Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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Here you will find reviews of, selections from, and commentaries concerning books, many of which don't even appear on Amazon's radar. But what goldmines for the literate foxhunter!

Wild Lone: The Story of a Pytchley Fox

wild lone2Everyone to whom I have recommended this book loved it. In Wild Lone: The Story of a Pytchley Fox, the reader experiences the sights and sounds of the woodlands by day, and the silence and stealth of the forest by night—not from our usual vantage point in the saddle, five or six feet above the ground, but down low, nearer the earth, where dry stalks of grass brush past our ears and our noses inhale the musky scent of decaying leaves.

Because the reader becomes acquainted with Rufus when he is whelped and gets to know him and his habits intimately, we feel his pain when he becomes caught in the wire snare and we root for him when pushed by foxhounds. We care about him deeply, because we know and respect him. Yet Rufus is an opportunist and kills whenever he can—birds, mice, hedgehogs, rabbits, chickens. He kills so often and so casually that we hardly notice. We feel nothing for these creatures—his quarry—because they are, unlike Rufus, anonymous.

The book’s message is revealed to us by a consummate woodsman: that life and death happen to every creature in the forest, mostly shortly after birth. Nature is harsh, but that is its way. And the pressure put on each species serves to improve the species, for only the best examples (and the luckiest) survive for a fulfilling time—as does Rufus.

The following excerpt, in which the author exercises his full powers of language and imagery, is quite lyrical. Yet, if an adventure story is what you prefer, I promise you won’t be disappointed by Wild Lone.

Cubbing

cubbing.aldinIllustration by Cecil Alden

by Duncan Fife

I wouldn’t change places with any man,
Were he powerful, rich, or wise,
As I stand in the early morning chill
While we wait for the mist to rise.
There are silver threads on the bracken fronds,
And a peaty tang in the air
That goes to the head like a draught of wine,
As we stand by the cover there.

If the creak of leather and clink of bit
Makes me yearn—well I’m not ashamed,
For I’ve got no horse of my own to ride,
And I don’t suppose I’ll be blamed
If I look around with an envious heart
At the satiny coats nearby,
At the twitching ears and the nostrils wide,
And the eagerly watching eye

That seeks to pierce through the curtaining mist
Where it clings to the dripping trees,
Concealing the cubs as they wait, alert,
For a chance to run. Then a breeze
So faint, so soft, that the glittering drops
Which hang on the bramble and thorn,
Are scarcely disturbed, but the low-lying haze
Dissolves at the coming of dawn.

The Hare that Must Be Fox

A third condensed installment from We Go Foxhunting Abroad: A First Venture with the Irish Banks and English Downs, Charles D. Lanier’s 1924 account of a father-daughter sporting trip to Ireland and England.

irish hareIrish hare

We decided that our new sensation would be a trial of Irish harehunting, so to Watergrass Hill we flivvered, to the meet of Mr. Robert Hall’s private pack of harriers. The Master was a slender, wiry, grey-haired man of seventy years, aquiline of countenance, with a singularly winning eye and smile under his velvet cap. He and his whipper-in were, of course, in green, and a dozen or so of the field of thirty or forty also wore the correct harrier colors.

Mr. Hall had the pride of an Irishman and a sportsman in his fifteen couple of huge Kerry “beagles,” and I think it would have been a hard blow to him if luck had been denied us that day. But it turned out to be a red letter day; I think we enjoyed having it so even more for the intense satisfaction it gave our enthusiastic host than for the sport intrinsically, which was of the very best and a revelation to us, who had not before followed a strong South Irish hare.

Sheep May Safely Graze

sheep may safely graze.clancySheep May Safely Graze, L.M. Clancy, 2015, 423 pages, paperback, $14.95, available at AmazonIrish sporting artist Liam Clancy has expanded his repertoire. He’s written a novel.

While foxhunting, prodigious drinking, and sex are well-handled ingredients of Clancy’s story—which takes place mostly in Ireland and England—those ingredients are only a framework upon which hangs a larger story of people, relationships, and the times. Our times: the Millennial, hunt sabs, the pathos of the hoof and mouth epidemic, the runup to the hunting ban, the dagger thrust into the heart of the English countryside by a government focused elsewhere.

If the publishing industry were not in turmoil, as it has been for the last decade at least, and if publishers would give first-time novelists half-a-chance, Clancy’s book could well replace titles by authors with household names that now occupy undeserved spots on the Best Seller lists. His dialog crackles, and his characters are wholly-formed individuals that you will care greatly for. Think of Maeve Binchy on steroids.