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September 25, 2009

Coming A Cropper At The Day Road Coop

One hunt member takes it upon herself to answer some puzzling physics problems in the hunt field.

Have you ever ended a hunt feeling so proud of yourself because you rode beautifully and deduced what was happening during the entire run?

Or have you dismounted, kneeled—kissed the ground—and marveled that you survived in spite of your incompetence?

Foxhunting provides the opportunities to prove us all either incredibly smart or galactically stupid. I admit that I usually fall in the latter category. And it’s usually my luck to be in front of the entire hunt when I prove just how hard it is sometimes for me to find my way out an exit door.

There was one splendid December day in Strawberry Plains, Tenn. I was out with the Tennessee Valley Hunt near the kennels. The entire field was on a hill overlooking Day Road toward the end of the day’s hunt waiting for the hounds.

It was then that I was asked to help stop the hounds on Day Road. I was still new to hunting, and this was the first time I had ever been asked to help with the pack. I was excited!

Chauncey Parker and I had to jump a coop at the bottom of that hill so we could get to Day Road. I’d never taken this coop before and really had no idea how to ride it. The approach was easy; the landing was the tricky part. Day Road is built up on an embankment, about 6' higher than the top of the big coop. There’s no flat area on the landing side, so you land right on the very steep bank.

Chauncey jumped it first, without a problem. My pony, Phillip, had never jumped it before and ran out. This was the first time he’d ever refused a coop with me.

It’s a terrible shame when an animal with a brain so much smaller than your own is proven to be so much wiser than one’s self.

I do remember having this oh-so-brief moment of clarity when I asked myself, “Just what am I doing?” Unfortunately, that moment of perspective didn’t last long, so I re-approached the “Cujo” coop. This time, Phillip decided to allow my bravado to override his sense of self-preservation, and jumped.

Upon landing it felt like I went from 100 mph to a dead stop with me way too far forward. I flipped through the air off the right side and landed on my left shoulder and hip. Upon hitting the road, I let go of my reins, whip and senses. I should mention that the road was paved. Amazingly, it’s quite hard; there’s not much give in blacktop. Go figure.

Lying in the middle of the road I heard my pony racing down one side of Day Road and a car approaching from the other side. Just before I’d jumped the coop Chauncey had hollered, “Car’s coming Gretchen! No hurry, but kick on and get up here.”

So yes, in spite of the car warning I still chose to jump this wicked coop knowing three indisputable facts: 1) my never-before-refused-a-coop, honest-to-a-fault pony didn’t want to jump it; 2) I knew I didn’t have the first clue of how to ride it; and 3) I was jumping into oncoming traffic.

I’ve had wiser moments.

With the car approaching, I unfolded myself and started “the wounded skunk crawl” to the side of the road. After I’d slumped into a pitiful little heap on the shoulder, the nice couple in the car got out and found my lost glasses and whip. Queerly, they were laughing while they handed me my things.

Unfortunately, I realized this was not the kind of laugh to be considered laughing “with” you. I would love to think I said something really funny, but I don’t remember being able to speak, much less anything I actually said to the amused couple.

It’s one thing to be laughed at by your friends, but it’s quite another to have total strangers think you’re nuts.

Amazingly, when I got up I felt fine. Not even a headache! The only evidence was the bluish-gray skid marks on the shoulder of my melton.

We never did see the hounds, as they had been stopped further up the road before we got to them. It was quite satisfying to know that risking my neck was so helpful in the end.

At least I answered one question: “Do you bounce if you hit blacktop hard enough?” Nope. You might skid a little, but no bouncing occurs.

Thanks to my selfish resolution to that question no one else in my hunt need to ever wonder again. Took one for the team, I did. However, I don’t plan on testing that theory again. No sense in repeating myself, as that would be boring. At least, that’s what I intended.

The next burning question I resolved, albeit unexpectedly, occurred about three weeks later in our other territory in Strawberry Plains called the Knobs. I took it upon myself to answer the mystery of, “Do you ricochet if you hit a tree trunk while flipping in mid-air?”

Nope. I didn’t bounce then either—I just slid down the bark into a crumpled pile.

All I could say was “Ow!” Michelle Burkhalter looked at me from across the ditch that had won and asked, “Gretchen, are you OK?”

My only reply was to repeat another “Ow.”

She then stated the obvious so wisely, “Well yes it hurts, honey, you hit a tree after all! But are you OK?”

I’d turned into a broken record by that point and had to be half-carried back across the ditch.

So why does a generally sane person with some intelligence suddenly throw all rational, self-preserving thoughts out the window as she drives each morning to the meet? That’s easy.

Riding with great intelligence might gain you a few points with the staff when they happen to notice, but having the reputation of the “galactically stupid” is far more fun! At least, I maintain that it’s more fun, as I’ve yet to ride with great intelligence.

Maybe someday that will happen, or maybe I should just install air bags in my melton. Just in case. 

 
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