No atheists, a few foxholes Rites: With roots in medieval Europe, a century-old Thanksgiving tradition endures in Glyndon as dozens gather yet again for the annual blessing of the fox hunt.

November 29, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

In medieval Europe, St. Hubert of Liege was hunting one day when he came upon a stag with a crucifix between its antlers. Then he heard a voice warning him to turn to Christ. And then he began blessing hounds before a hunt.

No deer were to be seen in Glyndon yesterday, but plenty of Jack Russell terriers, Labradors, and bassets were gathered.

Dozens of people braved the cold yesterday to participate in the pious practice of blessing the hunt at St. John's in the Valley Episcopal Church.

Founded by St. Hubert -- the patron saint of hunters -- during Good Friday hunts, the ceremony has become a 104-year Thanksgiving tradition in the area.

"It's such a rich part of the community," said Ann Wilson, who has ridden in the hunt but decided to watch this year. "Horses are just the center of the world around here. When families get together here it has to involve horses."

Wilson came from Baltimore with boyfriend Ian Matheson and their yellow Labrador retriever Pacha for the blessing and to wish the hunters well.

The riders -- men, women and children who are members of Greenspring Valley Hunt Club -- gathered across the street from the stone church to await the pastor's blessing for a safe and successful hunt.

Liddy, a German short-hair pointer, bounced excitedly even though the year-old brown-and-white spotted dog was not participating in the hunt. "I figured maybe the blessing would rub off on her," said her owner, Susan Clinnin, as she struggled to keep Liddy from leaping on dogs around her.

The idea of the blessing crossed the Atlantic with the English colonists and has become part of horse pageantry.

In a show impressive enough to attract the slickest fox, more than 100 well-wishers showed up to greet the dozens of riders and about 30 foxhounds before the festivities.

Waiting for the trumpet

The hounds jostled for position and some paced the field, eager for the hunt to begin.

Ann Stewart dressed in traditional hunting attire of white shirt, white stock tie, a yellow vest, black coat, tan britches and black boots, said she was not relying on luck for a successful hunt.

"I'm going to pray when they bless the hounds," said Stewart, as she sat on her thoroughbred, Calahan.

"I think every hunt is exciting but this one is especially nice for the kids to come out and see," she said.

The leashed among them

As a crowd gathered at the pasture, many people were leading dogs on leashes, stamping their feet to stay warm.

They greeted friends with an enthusiastic "Happy Thanksgiving" and yelled "Good hunt" to the equestrians.

Nine-year-old Emily Hankin came with her father, Michael, and sat proudly astride her mixed-breed pony Snickers.

"I love horses and I love riding," said Emily, who participated in the hunt last year.

Eleanor Fulton said the hunt usually lasts for hours as riders search for the elusive wild red fox.


"Foxes are very, very smart and they don't want to get caught," said Fulton, who has participated in the hunt for eight years.

"They are very elusive, and I believe that only one or two has actually been caught in the past 10 years," she said.

Suddenly, the doors of the church opened, and the rector, Philip V. Roulette, and the Rev. Charles Kratz led parishioners quietly into the field.

In the fields of the Lord

"Grant that they who delight in the freshness and beauty of the open fields may never fail thy hand to see and evermore be ready to lift up their hearts in thanksgiving to thee," Kratz prayed.

"As thou dost grant us help in our labors and necessities keep and protect these horses and riders, hounds and foxes, with thy heavenly benediction," he prayed.

And with a blast from the horn, they were off.

Pub Date: 11/29/96

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