I took Gina hunting on Saturday; I was excited to go, since Gina’s been feeling so great lately. Plus, this fixture (Xu’Be Ranch) is much closer to the barn than Flint Creek. Since I hadn’t been there before, I asked my friend Rachael for directions. Her directions made me seriously reconsider going:
“You will come to a stop sign in Barnsdall. Go left through town and then right at the end of town (it kinda looks like you could continue straight up the hill but don’t go that way). You should still be on Hwy 11. Continue on until you get to Pershing. Not much there except a big rock building that I think used to be the school. After the rock building is a road. Go left. Go a block to a stop sign and go left again. Road will curve right then back left. The ranch entrance is in the left curve…take a right into the ranch over the cattle guard. Continue on ranch road. Stay on main road- don’t take the first right, continue on until you see the house and a little barn. Here go right and there will be a gate. You will see trailers at this point. Go through the gate and shut it behind you. Cattle in that pasture.”
My reply to this set of directions was “WTF I am definitely going to get lost.”
Happily, Google Maps got me to the small town of Pershing and I was able to follow Rachael’s directions from there. (Although I did nearly miss the left turn past the big rock building…I don’t know if Gina has forgiven me for the sharp turn!) I arrived with plenty of time to tack up and finish getting dressed.
Xu’Be Ranch is really interesting place. Located in Osage County, the ranch is approximately 1,000 acres of prairie land that once housed several oil wells and a gasoline plant. In 2000, the owners of the ranch donated an 800 acre easement to the Trust For Public Land. That easement has ensured it will be protected from being subdivided or developed for homes, businesses, or roads. Harvard Fox Hounds is permitted to hunt there thanks to the generosity of the late Dr. Lydia Wyckoff, co-owner of the ranch and a member of the hunt, and her brother, the ranch’s current owner who still lives there.
The land is very Oklahoma- it’s got a few gently rolling hills covered with native grasses. There are groves of small trees interspersed through the landscape. It’s also extremely rocky, with big rock outcrops and jagged stones protruding from the ground. It’s a far cry from a well-kept cross country course! It’s also very different from the Flint Creek fixture- Xu’Be is much more open and much flatter. It also doesn’t really have much in the way of jumps- a few coops in fencelines that were easily gone around.
It was hot and sunny on Saturday, which are not ideal scenting conditions. The hounds didn’t seem to ever really find anything, but there were a few minutes of haring off after the pack that were pretty fun. The most exciting moment for Gina and me came fairly early in the day. We’d been out about an hour, and the staff was trying to gather the hounds up and move them toward a pond so they could get a drink and cool off. Most of the hounds were totally on board with this idea, except for one. Twister (who I think is the infamous Titan’s brother) was dead-set on racing off into the wide open spaces for reasons unknown; maybe he was heading back to the hound truck! He and another hound took off down a ranch road; my friend Bess galloped off after them with her mare Molly, and Gina and I followed suit. The two of us were on either side of the hounds, hoping to turn them around back to the pack. The other hound faltered after a few minutes and Bess and Molly were able to get in front of it and herd it back toward the rest of the field. Twister kept right on going, so I gave Gina a squeeze and a cluck. She picked up her pace and caught up with Twister, then laid her ears flat back and snaked out her head toward him. He slowed down and Gina spun like a reiner to get in front of him. He started running back to his fellow hounds and we followed him at a slow canter.
The rest of the hunt was pretty uneventful; no sightings, no great chases, no more rogue hounds. We headed back in after about two and a half hours and found some of the ranch’s longhorn cattle milling around the trailers! They scattered at the sight of us. I untacked Gina, rubbed her down with Sore No More, and schlepped a bucket of water half a mile from the barn to the trailer. (And of course, she ignored it.) After hunt breakfast, I headed back to the trailer to load up Queen G and found a couple of loose horses. The longhorn cattle had returned to make themselves at home! They were munching away on haynets, sipping from water buckets, and a couple of them had even climbed into someone’s trailer. I’m guessing the loose horses had spooked at the cattle- no one was injured and the cattle were chased away without much fuss.
I’m really looking forward to closing hunt in a couple of weeks- it felt great to get back out in the field!