Hunting Dogs & Horse Flesh | Early Leys in Ohio
Earlier posts in this space have covered the lives of my Ley ancestors in 1800s Shanesville and Port Washington, Ohio.
My great-great-great-great grandfather Charles Ley (Karl Gottleib Ley) emigrated from Bavaria about 1833 and plied his trade as a saddler in Shanesville.
His son, my third great-grandfather, Augustus Ley, made his living as a grocery store owner in Shanesville and Port Washington.
My great-great grandfather, Charles Henry Ley, started out in the dry goods business with his father, but then went into politics, serving several local posts and as Tuscarawas County treasurer. But he still had a hand in agriculture, as we discovered in ads he ran for buying and selling horses, and of course, Charles Ley’s famed minorcas.
Which brings us to fourth in the line, my great-grandfather, Robert Earl Ley Sr.
A Letter from 60 Years Ago
In early spring 2007, about a month or so after my grandma Sue (Weible) Ley died, I sent my grandpa Bob Ley Jr. a book to help him pass the time.
It was one of many titles I’ve enjoyed by the critically-acclaimed — and cross-genre prolific — Rick Bass. Writing for more than the least two decades from his adopted state of Montana, Rick is a superb craftsman of fiction and nonfiction, employing the forms of memoir, short fiction, narrative essay and other flourishes of the pen to bring his beloved Yaak Valley (among other scenes, urban and natural) to vibrant life on the page.
The book I sent grandpa was Colter. In brief, it’s a love story between Rick and the runt pup he buys, trains, hunts with, comes to adore and never forgets.
I remembered the hunting scene Grandpa had hanging in his basement rec room, and the various hunting dog designs on other trinkets down there — steins, etc. — and thought this story might help him while away the hours and bring back some sunnier memories of his youth.
Grandpa responded with a letter of thanks late that April — count on the older generation to observe the gracious, affectionate customs. In the envelope, he folded a yellowed, crumbling piece of correspondence. Of it, he wrote:
Enclosed is a copy of a letter my father received from a dog trainer when he had English setters he was entering for bird dog field trials. I noticed the similarity to some in the book you sent me. … Thank you for this enjoyable book. My very best to you, Katie, and my little great grandson Jonah.
His Range is Increasing; He Applies Himself Intelligently
The letter, dated May 27, 1947, was from Great-Grandpa Ley’s dog trainer in Harpster, Ohio. Curiously, the trainer’s name, Pat, is the same as the dog’s. That may have been a custom back then, or even now. I don’t know. But here’s what the letter said:
Dear Mr. Ley,
It is my pleasure to report that I was able to win Pat’s confidence quickly & have worked him judiciously all of this month. It is my professional opinion that all of his trouble is due to inexperience as he has shown a great deal of improvement in this short time.
His range is increasing & he applies himself intelligently to this type of country. Has flash pointed quail on several occasions & has had daily opportunities on pheasant & woodcock but has failed to point on them.
Am giving him plenty of fresh meat & milk & vitamin powder, codliver oil to build up physically as he is a little short on stamina. I am confident I can have him ready for derby competition when the fall trials start & will advance him in the handling of game to the extend he will permit without loss of character.
Will appreciate very much if you will mail copy of his registration to me. Am still short on dogs and will be most grateful for any dogs you care to refer to me for boarding or training. I have leased more ground here making a total of 5,000 acres prairie country, few fences.
PS. Statement enclosed.
Been thinking of adding a dog of our own to the suburban mix lately. Albeit an older rescue lab, good with the two little kids, as game to chase a ball around the backyard and accompany me on runs as he is to gnaw on a good bone and lounge in the living room. But it got me thinking of Grandpa and Great-Grandpa and all those Leys of the past two centuries.
No plans to keep Chicago chickens yet, though.