Volume VIII, No. 4, Summer 1981
Edited and photographed by Jill Splan
The clean, high pitched barks of hounds running through our valley was much more soothing than the occasional annoying barks of our own dogs off our front porch. The barks of the hounds faded gently in and out and echoed off the bluffs around our farm as the hounds circled and ran the paths of the fox. Their songs swelled with excitement as they drew closer and ran hot on the trail.
I'd lie waiting for sleep on humid summer nights with the hounds' rhythmic songs dominating the sounds of the crickets and locust near my window and the coyotes' distant ki-yi-ing near the river.
The now familar songs of these hounds hadn't always been heard in our valley until Stanley Arnold bought some of our top acreage some years ago. He and his friends ran their hounds many nights through all seasons. When I'd drive out in the mornings heading for town, I'd see some of his strong, beautiful dogs resting near their pen waiting Stanley to pick them up from their night' s run. These were beautiful, graceful dogs, not like our sometimes clumsy farm dogs.
Stanley told me, "There's a lot more to a foxhound than meets the eye. There's two kinds--running hounds and show hounds." I learned later that Stanley owned both kinds and had also shown dogs for many years. He said, "There's nothing like having a good hound that can and will run a race. It makes you feel great. But when you get a hound that shows good and wins some of the nation's top bench shows, you're on top of the world because you've got a top hound."
I've run hounds ever since I was eleven years old. I fox hunted with the guys, but I didn't know what a good hound was supposed to look like, so I went to the National several years. I was just a little guy, and I'd sit down on the front row, maybe on the ground or the floor and watch. It was quite an aristocratic thing--money and aristocratic, but they were the world's best and had the world's best hounds in the show.
Before I ever started showing hounds, I studied my lesson to get educated to what a show hound looked like. I didn't know that much about hounds. After I got a little education at the Nationals, then I learned a little about breeding. I'd sit around there at night in the big hotel lobby and listen to old-timers that had show hounds talk of hounds way before me. They'd talk about the different breeds of hounds, what was winning, hounds they had owned and pedigrees of foxhounds, even on some of mine, way back five or seven years before. Their stories were real interesting to me, and that got me interested in hound pedigrees and registered hounds.
Mr. O. H. Belshe down in Richland, Missouri, is the guy who set me straight. I was a young guy then living in Kansas City. He said, "Stanley, it doesn't cost any more to feed a good registered hound than it does to feed grade hounds, and they're worth money. You can enjoy them more. Not that they are any better, run any better, can't expect them to do great things any better than everyone else's hound out on a hunt because that's not it. With the pedigrees you can talk hounds, and you can sell hounds."
He was right. They'll bring money. If you want to sell your puppies, or any age, you'll advertise in the paper, and a guy over in the state of New York, Pennsylvania or California picks up the paper, and he knows some of those hounds on that registration certificate, and you've got those hounds advertised for sale. It's the name.
I said, "The next time you have a good litter of pups', good highbred stuff, let me know. I'd like you to save me a female so I'll get started okay." He said he'd do it. So he did. He notified me and said, "I've got a good female bred to Hi-Doctor, the three state dual champion of Georgia, Alabama and Florida. We'll have a litter of pups ready to go in three months."
About three months later I got a card from him, "Stanley, I've got you a hound, a female." I was real proud to get her. While I was down there he had another young litter a couple of weeks younger sired by another great hound in the South, and so I bought one of those, a male, a different strain but all registered.
I took those to Kansas City and started. It wasn't very long, possibly five years after that before I ever took any interest in going to a bench show and had any hounds good enough to go with.
One of the first hounds I had that won and won big was the world's largest field trial champion, Mark Twain--greatest winner of all time and of all hounds in hound history. He won me a brand new 1948 Chevrolet fully equipped. It was grand. They were giving a hundred dollar bill for the first place in the bench show and a new car for the three days highest score for the field running. That's how I won that car. It was actually hard running.
