On Thursday, September 5, 2019, The Green Mountain Hounds, a drag fox hunt, met at their Quiet Valley fixture in Shoreham, Vermont. It was a pleasant sunny day and temperatures were seasonable for this time of year. I have been a “fox” for this hunt for about seven years but nothing was to prepare me for the adventure that occurred that day. I’ve always enjoyed laying scent for the hounds to follow and thought that this was going to be another typical day. As we say in Vermont: “Jeezum Crow,” was I wrong.
Cathy Allen and I got our “foxing” orders from Huntsman Meghan Welch and set off to lay the first line. We started over in the field we call Parsnip, worked our way over through the Sugarbush woods and then across Quiet Valley Rd. heading up a hilly driveway that gives us access to the “View Field.” (One of the most beautiful views of the Green Mountains ever!) We covered the View Field and then crossed Quiet Valley Rd. again over to another big field known as the “Parking Field” and ended the line deep in there. As we headed up the side of the hilly driveway, we noticed that new fencing was being installed, and Cathy and I were concerned about fence wire low on the ground. Cathy took off her jacket and hung it on a fence post to try to signal to the hunt to slow down and be careful. I tried to communicate this on the radio as well.
The hounds were cast and ran the scent spot-on. The hounds were fantastic with a great cry and a fast run! All the hounds arrived at the end of the line except for a young female named Elspeth. After a brief check, the decision was made to ride over to the Lemon Fair property to the second line and hope that Elspeth would show up. In the meantime, Cathy and I wanted to go back to get her jacket left hanging on the fence post.
As we headed in that direction we heard a dog crying. We figured it could be Elspeth but we weren’t sure. We got to the driveway that goes up the hill to the View Field and kept hearing some intermittent cries, so we walked into woods calling for her. She occasionally cried back so we kept calling to her. We stumbled around in the woods over downed trees, branches and rocks going up the hill but back-tracked after hearing cries further down the hill. We went through some thickets at the base of the hill and felt like we were getting close. Cathy kept following her cries and finally heard breathing and discovered that she had fallen into an old well.
A very sad little face was peering up at us. We tried to let Elspeth know that she was going to be okay. Cathy stayed with her while I ran back to Meghan’s trailer. At her trailer. I found a lunge line and cross ties, got in my truck and drove back to the well site. I went down in the well and made a harness with the cross ties and attached it to the lunge line. It didn’t even register to me at the time that there may have been some nasty creepy crawlers lurking in the darkness. With some difficulty, with me in the well and Cathy above, I picked Elspeth up with the harness and lunge line attached and Cathy hauled her out. I clambered out myself with some difficulty. Cathy and Elspeth rode back to the trailer in the back of my truck. Then Cathy took Elspeth back to Meghan’s trailer, gave her some water and put her in the hound compartment.
Cathy had to leave for an appointment before the riders returned so she missed relating the drama to the members and sharing in their amazement and accolades. It would have been very difficult to deal with this situation if Cathy had not been there. After some gentle joking about my disheveled appearance, we all enjoyed a great breakfast.
Meghan did later mention to me that Elspeth seemed a little “off” for the rest of the day but was ultimately no worse for the wear. She also said that there was no signal from Elspeth’s GPS collar, which all the hounds are required to wear on a hunt. Apparently, the tracking signal doesn’t work underground! Just FYI.
As for gratitude, Elspeth has seemed to put the past behind her and she and I have not formed any special bond over this experience. I think we both prefer to live in the present moment and not attach ourselves to anything that requires judgment or too much intellectual thought.
Elspeth is Scottish for Elizabeth, my name, but I have never been known as Elizabeth and much prefer Betsy. Elizabeth just seems too formal and isn’t there a queen by that name?
I told this story to my brother Harry, who has done some extensive climbing and mountaineering all over the world. In his enthusiasm for my adventure, he emailed me with all kinds of climbing equipment information, some of it suitable for dogs. Climbing in and out a 12’ well was kind of a fun challenge. I may think of learning a new sport.
Since then, the well has been marked and covered up to avoid any more incidents.
Postscript by Terry Hook MFH
While this tale may appear to be redolent of “Lassie,” albeit for rescued and rescuer reversed, there actually was no episode in which Timmy fell into a well. As usual, truth is stranger than fiction.