Column: Jumping (fences) off the school bus

Cattle farmers have had a tough winter, but so have the foxhunters. Snow pack and the wet ground have kept riders, horses and hounds in a restless state. Although I am not a foxhunter, I have many friends and family members who are. My father was a lifelong foxhunter. He was raised on a farm in Rappahannock County on which I am fortunate enough to live.

In this photo taken in the late 1940s at Massies Corner, Wade, Jr. is on the horse speaking with George Wallihan while teamster Clint Eastham rides a haywagon drawn by Buck and Berry, the last pair of working oxen in the county.

My father was a teenager in the 1940s. At that time all of the fences were either rails or rocks. When it came time to jump, you jumped. You didn’t look for a coop because there were no coops ― coop jumps, like the concept of a foxhunter ever being a trespasser, were still some years in the future.

It was a time when, if a hound crossing a road was hit and killed by a motorist, people would take note of the license plate and notify the sheriff as to the crime of killing a hound. It was a time when a teamster drove horses, mules or oxen, and your school bus driver was likely a classmate.

What has a school bus driver got to do with foxhunting? Maybe a lot.

The Wade H. story
There were lots of Wades. There was Wade Settle who lived and worked on the farm; there was his son, Little Wade. There was Old Man Wade (Wade H. Massie Sr.), who owned the farm but lived in town. There was his son Wade Jr., who lived on and managed the farm, and there was Wade Jr.’s son Wade H., my father, who is the subject of this story from about the mid-1940s.

Teenaged Wade H., his older sister Jackie and younger brother Jim were standing by the road down the hill in front of the house waiting for the school bus. Just before getting on the bus they turned to look up to the house in which they had all been born and waved goodbye to their mother who was standing on the porch holding their younger brother Tom – who because of his mother’s age had been born at a hospital in Charlottesville, and who, for his entire life, would have to suffer the indignity of not having been born in Rappahannock County.

Every school day their mother watched her children get on and off the bus. It had been more than a decade since the Lindbergh kidnapping, but she was certain that if she didn’t watch over them, they would suffer the same fate.

After boarding the bus, Wade H. sat right behind the driver. At the next stop he tapped the driver on the shoulder and asked to be let off.

“Going hunting today, Wade H.?” the driver asked.

“Good day for it, don’t you think?” Wade H. replied.

He got off the bus and walked over a little rise and met his father’s teamster, Clint Eastham, son of C.C. Eastham, who had hunted the Bywaters hounds in the famous joint meet with the English hounds over in Upperville. Clint was riding one horse and leading another one, and he was accompanied by half dozen hounds.

Wade H. mounted and Clint cast the hounds towards the southern end of Hickerson Mountain. Off they went for the better part of the day, the chase taking them on to Fog Mountain. At midafternoon they came down the west side of Hickerson and rode over to where the school bus would be stopping on its way home. Wade H. handed his horse back to Clint and waited for the bus to stop and unload. It soon arrived and as Wade H. boarded, the young driver asked, “How was it?”

He replied, “Ran a red to ground and treed a gray.”

As the three children got off the bus at the next stop, their mother was standing on the porch waiting, pleased that they had all made it home safe and sound from another perilous day at school.