Today is opening day for the horses and hounds over in Wales. I missed it. Those of you who have never been to Wales and have never heard the sound of a pack of hounds (maybe 25-50 hounds) in full cry across the moorland will not be able to relate to the wrenching feeling I have today as I sit in the American midwest and contemplate cleaning windows (haha, but that's what I have slated for today; it's supposed to rid me of this feeling of emptiness).
Now to be fair to the midwest (this coming from a "mountain girl") it really does have its own beauty particularly, for me, at harvest time. But I'm pretty fond of harvest time wherever I am...it may be those ancestral strains ringing inside me...like most of you, the folks on my family tree lived off the land. Maybe they had it right.
But back to those hounds. My friends over at the Golden Valley Hunt not far from H
ay-on-Wye, met today at Cabalva, a beautiful home on the River Wye. But as I sit here in the flat midwest on a beautiful street lined with nice old houses and huge sugar maples that are turning the most spectacular colors, all I can do is think of those horses and hounds and the many friends who spent the day out in the beautiful Welsh countryside....without me!!! I feel bereaved. I need to get back to Wales! Fantastic fall colors aside, I want to be out roaming the moors once again with the horses and hounds, the huntsman's horn cutting through the fog and rain, the old boys not unlike those you can see
on PBS on "Last of the Summer Wine" leaning out of beat-up Land Rovers and Daihatsus searching the hills with binoculars, a little box of sandwiches on their laps, a pair of Wellies keeping their feet warm, moleskin trousers, a wool sweater, a tie securely around their necks, the smell of Old Spice and a wool flat cap on their heads.
See, the sport called fox hunting is about so much more than just the folks on horses...it's a way of life. With recent legislation that way of life has changed somewhat, but the same folks are still following the hounds and it's still done in much the same way....we followers don't have to watch someone as he or she sets out a little before the meet to lay the now required scent trail with a bag of anise or whatever dragged behind in an old tube sock so we can hunt within the law. For us it just seems much like it was before so we just pretend it's still proper hunting as it was back through the centuries and we go merrily along as the hounds set off and pick up that trail and a jolly good day's hunting ensues.
There are folks, dozens of them following every hunt, who don't have the means or the youth to follow on horseback as part of the mounted field. But many of those folks you see out there LIVE to follow the hunt. It is the highlight of their week. Many of those people are retired and many can no longer walk very well. What they can do, though, is thrill to the sounds of the hounds as they roar across a hillside; they can visit with friends they have known for many decades, they can see neighbors and enjoy the conversation that ensues whenever a gr
oup of people come together to do something they love. They'll relive the old days, a particular day's hunting that has reached legendary (and sometimes mythical) status, ones that grow with the telling so that the listener realizes that surely this hunt could never have happened...but who knows? These folks come together and breath the wonderful, fresh Welsh air, they
share a sense of spirit and community, they share memories and create new ones, they share news and the joy of companionship (many of these folks I'm speaking of live alone so these hunts dispell that loneliness, if just for awhile).
So when I say I grieve to miss opening day, I think of those faces I've been missing, weathered like limestone tombstones in old churchyards. I miss the croaky voices and the missing teeth. I miss the shouts of friends and the hounds jumping up to lick my face. I miss trudging up a hillside to find the hunt has already passed by. I miss the spirit of chance and yes, I miss the anticipation of it all.
Most of all I miss my friends with the Golden Valley, the Radnor & West and the Teme Valley and hope they're out there today on the hills and moors having a wonderful time.
Yes, this is a pity party. I am mourning those hounds and missing my friends. I think I'll call the airline and get me a ticket to Wales. I need to hear me some hounds in full cry, now that I've voted. I do. I do.
Labels: flat caps, fox hounds, fox hunting, Golden Valley, mid Wales, moors, opening day, Radnor and West, Teme Valley, wellies