More than 200 acres beckoned those who chose to roam on foot or on horseback around Poplar Springs. During this first visit in September 1930, when Jane and Dickie Hall headed up the road behind the fieldstone garage to the farm, they found two large barns with standing-seam tin roofs — one for storing hay and one that contained a dairy, horse barn and tack room. A stone creamery that doubled as a smoke house and a long shed for wagons, plows, hoes and other farm equipment would soon be added. Work horses pulled all the farm equipment well into the 1950s. It was not a large enterprise – Rose and Randolph Hicks had just enough hogs, chickens, pigeons (squab), sheep and dairy cattle to provide their own food, milk and cream and, hopefully, to make a little money. They also raised Black Angus cattle to sell for beef. The amount of livestock changed every year; as the Depression worsened, the cost of feeding the animals became a worrisome expense. But they were never without a horse for Jane.
She was so eager to ride again! Before long she would have a new style of boots, breeches and a proper shirt and vest. Her adventures on a western saddle in Salome’s Happy Valley had left her comfortable on just about any horse. Her Uncle Randy hoped she would explore the farm and surrounding countryside with him on horseback and be willing to break in new colts; his 61-year-old bones had become too fragile to risk a fall though he still enjoyed fox hunting.
Many large and small Virginia landowners reveled in the sport’s rituals, its prescribed dress, the thrill of the chase and the festive breakfast after a brisk early morning gallop with the hounds. The world-famous hunts of Warrenton, Middleburg, Orange County and Piedmont pursued the fox “with all pomp and circumstance” and budgets of up to $30,000 a year. Randolph Hicks was active in the far more modest Casanova Hunt that originated in 1909. Though Jane would soon enjoy the sport,* she had some sympathy for the clever fox as he tried to outsmart the pink-coated men and black-jacketed women who streaked through the dawn behind a terrifying pack of yelping hounds.
The tiny town of Casanova, Virginia with its general store, post office and small railroad depot was a lifeline for those who worked at Poplar Springs and the neighboring farms. For many years, Rose and Randolph Hicks used Warrenton as their official address; the county seat definitely had more cachet. But the local post office was so convenient. How excited Jane and Dick must have been to find a letter already addressed to them at “Casa Nova” from their Gram in Los Angeles. Rosa Sutton had received four letters “in a bunch” from Jane and “old Dick” as she always called him, written while they were on board the Virginia. On September 11 she replied to her “dear darlings.” “I’m going to buy a ticket in the lottery and if I win I’ll take a trip on the Virginian [sic], if I don’t get sea sick.” Rosa and her dog “Pupsie” were doing as well as could be expected. Her friends had helped her out because she could not drive, but she still hadn’t been to church. Her heart was with her only grandchildren and she assured them both that no one could take their place.
*Randolph had promised to find her a horse and she had told Rose she dreamed of having a horse like Fred Thomson’s Silver King.
Dear Readers,This post is up early as there will be a break while I travel to California again. Next post –when Jane returns to NYC and a new school– about June 30. Enjoy!