Mark Twain ran so hard all his pads and between his toes on his feet were galled from sand. He'd never had a sore foot before being raised up here in these hills. He had show feet, really good feet, the best, but they run in that sand, and he galled and blistered them. You could see the flesh on both of his front feet pads. The night before the last cast, we stayed up till eleven o'clock. We kept thinking about what to put on his feet for an immediate heal. There wasn't such a thing. So, how we thought of it I don't know. It sure wasn't my idea, but that of one of the guys that was with us, helping me with the hounds. He said, "How about nail polish?" Well, I'd worked in lacquer thinner and lacquer in the paint shop 'cause I was in the automobile business all my life and knew how quick lacquer dries. I knew fingernail polish just dries soon as you put it on. We needed something fast. We had to get the moisture dry. Should we burn it or what? The foot was tender, into the quick, so to speak, into the red. We put on a little at a time, just a real thin coat, then we blew, like it was on your fingernail. We used a little heat, too, a match, to help coat after coat, eight or ten coats. We got it on there and it sealed his feet over completely, like a fingernail would be. Next morning cast at daybreak, he just walked right out across the grass stubble and gravel. He wasn't feeling his way along. He was ready. We fed him good, along with three others. I started with eight hounds and wound up with three finishing, not scratched for various reasons. That morning we turned him loose. There was 331 started on the first day and only eighty-five or six turned loose the last morning. In other words, the rest disqualified.
Mark Twain was thin that last morning, but he was tough, and he was in football condition--ready to play the game. He just run right out across the stubble field. You could see him for about a quarter of a mile or so. I saw him run into the woods, and I was happy, and I tell you he ran that day like you would not believe.
We picked him up at one o'clock that night. He was still running, him and two more hounds. There was just two hounds with him. His feet were beginning to swell, and he was getting some galled sores between his toes and wanted to lay down. He was so tired, but he won the field trial.
You didn't know what your scores were. You didn't have any idea of what was going on, with the exceptions of when they posted the score sheets every night. The score sheet was as big as a three by four foot picture frame. If you didn't have a line drawn through your hound's number, you could tell you were still in the game, and you could cast the next morning. But if you had a line drawn through, you were scratched. In other words, you was out of the race.
The hounds get scratched for anything besides running a fox or hunting for one to run. They have to be busy! They would maybe get on another trail or do something else like mouth behind too far back, or run rabbits or deer--we call it trash--running roads, cutting across, cutting in--anything that wouldn't be logical in the way of foxhound thinking or molesting the race in any way. When you run, you run right.
You know how you are doing at a bench show, but the score sheets were locked in the bank vault every night. You could guess all you wanted to. We didn't know we'd won it till the last night.
That night was great. They kept calling me up there time after time. We had won best hound in the show with the female. I got a hundred dollar bill for that. We won the best pack of four in the show, the award being one ton of dog feed, and we won the best pair, the award fifty dollars in trade at a local store, and the best natural carriage. That was the bench show on the first night. I popped down the aisle so many times I was embarrassed. I felt greedy, and I had all I wanted. After I went up there a couple of times or so, that was enough because I knew I had that a-coming.
But I never thought about winning the field trial. I really didn't. No guesses coming. I did know that I sure would like to have won it. Someone asked me, "Stanley, what would you have to say if you should win that field trial and win that new car." I said, "Don't worry about me. I'd have plenty to say. Don't you worry." "You better have a speech made up, You never know what will happen." I said, "No, but I'll be ready. I don't need to make up no speech Ooooh, I'll be so excited, I'll have plenty to say."
It was the last award they gave away that night. They had entertainment, a high school band, kids in between, what have you, a few speakers, and the district superintendent for General Motors was there to make the award and to issue the keys and the title for the new car. It was on the radio, with microphones sitting about. Boy, when they called my number--they called the hound's number first--I broke out of there like I had been scalded with hot water. Out that aisle I went and ran right down and jumped three steps up on that stage. They issued the award and the district superintendent of General Motors said, "We'd like you to have a few words to say in regards to whatever you would like to talk about." Well, I shook hands and they took pictures and stuff, and said, "Go ahead. Just help yourself." Well, I got up there and could not say one word! I choked right up. The only time in my life. I've been in some embarrassing situations and under some enormous pressures and some unexpected times, but at that time I didn't know whether I ever was going to say anything or not. I couldn't say a word. Then here it came and I just turned it completely loose. I tried to thank everybody and forgot people's names. I had nothing on my mind but a heart full of thankfulness and a new car in my hip pocket. I was really excited.
