steep and deep, their progress being slowed as they wound their way through the covert heading south and west to open country. Gentry, out on the road, galloped hard alongside the pack as they hit the fenceline that paralleled the road and made a 90-degree turn to the south.
Hounds had not crossed the road, so she quickly opened a Texas gap gate as Bennett and the field crossed the “Snowy River.” Whipper-in Richard Andry told Gentry that hounds had crossed and sounded as though they were headed south and west to complete the circle. They grinned at each other, knowing hounds were giving the Colonel the best gift of all–they were headed right back to him. Then they sped off in hot pursuit, each taking a different side of the ravine in case of a split. When Gentry caught up with the Colonel, all riders were pointing away toward Cloudline, across the open pastures, lines of trees marking the fences that could not be seen at a distance.
The coyote and hounds had been viewed as they sped past the Colonel and the hilltoppers. Riders reunited and the chase continued west through the brushy bottomland adjacent to the Cloudline woods, turning due south across Bryce’s Ridge and Marj’s Height’s, leaving spent horses and riders behind as the speed increased. The remaining riders jumped out of Cloudline and sped across the pasture, where the going was tough due to the weekend’s rainfall. Realizing that they were losing precious time, they jumped out onto a dirt road, hoping to gain enough speed to bridge the gap between horses and hounds. But hounds drew away with each laboring horse’s stride, until all had been left behind. As they made the turn toward home, a coyote appeared on the near hillside. He stood alert and poised for flight; as though making sure he was viewed, and then dove out of sight over the horizon, although not being chased. Word must have spread from coyotes throughout the land, “Be keen of mind and fast in flight, Col. Denny is hunting his hounds today!”