"O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!"
To A Louse
This week’s excerpt from A Typology of Foxhunters addresses Falstaffs. In case you missed the previous postings, these musings result from my observation of several clearly definable archetypes that make up the community of fellow foxhunters. So far we’ve considered Nouveau Gentry and Juice Junkies. Still to come after Falstaffs are False Staffs, Saddle Tramps, Strivers, Posers, Hodads, Hunters Emeriti, and Chasers.
And although Falstaffs is one of the less inflammatory typologies, I still offer my Burns-like caveat by way of disclaimer:
I pray no power the giftie gie them
To see themselves as I do see them.
May readers sing the praise that’s due me,
But none get pissed and try to sue me.
Foxhunting is a social sport and for some the emphasis falls on social rather than sport. Falstaff is a hail-fellow-well-met type, a gregarious chap who thrives on friendly interaction. He has an encyclopedic wealth of jokes and amusing tales (in which he’s often the butt of the story). He brings no personal agenda to the hunt field but simply enjoys his time riding around the countryside in the company of pleasant, like-minded folks. His flask is oversized and always at the ready, filled with his own blend of intoxicants, carefully adjusted to suit the season: light and refreshing for the warm days of early fall, heavier on the kick as the chills of winter arrive.
Some Falstaffs fit the physical mold of Prince Hal’s companion, their appetites clearly revealed by their girth. Others more closely resemble Ichabod Crane, all gangly appendages and bobbing Adam’s apple. Whether endo- or ectomorph, they all ride with the same casual style. Their form would send any riding instructor into a frazzled fit. Their feet stick straight out, their hands are held chest high, their shoulders are hunched as if fixed in a permanent convulsion of laughter. Yet they rarely fall and when they do the chance of injury is slight. They are like the intoxicated driver who can walk away unscathed from a six car wreck.
Falstaff seeks no privileged office nor does he desire responsibility. He may agree to sit on the club’s board for an occasional term but you won’t see him slaving away at the kennels, whipping-in, or leading the field – activities all too strenuous and unsociable. He may appear for some trail clearing days, but only if the weather’s nice and he’s sure there will be beer and sandwiches provided afterward. You can count on him showing up for every hunt breakfast and tailgate. He’ll be at the railside on racing days and out on the dance floor at the hunt ball, showing off his scarlet tails, dancing with every lady available.
Falstaff is unlikely to be married. He may have tried it a time or two but found that he was much better at courtship than commitment.
Unlike the gender neutrality of masters and huntsmen, there are no female Falstaffs. Every lady foxhunter, regardless of her relational status, wants to be taken seriously. If unattached she would like to find a suitable companion (other than her obligatory Jack Russell terrier). There are no exceptions to this.
© 2010, J. Harris Anderson