By Gordon Hughes
One morning while sitting in my favorite coffee joint, Cafe Panino Mucho Gusto, I overheard a couple talking about Southern Chester County, Pennsylvania. Now that’s not something one is likely to hear about while sipping a cup of joe with a little skim milk here in the West Village. So ears perked up, I listened in.
The young woman was talking about her folks’ farm. Well now I was hooked, as my wife and I own a horse farm in historic Unionville, which is in Southern Chester County.
Unionville is home to Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds, founded in 1912. It’s also the reason we bought a horse farm there. So I asked the woman if she was aware of the hunt, and she said yes, as a little girl her parents would take her out to the kennels to watch the Thanksgiving Day festivities. This event was complete with pink coats—most people call them red, and formal regalia—most people call it top hats and veils, and even in the ‘60s and ‘70s some of the women road side-saddle. The hounds—most people call them dogs, would come bounding out of the kennel ready for a day of sport—most people would call it fox hunting.
Crowds of landowners and people from all over Chester County would come out, and they still show up for hot cider, coffee and a variety of pastries while watching the hounds and the field—most people would call them fox hunters or the gang—move out to find the scent, and then the mayhem begins.
Back at Mucho Gusto we talked about the good old days in the ’60s and ’70s when the Cheshire Hunt was the largest and fastest hunt in the country. It still is. The field is 125 riders on any given Saturday. This is as close to insanity as one would dare go.
At the time I moved to The Village I purchased a horse farm in Unionville, and we joined Cheshire. What a thrill! We had belonged to Golden’s Bridge Hunt and Pickering Hunt in the ’80s and ’90s, but they were nothing like Cheshire. Our Chester County farm is a 1978 French hunting lodge on 50 acres and is located right in the heart of hunt country. Cheshire Hunt is now a conservancy, and rarely—I mean very rarely—is a fox ever killed.
Pennsylvania’s state income tax is 3.01 percent, and the property tax for our 50 acres, which is made up of nine fields, a 13-stall barn, an indoor riding ring and an outdoor sand riding ring, with tractor, hay barn, swimming pool and stone deck overlooking the horses and fields, not to mention the French hunting-lodge house, is $12,000 per year. Think what your property tax is in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut for two or three acres. Now that is a lot to think about. It’s the primary reason we left Connecticut.
But here I was, sitting in The West Village that day being a city mouse, talking to an advertising designer who shared my country-mouse lifestyle.
By the way, if you want to have this remarkable lifestyle, contact me through WestView News; the farm is about to go on the market. Country mouse, city mouse could be yours along with some java at Mucho Gusto.