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Blessing of the Hounds

Illustrations by Matt Myers

Every Thanksgiving morning a unique and picturesque ceremony takes place when the Moore County Hounds invites the public to attend the annual Blessing of the Hounds. The ritual, which dates to the Middle Ages, gathers hounds, riders and over 1,000 spectators for the season-opening meet. The celebration of heritage, sport, and community takes place at Buchan Field on North May Street, presided over by Reverend John Talk. The riders begin assembling around 10 a.m. The leadership group wears scarlet-colored jackets while the rest of the riders wear traditional foxhunting attire. Led by their huntsman, Lincoln Sadler, the prized Penn-Marydel hounds — trained to follow specific scents and ignore distractions — arrive. After the blessing, the riders divide into three groups, each following a field master. The huntsman gathers the hounds, and the sound of the horn signals the beginning of the hunt. The hounds and riders depart from Buchan Field into the woods of the 4,000-acre Walthour-Moss Foundation, marking the formal launch of the foxhunting season.

The Moore County Hounds is the oldest recognized pack of foxhounds in North Carolina and one of only a few remaining private packs. It was founded by James and Jack Boyd in 1914 to enjoy both the sport and camaraderie of the hunt. During the foxhunting season the grand dinners hosted by Katharine and Jim Boyd at their Weymouth estate often included songs or poems delivering a good-natured ribbing to an honored guest. These roasts were preserved in a looseleaf binder entitled “Songs of the Sandhills” with the following dedication: “To those who came here to be Sandhillized and remained to be Scandalized — this book is affectionately dedicated.”

While it is impossible to say with 100 percent certainty to whom the following poem/song was dedicated, it’s a good bet the person whose 30th birthday was being celebrated is Augustine (Gus) Healy who was deeply involved in foxhunting with the Boyds and the Moore County Hounds. In recognition, his estate, Firleigh Farms, built in 1923-24, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. Gus Healy was the son of one of the founders of Lyon & Healy, a music business established in Chicago in 1864. Its first advertisement selling sheet music was placed in the Chicago Tribune running alongside an account of Sherman’s March to the Sea. By 1900 Lyon & Healy was the largest publisher of music in the world. It also built pianos, guitars, mandolins, banjos and ukuleles. At one point it was the sole representative selling Steinway & Sons pianos in the Midwest. In 1889 Lyon & Healy built its first harp. The company continues to this day as the world’s gold standard in concert grand harps. As the riders and hounds depart Buchan Field, disappearing into the pine forest of the Walthour-Moss Foundation, one can only imagine James Boyd and Gus Healy being among them.

Jim Moriarty



Matt Myers is an award-winning writer and illustrator of children’s books. Titles include the New York Times bestseller Battle Bunny, the Theodor Seuss Geisel honor book The Infamous Ratsos, and Children of the Forest, featured in the Wall Street Journal. His fine art paintings have been shown in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Los Angeles, and Charlotte. He has been a guest exhibitor at the Mint Museum and is one of the 2023 ArtPop artists whose work is currently on display throughout the Charlotte area where he lives and works. To see more of his artwork, explore his virtual studio at

Ode to a Sportsman

On his Thirtieth Birthday by Katharine and Jim Boyd

There’s a fellow named Gus,

A most curious cuss;

No sportsman was ever so keen,

But each day that hounds meet,

He turns white as a sheet

And sings with a terrified mien:

O! we’ll all go a’hunting today,

All nature is smiling and gay.

I will join the glad throng

Though not for very long,

And we’ll all go a’hunting today.

The cause of his groans

Is the horse that he owns,

Who though seeming majestic and grand,

Has a curl to his lips

And a swing to his hips

That forbodes where Augustine will land.

Then we’ll all go a’hunting today.

The meet’s at the kennels, they say.

His bucks and his kicks

Are the least of his tricks

When we all go a’hunting today.

Then his wife says, “Now Gus,

I will not make a fuss,

But get off just as quick as you can.

I am frightened, my dear,

To see that horse rear.”

“So am I,” says the gallant young man.

But I must go a’hunting today,

Though I tremble to hear the brute neigh,

And his head is so high

That his ear’s in my eye,

I will still go a’hunting today.

Though he cannot abide

The horse he must ride,

And the horse is still less fond of Gus;

As he hacks to the meet

With a quavering bleat

He addresses the universe thus:

Here I go a’hunting today,

Though at home I would far rather stay.

If I dare to look round

I’ll go flat on the ground

And I won’t go a’hunting today.

Says this squire to his dame:

“Would to God he were lame

But as he is not

I will take one more shot

And repeat what I often have stated —

We’ll all go a’hunting today.

All nature is smiling and gay.

He will put me down flat

On my shiny top hat —

He will stamp on my chest

And my new yellow vest —

He will play rock the boat

On my fine scarlet coat —

He will dance till he drops

On my nice London tops —

He will caper and prance

On my white Bedford pants,

But I’ll still go a’hunting today.”

We’ll all go a’hunting today.

All nature is smiling and gay.

I will lead the glad throng

That goes laughing along,

And we’ll all go a’hunting today.