Thursday, September 30, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign,
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind.
Five Man Electrical Band
I have a request. This is directed to those who move to a rural area where foxhunting is still practiced and who embrace this lifestyle, either riding to hounds themselves or at least supporting the local hunt and allowing its members to cross their land. Bless you, thank you, may the heavens shower you with health, wealth, happiness, and an abundance of tax shelters. I ask but this: Please don’t use the word “fox” in the name of your farm. We have enough already. We have too many. We have so many that it’s become laughably trite. The only incentive now is to see how many variations of fox-themed farm names people can come up.
Think I’m exaggerating? Consider these few examples:
Fox Acres, Fox Arbor, Fox Bay, Fox Brook, Fox Brush, Fox Call, Fox Cave, Fox Chase, Fox Country, Fox Covert (pronounced “Cover”), Fox Cover (no, not pronounced “Covert”), Fox Cradle, Fox Creek, Fox Crest, Fox Den, Fox Delight, Fox Falls, Fox Farm (that took some deep thought), Fox Fawn (an interspecies commune?), Fox Feather, Fox Fields, Fox Fire, Fox Folly, Fox Found, Fox Frolic, Fox Gallop, Fox Gamble, Fox Gate, Fox Glen, Fox Glove, Fox Grove, Fox Haven, Fox Heaven, Fox Hideout, Fox Hill, Fox Hole (complete with an image of a helmeted fox in a sandbag bunker on the sign), Fox Holloa (pronounced “Holler”), Fox Holler (pronounced, well…”Holler”), Fox Hollow, Fox Hunt (another brilliant stroke of imagination), Fox Knoll, Fox Lair, Fox Lake, Fox Lane, Fox Lea, Fox Ledge, Fox Manor, Fox Mask, Fox Meadows, Fox Mews, Fox Mill, Fox Mount, Fox Mountain, Fox Oaks, Fox Over, Fox Park, Fox Pasture, Fox Path, Fox Paw, Fox Penny, Fox Pines, Fox Point, Fox Pond, Fox Redoubt, Fox Rest, Fox Retreat, Fox Return, Fox Ridge, Fox River, Fox Rock, Fox Roll, Fox Romp, Fox Run, Fox Rush, Fox Shadow, Fox Star, Fox Stream, Fox Stone, Fox Swamp, Fox Tail, Fox Time (or Thyme), Fox Thorn, Foxtopia, Fox Trail, Fox Treat, Fox Tree, Fox Trot, Fox Turn, Fox Watch, Fox Way, Fox Willow, Fox Woods, Fox Vale, Fox Valley, Fox View, Fox Village.
Now replace “Fox” with “Vixen” or “Vixen’s” and you can repeat the entire list.
If only it stopped there. But it doesn’t. Let’s move “Fox” to the end of the name and consider these possibilities.
Lazy Fox, Sneaky Fox, Running Fox, Trotting Fox, Fancy Fox, Briar Fox, Brer Fox, Bold Fox, Hidden Fox, Laughing Fox, Shadow Fox, Sunny Fox, After the Fox, Rocking Fox, Rolling Fox, Wiley Fox, Barking Fox, Granny Fox, Cedar Fox, Swamp Fox, Copper Fox, Flying Fox, Painted Fox, Wild Fox, Sassy Fox, Cozy Fox, Sly Fox, Snooty Fox, Little Fox, Big Fox, Extra Large Fox (just kidding), then there’s a fox of any color (Gray Fox, Red Fox, Blue Fox, Green Fox, etc.) and foxes of any number (One Fox, Two Fox, Three Fox, and so on), Sleepy Fox, Happy Fox, Bashful Fox, Sneezy Fox, Grumpy Fox, Dopey…well, maybe not.
I appreciate the spirit behind these names. Each is a counterpoint to the developers’ use of hunt-themed names for places where hunting, or even trail riding, no longer exists. But how about shooting for a little more creativity here folks? And let’s recognize some other woodland critters that are an integral part of the countryside. Doesn’t “Possum Pastures” have a nice alliterative ring to it? Although it’s accurately descriptive of the rural lifestyle, “Knee-deep In Dirt, Debt, Hay and Horseshit Farm” might be hard to fit on a sign. For boldness and accuracy, as well as brevity, it would be tough to beat “Feral Cat Farm.”
I will allow one exception to the banishment of the word “fox” from any more farm signs. If your name happens to be “Fox,” you get an exemption.
© 2010 J. Harris Anderson
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
"O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!"
To A Louse
"Let him who is without sin and has a good pitchin’ arm see how far he can cast this here stone.”
Our journey through a Typology of Foxhunters concludes with this week’s posting – Chasers. This series has generated many comments such as “What typology do you think I am?” and “My lawyer will be in touch with you.” Without citing a hard number, I think it’s safe to report that the favorability rating of this blog has far outstripped that of Congress (they’re down to single digits in some polls now, right?). And as everyone has a suggestion to improve the legislative process, so too have many readers of the Foxhunters Guide felt moved to suggest other topics for consideration on these pages. All such input is appreciated. And the more detailed the better. As the saying goes, “Plagiarism is the highest form of flattery.” (Certainly makes my work easier.)
For now, though, we’re going to wrap up Foxhunter Typologies with this week’s posting, give the blog a thorough cleansing with cyber disinfectant to wash away any remnants of lingering snarkiness, and turn to other, perhaps less prickly, topics starting next week. But for those of you who appreciate the attitude of Alice Roosevelt Longworth (“If you can’t say something nice, come and sit by me.”), fear not – there’s sure to be a return of the pricklies at some point.