The old sixty-five dollar Packard car that we pulled our old homemade trailer up there with didn't look too good. We hooked our trailer on the old Packard and started for home and had it loaded with 500 pounds of the ton and a half of dog food we had won. We had them ship us the rest. I drove the old Packard and the trailer home, and let one of the young guys with me drive the brand new car home. I really didn't want to drive it. I hadn't calmed down yet and didn't till the next day. I was on the road all the time because I made a living in the automobile business, but still I didn't want to drive a new car home just 'cause I was that nervous at the moment. I didn't want to tear it up.
We drove it about six weeks and we had some little kids, three--two boys, Tom and Bob, and a girl, DeEtta Sue--growing up. The youngest one was probably about two. And gee, seeing them in there with ice cream and candy and whatever, in that brand new car. We couldn't afford it. We owed a mortgage of fifteen hundred dollars on our little old farm, a little place down by Falcon, Missouri. That was a lot of money, about half what it was worth. I had to talk my wife into the notion of selling the car to pay off the mortgage. The car would bring more than it was worth. It was right at the end of World War II, when cars were all rationed and worth a mint to even get tires, much less a car. Dealers were giving away above list price to get a-hold of a car. So we drove it six weeks and we cleaned it up nice--wiped the ice cream off of it a little bit, and the kids fingerprints, even as precious as they were, and sold it. I walked in the bank to Mr. Fern Willard and asked what the complete payoff of our property mortgage was. He dug up the balance of what I owed and I just paid it. We got by on a much less expensive car. It was wonderful.
Mark Twain was a good dog and the breeding paid off. I know most of the ancestors of all the
hounds pictured on the wall around my house. I know the breeding. By thinking and hesitating a
little bit, I can give you most of the hounds on a five generation pedigree. I believe there is
sixty-five or sixty-eight hounds on a five generation pedigree. You just don't forget the breeding.
A lot of it is indelible. It just doesn't leave you.
When I really started to get into breeding and showing was when I bought a female from Belfee Brown of Mission Hills, Kansas. He had two outstanding females sired by the Grand National champion, Ring Master. He let me have the one I wanted. I just kept growing and breeding and watching careful selection with the pedigrees. I hand-picked the individual. I learned that from him and bought the best. Breed the best and get the best. You have to have some authority on breeding and be highly educated on breeding lines. I had some vocational agriculture and breeding, animal husbandry, in school, and learned how important it is to have good breeding. I don't care if it's a rooster, a dairy cow, beef or a horse, the breeding is very important. They breed the best to the best. It pays. They seem to think that fifty percent is in breeding and fifty percent in training. I believe it has stepped up from there now, and I think breeding is more important now.
Training is a lot on the trainer's part. It's nice when you get a dog with a good personality, but really it doesn't matter in showing because you've got them set on the bench. I've had some of the wildest dogs you couldn't catch at all, except me. They'll come right to me and do whatever I want. When I set them on the bench, they're broke, by what we call force broke. I didn't know a thing about it for years, just being real sweet and have patience. They have to know that they have to mind. If they don't, they will be real good for you one time and won't the next. It's just like breaking a horse. How do you think they get them to fox trot and do everything? Why do you think they keep doing it, doing it so fast and giving it everything they got and don't break? Because they know they must not break. They know not to because they've been whipped for it before. They have got to do it, work, and work and work, or he'll get in trouble. He's got to do what he's supposed to do. It takes some training. He's got to know what you mean.
One old gentleman told me, "You've got to be smarter than the dog before you can train that dog." I took that pretty serious. He's got something there. You have to get them performing right, and then they'll do it right. When they learn that's what they have to do, then they love to do it. When they learn how to do it right, I honor them for their obedience and they appreciate it. We all like to be honored. You honor them, pet them and you'll be surprised how they'll understand.
They can understand your attitude or mood just by looking at you, by the expression on your face. That may sound a little bit windy, but several of my hounds know what kind of mood I'm in. If I walk out there and I'm not in a very good mood, they'll just watch me and just get back out of my way. They're smarter than you think. If I'm in a real good mood and go out there whistling and singeing something, they'll come out whistling and singing, too. They'll come out to meet me with a "Howdy, old buddy. How are you? You're feeling good today." I can see it. They can see it, too. They know what they're doing, what you want them to do. In a little while they're straining the point to satisfy you, to do what you want done. That's why I like hounds. It isn't easy. It takes patience. My wife, Estia, starts with the pups, and she's got all the patience in the world. We've got lots of pups, use them, run them, and sometimes if they're good enough, show them. But it's hard to get the best.
