To Elsie Foster Jenkins, nothing compared to sitting atop her horse in the pre-dawn air and hearing the yelps of the hounds as they scampered over brush and under bridges.
She loved it when the huntsman gathered the riders at the start of the meet and blew his horn to signal the onset of the tradition she had participated in for decades, each time with new excitement.
She enjoyed every aspect of fox hunting.
Mrs. Jenkins, 63, of Worthington Valley died Wednesday of cancer at Sinai Hospital. For more than 40 years, she participated in about 60 meets a year, often starting at dawn and ending at dusk.
"She loved the sounds of the hounds baying, chasing the fox," said her son Arthur Jenkins of Baltimore. "She loved it for the chase, and that's all it was."
She was a grand lady of Maryland fox hunting, friends and family said, as she skillfully navigated her horses over courses in Baltimore and Harford counties.
Over the years, Mrs. Jenkins fell many times during hunts. In the early 1980s, she stopped because of back problems.
But she continued her involvement in the hunts as a "hilltopper," one who observes the hunt on horseback from a distance. She later followed the hunts by car.
"She thoroughly enjoyed the hounds and hunting," said Andrew Barclay, the huntsman for many of the meets in which she rode. "And she knew when to quit. She didn't run the risk of continuing and getting hurt seriously."
A native of Worthington Valley, the former Elsie Foster graduated from the Garrison Forest School in 1953 and married T. Courtenay Jenkins the next year.
Mrs. Jenkins was an accomplished rider and hunter when the two met. Mr. Jenkins took up riding to win her hand, according to relatives. He stopped riding soon afterward. Mr. Jenkins died in 1985.
When she was in her 40s, Mrs. Jenkins raised foxhounds on her farm, Melinda's Prospect, a sprawling 20-acre estate in Worthington Valley. She later showed basset hounds.
She belonged to many riding and hunt clubs over the years, including the Elkridge Harford Hunt in Harford County and the Greenspring Valley Hounds.
Friends said she never took herself too seriously. She had a large collection of pig ornaments throughout her house and was famous for her practical jokes.
"Once we had a meet on her 40th birthday and everyone got together to sing to her," Mr. Barclay said. "She broke up when everyone sang, 'For she is over the hill, for she is over the hill.' "
Services will be held at 3 p.m. tomorrow at St. John's Episcopal Church, 3738 Butler Road in Glyndon.
In addition to Arthur Jenkins, she is survived by two other sons, Courtenay Jenkins and Henry Jenkins, both of Worthington Valley; a daughter, Pattie Jenkins Dillon of Worthington Valley; her mother, Pattie Symington Penniman of Worthington Valley; a brother, Arthur Douglass Foster III of Missoula, Mont.; and four grandchildren.
Donations may be made to U.S. Driving for the Disabled Inc., P.O. Box 264, Jarrettsville 21084.
Pub Date: 5/17/98