2010 Hunt Ball

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March 27th, 2010 50th Anniversary Hunt Ball

     Pre-Ball                             Dinner                        Dancing                   Historical Photos

Dave Striley, Jill (Reader), Ginny Whalen, Phyll Hull (Heck), Helen Sproat, Cathryn Hosea (Hilker) & Peter Coggins (audio)


Helen Sproat, Ginny Whalen, Phyll Hull (Heck), Dave Striley, Cathryn Hosea (Hilker) Herb Whalen. (1959)


When my Mother suggested that I initiate a fox hunt, hardly did I realize the size of the fences that would have to be overcome. Obtaining a sizeable hunt territory with owner-farmer antipathy, securing a self-sustaining huntsman and a close-in hunting pack of hounds, negotiating five foot page wire fences, cultivating the scarce red fox, interesting enough sustaining jumping members and putting all of this together in four months was a totally insane idea in an area where the coonhound reigned supreme.

My doubts evaporated on a Sunday in May when I met Mrs. Phyllis Heck at a horse show on her farm. Her enthusiastic response made the Miami Valley Hunt a reality. She set about enticing Dave Striley from NCR as huntsman, Jack Reeder as the five foot fence fixer, Carl and Sally _______ to develop trails and the Whalens to purchase land. She then threw herself into the even more difficult task of convincing reticent land owners that we would not be a destructive hell-bent force of yahoos on runaway steeds. A few anecdotal comments will give you an idea as to Phyllis’s multi-task abilities all of which MVH members are well aware of.

We had permission to hunt through a 300 acre farm that was used for pasture feeding of hogs with five and a half foot page wire fences in the Bellbrook territory. There was no way that the owner was going to allow us to cut the fences for chicken coop jumps and of course, the height was totally out of the question for anyone other than an Aintree England steeplechaser.

The thought occurred to me that we could take a page from the English race course and build platforms on either side of the fences, placing a chicken coop that was two and a half feet over the crown of the fence and in that way jump onto the platform, over the coop onto another platform and then onto the ground…thus breaking the entire fence into a series of two and a half foot jumps. Now where do you get enough fill for the platforms? Phyllis enticed Jack Reeder into solving the problem with a caravan of Coca-Cola trucks bringing in load after load of fill along with the railroad ties to build the platforms on either side of the fences to be completed by Dave, Sally, Carl, Catherine, Pat Campbell, with the help of Pat’s dad, Major John Campbell from Wright-Pat who assisted with surplus lumber and supplies to accomplish this Herculean feat.

The jumps, known as “Mighty Mo’s” were an integral part of our first combined meet with the Camargo Hunt. . Since we had a problem with a dearth of foxes that year, Phyllis and I settled on a drag hunt for the first cast. Sergeant Marion, the base postal officer was given instructions to set the drag up with smaller fences to start and then into the “Mighty Mo’s” to show off MVH’s jumping prowess... Of course, the MVH horses were used to these platform jumps and led by Phyllis on her trusty grey “Colonel”, Jill Reeder and little Pat Campbell on his standard bred, sailed easily over - while the “extremely accomplished” hunt horses from Camargo were total refusers.

This gave MVH a modicum of respectability.

Of course, the remainder of the story was even more hilarious. Sergeant Marion was poking along through the woods laying a scent so heavy that even Phyllis and the field could pick it up. When the hounds came coursing up on him, he had to climb a tree to escape with the scent bag. Imagine our embarrassment when the hounds were at the base of a tree in full cry while the Camargo hunt looked on in bewilderment.

Without Phyllis’s dedicated nurturing, the hunt would never have become registered, and members would not have enjoyed the successful years of hunting you are all celebrating this evening. To me, personally, MVH will always be a wonderful and satisfying memory.

I am indeed saddened that I can not be present to share in the celebration for Phyllis with the other founding members as well as the current MVH members. All of you are to be congratulated on your support for Phyllis and the pack, and I raise a toast on behalf of the hunt to Phyllis for her many years of nurturing the MVH pack and her encouragement of members old and new. Here’s to the continuation of this wonderful chronicle.

Pictures from the first MVH Hunt Ball

Ginny Whalen

Cathryn Hilker

Phyllis F. (Hull) Heck


more to come...