We've gone as far as twelve hundred miles one way to shows and been gone fifteen or sixteen days to possibly four or five shows a year. We don't win them all, but we don't lose them all, either.
You have to get your dogs ready for the shows and have them in the best condition. Estia and I wash them the night before we go. You use your hands to work in the shampoo, work it in real good, and then pour the rinse water down their backs and let it run down their belly. You just let them dry off naturally.
Some shows we take them to in the wintertime, I've put them in the bathtub because it's too cold outside to shampoo them. I've carried them in and out so they wouldn't shake on the rug in the house.
We clip and trim their toenails and spray them with hair spray to make their tails flag. Comb it down and when it dries, I think it looks better. Not many do it. It's sort of a trick of the trade.
Estia always takes a rag and washes out their ears and in the summer we pour tick and flea killer over them. Always have clean hay and water in their pens to keep them clean, and then you're ready to go to the show.
We go to what they call an open bench show, which is strictly a bench show, no field trials. To win the best hound in the show is out of this world. It's a high class show. We have a good time. They have a big dinner there the night before, all the fox hunters from ten or fourteen states are there. Hounds are the best. They go to the bench show to see the best in the world. We have a good social get-together, door prizes, entertainment--dandy get-together.
We like the social part. The first thing you get into, "Hello, Jim, saw you here last year," or "Last time I saw you was in Kansas City," or "I saw you at the Central united States two years ago." "Let's see, your name is...ah...ah...Jim, yeah, Jim." You like all that. There's a lot of visiting and stuff.
Pretty soon you're talking in to hounds. Real soon. You can talk hounds to hound men. It's a little bit ignorant to everybody else but hound people. It's like going to a horse show and not knowing anything about horses, and you hear them quote pedigrees, or you go up to a stock show, a Jersey show, and hear these cattlemen talk about their sires and the dams and all of the cow breeds, and it will run you crazy if you don't know what they're talking about. But those guys know pedigrees and we used to love to get with guys older that was really good at it and knew how to breed and knew the ancestors of all these hounds.
After you visit around with all the gang, then you look at the hounds. Look at the competition, you bet. You go eat together, talk hounds--a lot of hound talk. There's the tension part that winds you up, gets your blood to pumping. You get a kick out of that, competition--enthusiasm to do your best. You have it in your mind that you have the best hound there. You want to get the best out of him.
Then they have the bench show the next day. We lead the dogs in a circle at first and the master hound takes a look at them while you're leading them around, and he looks at them all around, he and the ring master. They judge them on size and color, and that counts fifty percent. Then the other fifty percent is conformation, how the hound really looks.
Catching the judge's eye is the first thing you try to do--the way the hounds look, that catches his eye. The same thing the spectators are looking at, its symmetrical balance. The first thing you see is that hound's balance. When you first see me, the first glance, you see all of the balance first. You say, well he had a big fat belly, or a round face, hadn't shaved, whether he's straight or pigeon-toed, whatever. You see an over-all look. Well balanced, well proportioned. You draw a real snap opinion. That's the first thing a judge looks for. Then you go into the details. You start at the head. Like I look at someone, I'll glance them over from head to feet, just look. Then you look right into the face, right in the eyes. That's what you remember, is the face. If you're looking at a hound, after you get that hound in your mind, after he gets in his eyes, the judge goes around and looks at that hound again, because it caught his eye--beautifully balanced hound. He looks closer at the eyes, muzzle and ears--the way his ears hang well down along side of his head, soft, pliable, how when he picks up his chin and his ears have a tendency to roll with his head. He looks at his eyes, soft, kind and brown and the muzzle--good muzzle. You don't want a little short muzzle on a foxhound. You look at their neck. You don't want them to be yow-necked like on a sheep, or you don't want it loaded. You want a straight line from his shoulder to his feet.
