Father of Our Country: George Washington Real Sportsman, Particularly Fond of Equestrian Exercise, Daily Racing Form, 1922-08-05


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FATHER OF OUR COUNTRY George Washington Real Sports- man, Particularly Fond of Equestrian Exercise. The time which Colonel Washington could spare from his building and agricultural improvements, between the years 1759 and 1774, was considerably devoted to the pleasures of the chase, according to George W. P. Curtis Recollections and Private Memoirs of the Life and Character of Washington, published about 1830. We have neither knowledge nor tradition of his ever having been a shooter or fisherman, fox hunting being of a bold and animating character, well suited to the temperament of the "lusty prime" of his age, and peculiarly well accorded with his fondness and predisposition for equestrian exercises. His kennel was situated about a hundred yards south of the family vault, in which repose his venerated remains. The . building was a rude structure, but afforded confort-able quarters for the hounds, with a large inclosure paled in, having a spring of running water in the midst. The pack was numerous and select, the Colonel " visiting and inspecting his kennel morning and evening, after the same manner as he did his stables. It was his pride, and a proof of his skill in hunting, to have his pack so critically drafted as to speed and bottom that, in running, if one leading dog should lose the scent another was at hand immediately to recover it. Trus, when in full cry, to use a racing phrase, you might cover the pack with a blanket. MANY SPORTING GUESTS. During the season Mount ATernon had many sporting guests from the neighborhood and from Maryland and elsewhere. Their visits were not of days, but weeks, and they were entertained in the good old style of Virginias ancient hospitality. Washington, always superbly mounted, in true sporting costume of blue coat, scarlet waistcoat, buckskin breeches, top boots, vel- vet cap and whip with long thong, took the field at day dawn. Neither Will Lee, his lsuntsman, nor any of his friends and neighbors rode more gallantly in the chase nor with voice more cheery awakened echo in the woodland than he who was afterward destined, by voice and example, to cheer his countrymen in their glorious struggle for independence and empire. Such was the hunting establishment at Mount Vernon prior to the revolution. After the peace of 1783 the hunting establishment, which had gone down during the war, was renewed by the arrival of a pack of French hounds, sent out by the Marquis de Lafayette. The hounds were of great size. "Bred ont of the Spartan kind, so flowed, so sanded, with Ears that swept awav the morning dew, dewlapd like Thessalonian bulls, matched in mouth like bells." the bells of Moscow, and great town of Lincoln, we should say, and from their strength were fitted not only to pull down the stately stag but in fierce combat to encounter the wolf or boar, or even to grapple with the lordly lion. These hounds, from their fierce disposi- Continued on twelftli page. . j j i I ; I i I j j J J ! j i j I i j j j , l j 1 ; . i j ! i . i - " J . , - 1 2 " - FATHER OF OUR COUNTRY Continued from second page. tions, were generally kept confined, but woe to the stranger who might be passing their kennel after nightfall. Should the gates be open his fate would be melancholy, unless he could climb some friendly tree, or the voice of the whip of the huntsman came speedily to the rescue. The huntsman always presided at their meals and it was only by the liberal application of the whip-thong that anything like order could be preserved among these savages of the chase. The habit was to hunt three times a week, weather permitting. Breakfast was served these mornings at candlelight, the General always breaking his fast with an Indian corn cake and a bowl of milk. Ere the cock had "done salutation to the morn," the whole cavalcade would often have left the house, and the fox frequently be unkenneled before sunrise. Those who have seen Washington on horseback will admit that he was the most accomplished of cavaliers in the true sense and perfection of the character. He rode, as he did everything, with ease, elegance and power. The vicious propensities of horses were of no moment to this skillful and daring rider. He always said that he required but one good quality in a horse, to go along, and ridiculed the idea of its being even possible that he should be unhorsed, provided the animal kept his legs. Indeed, the perfect and sinewy frame of this admirable man gave him such a surpassing grip with his knees that a horse might as soon Tlsencum-ber itself of the saddle as of such a rider The General usually rode a horse called Blueskin in the chase. He was of dark iron color, approaching to blue. This was a fine but fiery animal and of great endurance in a long run. Will, the huntsman, better known in revolutionary lore as Billy, rode a horse called Chinkling, a surprising leaper and made, like his rider, low but sturdy and of great bone and muscle. Will had but one order, which was to keep with the hounds. Mounted on Chinkling, a French horn at his back, and throwing himself almost at length on the animal, with his spur on its flank, this fearless horseman would rush, at full speed; through brake or tangled wood, in a style at which modern horsemen would stand aghast. There were roads cut through the woods in various directions, by which aged or timid hunters and ladies could enjoy the exhilarating cry, without risk of life or limb, but Washington rode gaily up to his hounds through all the difficulties and dangers of the grounds on which he hunted. Nor did he spare his generous steed, as the distended nostrils of Blueskin often would show. Washington was always in at the death, and yielded to no man the honor of the brush. TALE OF THE BLACK FOX. The foxes hunted in the early part of the eighteenth century were gray foxes, with one exception. This was a famous black fox which, differing from his brethren of gray, would flourish his brush, set his pursuers at defiance, and go from ten to twenty miles at end, outdistancing both dogs and horses. What was truly remarkable is that he would return to his place of starting on the same night so as always to be found there the ensuing morning. After seven or eight severe runs, without success, Billy recommended that the black reynard should be left alone, giving it as his opinion that he was near akin to another sable character inhabiting a lower region and as remarkable for his wiles. The advice was adopted from necessity and ever thereafter, in throwing off the hounds, care was taken to avoid the haunt of the unconquerable black fox. The chase ended, the party would return to the mansion house, where, at the well-spread board and with the cheerful glass, the feats of the leading dog, the most gallant horse or the boldest rider, together with the prowess of the famed black fox, were all discussed. Washington never permitted even his pleasure to infringe upon the order and regularity of his habits. After a few glasses of madeira he would retire to his bed sup-perless at 9 oclock. VULCAN AND THE HAM. Of the French hounds there was one named Vulcan and we bear him better in reminiscence from having often bestrid his ample back in the days of juvenility. It happened that upon a large company sitting down to dinner at Mount Vernon the lady of the mansion discovered that the ham, the pride of every Virginia housewifes table, was missing from its accustomed post of honor. Upon questioning Frank, the butler, this portly, and at the same time most polite and accomplished of all butlers, observed that a ham, yes, a fine ham, had been prepared, nay, dished agreeably to the madams orders, but lo and behold! who should come into the kitchen while the savory ham was smoking in its dish but old Vulcan, the hound, and without more ado fastened his fangs into it. Although they of the kitchen had stood bravely to such arms as they could secure and had fought the old spoiler desperately, yet Vulcan had finally triumphed and bore off the prize, aye, "cleanly, under the keepers nose." The lady by no means relished the loss of a dish which formed the pride of her table, and uttered some remarks by no means favorable to old Vulcan, or indeed to dogs in general. The Chief, having heard the story, communicated it to his guests and with them laughed heartily at the exploit of the stag hound. In 1787, General Washington being called to preside in the convention which formed the federal constitution, he gave away his hounds and bid adieu forever to the pleasures of the chase.

Persistent Link: https://drf.uky.edu/catalog/1920s/drf1922080501/drf1922080501_2_3
Local Identifier: drf1922080501_2_3
Library of Congress Record: https://lccn.loc.gov/unk82075800