The horses and hounds had extra visitors at Belle Meade's Boots Hall last Wednesday night for the annual dinner saluting local emergency services workers. Members of the Belle Meade Hunt host the dinner for City of Thomson, McDuffie and other counties each year. They also extended some time for horse riding.
"It's pretty cool, except last year when I got stuck in the pen with the hounds and they were all barking at me," said 13-year-old Cody Purvis, whose father, Sammy, is a Warren County deputy sheriff.
Rain and lightning ended the horse riding a little sooner than usual at this year's event, and the buffet tables had to be taken inside Boots Hall. Joint Master of the Hunt, Epp Wilson, commented aloud that he thought this was the first time it had rained on the dinner.
"I can explain the rain," Joint Master Charlie Lewis quipped. "(Belle Meade Hunt Chaplain) Father Frank is semi-retired now and this is his day off. So, that's why we don't have any control over the weather today."
But the chaplain had a solution.
"I think I'll just bless this rain, and then with all the holy water, you'll all be blessed," Father Ed Frank said before he offered a prayer.
Mr. Lewis, Mr. Wilson, McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton and Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry all took a few minutes to publicly praise the emergency services workers as everyone stood on the porch before dinner.
"9-11 woke the world up to what these folks do, and we appreciate all y'all do for McDuffie County," Mayor Usry said.
Catered by Mike Carrington and Robbie Gilmore, the meal consisted of pork tenderloin, brown beef rice, Southern seasoned green beans, lima beans, Watergate salad and cherry relish. Members of the Belle Meade Hunt brought desserts.
Mr. Wilson said they've been hosting the dinner since the first anniversary of 9-11, "and it's something we plan to do from now on because of what they mean to the community.
"Besides, we call on them a lot. Fox hunting is not the safest sport in the world. So, if we get a broken leg or thrown off a horse, we want them to remember where we are."