One of the most important things in a foxhound is his feet. A man told me one time in Tennessee, he said, "Well, you know, you've got to have feet on a foxhound because if you don't, they won't come back the next morning." Their feet get sore and they lay down. They won't come back for two or three days. You have to have good thick feet, good thick pads, just good feet. You need an arched back, deep chest. The chest has to come down at least to the hock joint. A good flank, good strong back and a good thick tail because that's the end of his back bone. The hind quarters need to be slightly bowed but not too straight and not too bowed. Well muscled and well developed. Same way you look at a house or anything. Symmetric.
The judge has you stop the hounds and looks at them separately. He goes around again. He makes his mind up pretty much the first time with the top ones, and then he choses the hounds that go in the ten places from one back to ten places to be judged on the bench.
He's real careful about picking and he compares them. He places them all the way back, and the fellow who wins eighth or ninth, sometimes is as enthused about his place of winning, for at least to get on the bench in that big of a show is pretty good. Nothing to sneeze about. He feels pretty good just about getting on the board. He at least is out of the twenty-four that was in the class, he got in the top ten.
When he gets his benches full, ten of them, you take your hound up there. The ring master will tell you, number one, two, three or so on. Then the judge goes back up to the front end and starts looking and comparing those top ten hounds real close. He may make some changes right there and he usually does. He picks out the four first and puts them on the bench. He may have the first one there in his opinion. Usually right. Not always, but naturally everyone makes mistakes. So he sets them, goes back up the line, maybe changes. He tells the ring master who tells the handlers to change their positions. They wind up and pick the best hound in that class. That is the way it is. You hold your place and they come back and pick up your entry card and mark the place you won. Then you're in the finals with that top hound.
Then they take the top four. They have a derby female and a derby male--that's under two years old. They have the all age, male and female. They show those four hounds, out of the four big classes and it takes a lot of time for that. Then you have those four hounds to come up in the finals to see who is going to be the best hound in the show and the best opposite sex. That's getting down to the nitty gritty where the friendship ceases.
I do my best. I don't play no game that isn't fair. I have no use for a game that isn't fair, but I'll sure try my best to beat you. If you beat me, it isn't because I didn't try. It's because you just flat beat me. That's how I feel about a hound. If you just don't show your hound right, you get beat. There's not too much difference in two hounds, but if you don't show right, it will lose you. It's the handler's fault sometimes. Sometimes your hounds will get nervous and jump out of your hands and run off. If she's done good, you pet her, love her, thank her and send her on her way. Don't ever let a hound go off the bench on his own, because he'll start jumping off when you don't want him to.
They set the two males together, the derby and the all age, and the judge will make up his mind and pick one of those hounds to compete with either the derby female or the all age female. They show those two together to get the best hound, and those two, male and female show together for the best hound in the show. Whichever that is, male or female, the other is automatically called the best opposite sex. That's the bench show.
Field trials are completely different things, altogether different. We don't like to run our show hounds a lot. We don't want flat feet or hair knocked off. You can see the differences in a hound that runs and one we are not running. In a lot of shows you are compelled to run your hounds, which is fine. You show in the show, and then you must run in the field or sacrifice your winning. You will not even get honorable mention if you got first place on the bench and didn't go out in the field and cast your hound at roll call. Two days for the derby, three for the all age. You stay at night and camp out. It's a lot of fun.
It's hard running for your dog. Each dog has a number on, and the judges ride on jeep, horseback, a-foot--what have you, and they score the hounds fox hunting, trailing, speed, driving and endurance. They run six hours a day three straight days. These trials really put your dog to the test. He has to run good and hard. If he lags behind or runs trash, he'll get scratched and it's all over.
It's always exciting to pick your hound up at night and know he's run good. if your dog's number is not marked out on the scoreboard, you know he's done good and you can cast the next day. It's a lot of fun, all of it is fun. It takes effort and knowledge like everything else, but it's worth it.
As summer nights cool and fall temperature approaches, all the familiar night sounds, including the foxhound barks, are muffled with the closing of my window. In the mornings when I drive out, I still see Stanley's dogs, but now when I look at them, I know there's more to them than meets my eyes. They're top hounds and run the best and show the best.
Having the best is something else. You always have hope. It's quite an achievement. The anticipation, it's like going fishing. You prepare to go fishing and have a good time getting everything ready and loading the car. You go down and fish all day and not catch any fish, but you had a good time, such a good time getting ready, you weren't thinking about the job at all, just relaxing.
Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.