It was cold, by South Florida standards, at 45 degrees a little after 6 a.m. on Jan. 2, when the rigs bringing the horses and riders in to the Palm Beach Hounds Quailands territory started to arrive to begin the new season.
The moon was still high in the western sky, nearly full two days after the “Blue Moon” phenomenon of New Year’s Eve, giving some light to the early morn-ing arrivals. After a grand entrance including a bagpiper, staff, hounds and Master Bob Pelio, a beautiful poem to bless the hounds was passionately recited by Ken Adams, former jt.-MFH, who was joined by his wife, Arle, also a former jt.-MFH.
While vacationing in Vermont in 1979, Ken and Arle attended a cocktail party and discovered that the Green Mountain Hunt (Vt.) was disbanding. After several martinis and some more conversation, they bought a pack of hounds. Upon returning to South Florida they organized a group of friends into what is now the Palm Beach Hounds. Their first season was 1980-81, and the hunt was recognized in 1984.
Staff and hounds roaded east down Stirrup Cup Lane toward the first cast. Art Cirkus was field master for the first flight, accompanied by Pelio. The two fields and the hilltoppers comprised almost 50 riders. Before reaching the first cast, all hounds opened as one and ran in full cry east toward Moccasin Slough.
Huntsman Sybil Dance and field tried to follow the hounds through heavy cover but had no luck getting through at a small ditch, so they had to double back to Stirrup Cup Lane and run flat out to Moccasin Lane. Whipper-in and honorary secretary Liz Howard advised the huntsman that the hounds had already crossed the lane into a wooded area where they eventually checked. Two couple had pushed through and kept running to the River Road where whipper-in Stacy Wise, assisted by Melanie Showwhite, stopped them and redirected them back to the huntsman and pack.
Determined to try the originally planned cast, Dance hacked back up Stir-rup Cup Lane and recast north, close to Canal Point where whips Genna Hoff-man, Andrea Stoll and former Jt.-MFH Allan Hetelson kept a keen eye out. After hounds worked the favored Sticky Ditch thoroughly, we moved a bit farther north, working another ditch between the east and west Jeep trails.
After ignoring deer passing to the west, several minutes later Genesee Valley Joyful along with Palm Beach Watson, Victor and Yoda began giving strong voice, heading east. The pack honored, and we were off again, running east through Knee-knocker woods.
Turning north, again the huntsman and field were blocked by another heavily overgrown deep ditch that hounds had pushed through in hot pursuit. At full speed, the field galloped back to the East Jeep Trail, ran north and around to Schoolhouse Lane.
Alas, no hounds were present, but voices could be heard to the north. Off we went again at full tilt. Over Alright Already coop we flew, then pulled up as hounds had checked in the piney wood to the east. Whips Howard and Wise were already on hand gathering hounds.
Hounds were packed in to road north, past the Knarly Field. Over a few more coops, and the hounds were cast on the North Road, in hopes of a nice run back west toward the trailers.
However, scent was rising fast, so the Tally Ho trucks were called in for refreshments. The trucks were delayed as they were waiting near the original cast, so we emptied our flasks and awaited refills. They arrived as promised, feeling quite up to the task of serving the thirsty riders champagne, mimosas, Bloody Marys, water and wine.
Pelio requested a final cast, so a loop was made back toward the trailers, but the scent had disappeared. All hounds and riders were on at the end of the day. After almost 31⁄2 hours in the saddle, everyone was ready for breakfast.
We gathered again at Pelio’s beautiful farm for a catered breakfast on a beautiful South Florida winter day. Many people sat outside overlooking the pool with its stone waterfall, lake and horse pastures beyond. Inside on the big screen TVs around Bob’s lovely home ran a slide show of last season’s closing meet. It was a beautiful setting for a delicious meal, more drinks and lots of laughter from the satisfied foxhunters.