Here is the final installment of Typologies, the one you’ve all been waiting for…
Chasers make up the majority of foxhunters. Indeed, everyone reading this should consider himself or herself a Chaser (your good taste in blog selection clearly confirms that). Their primary motivation is a pure and simple love of the chase. Chasers enjoy riding horses and following hounds but the sport is not the main focus of their lives. They ride well enough to endure long runs and jump difficult fences without braggadocio, complaint, or excuse. While many could easily match or even exceed the skill and knowledge level of those serving as staff, the Chaser aspires to no higher office than that of the happy member of the field. They understand the difference between accepting the inherent risk the sport entails and the stupidity of taking unnecessary chances. If called upon to help out in a pinch as, say, field leader or whipper-in, they’ll rise to the occasion and do an admirable job. When the master or whip returns, the Chaser steps aside and rejoins the audience, his or her ego still comfortably intact. Most days Chasers will stay out until the huntsman blows “Going Home.” But when the action drags on for several hours and even fit horses begin to flag they will pull up, let the Superman Striver and his small band of Juice Junkies continue on, and take a leisurely walk back to the trailers, saving both themselves and their horses for another day.
Chasers serve on various club committees, as their schedule allows, and bring a level-headed maturity to the work. They pay their dues on time, recognize the value they receive for the outlay, and kick in extra bucks when appropriate such as at fundraising auctions and for the huntsman’s Christmas bonus. They appreciate the finer points of the sport – proper turnout, order in the field, when to be silent (most of the time), how the day’s hound work is proceeding – but are not insistent that all others adhere to the same old-fashioned standards. They are friendly and polite toward guests and new members, offering assistance and guidance when appropriate.
If there’s a downside to my depiction of Chasers, it’s that they’re so damn admirable it’s hard to poke fun at them.
Chasers are the backbone of foxhunting, the ones who are aware that the privilege of riding to hounds makes each of us one of the most fortunate people in the world. So why sully this singularly distinctive experience with misplaced ego or personal agenda? The Chaser revels in the joys the sport has to offer, accepts its responsibilities, laughs at his or her own shortcomings, and strives for patience with the foibles of others. If this Typology of Foxhunters has shown nothing else, it’s that when it comes to foibles, each of us contributes in some way, whether major or minor (okay, so maybe some waaaay more major than others). This is what makes us human. And wouldn’t life be damn boring if we were all perfect?
An attitude of patient acceptance strengthens the sense of camaraderie, a belief that we’re all in this sport for the same reasons, that we share the same values. True, we may have come to this pastime from a diversity of backgrounds, but now, in the spirit of the American Dream, we’re all bound together as equals (although “diversity” among foxhunters may have a slightly more narrow definition than it does among the broader populace).
And so I now conclude the Typology of Foxhunters, for the time being anyway, with one more inclusion of my oft-cited Burnsian riff:
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.
© 2010 J. Harris Anderson
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
"They also serve who only stand and wait.”
On His Blindness
This week’s posting gives you two for the price of one. (And considering the price, what a bargain this is!) Although different in critical ways, the two types depicted below share a common thread: their link to foxhunting is missing one critical element – the horse. The difference, however, is that one group has never ridden to hounds and never will while the other group once did but never will again. I have termed the former “Hodads,” an arcane reference that might strike a chord with a few folks out on the Left Coast. The latter group I have dubbed “Hunters Emeriti” if only to impress readers with my grasp of Latin tenses. Each group represents an important component of the hunting community and can be easily spotted at a tailgate in the field or breakfast at the clubhouse. Neither will be wearing hunting attire; street clothes will reveal their horseless status. The Hodads will be attempting to ingratiate their way into a conversation between those who have just returned from the hunt, seeking some opening for a comment that does not necessitate having been a part of the day’s action. The Hunters Emerti will be attempting to remain upright, possibly with the aid of a cane or walker, wondering who all these people are and if there’s still time to make the Early Bird special at Denny’s.
In more detail, we consider first…
In surfing culture a Hodad is someone who hangs out at the beach, likes to associate with surfers, but never actually gets on a board. In the foxhunting world a Hodad is a social member, or in some cases a hanger-on politely referred to as “a friend of the hunt” (i.e., he shows up at tailgates but doesn’t actually fork over the few bucks required to be listed officially on the club’s social roster). This is someone drawn to the allure of foxhunting but who can’t muster the gumption to actually get on a horse and give it a try. Some live it vicariously through a child or spouse but many don’t even have that connection.
The Hodad’s role, when he or she is a paying social member, serves two functions.
First, this membership category provides an additional source of revenue for the club. And it’s pure profit. The Hodad’s dues help offset the cost of maintaining a pack of foxhounds and a string of horses, paying the salary of professional staff, and covering all the other operating expenses the club incurs. But the Hodad doesn’t use the hounds, horses, or staff, other than to show up and admire them as they move off into the countryside where the Hodad can’t go.
Second, Hodads provide a source of redemption for Posers. The Poser at least gets credit for being out there, on a horse, dealing with all her fears, taking the risks. Her timidity and constant excuses may be a source of annoyance, or amusement, to her fellow hunters but everyone has to recognize that she’s willing to put her feet in the irons and give it a go. She’s the surfer girl who may not be able to take the big curls but will paddle out, catch a wave, and have a wobbly ride back to the beach, arms akimbo to keep her balance, her face locked in grim determination. As long as she’s willing to get on the board, or in this case the horse, she ain’t no Hodad.
And now for a reverent consideration of…
A hunter emeritus is greatly venerated, typically someone who was an avid and active hunter for many years, a major supporter of the club, perhaps an ex-master or a major landowner. Now age and infirmity have taken their toll. The old hunter has swung a leg over a saddle for the last time. There will be no more days a-field riding to hounds. But the appeal of the chase and for the hunting-centered lifestyle remains undimmed. They still want to participate in some manner, even if it’s just staying involved as a social member, following a day’s hunting action by car or in the hound truck, attending the club’s social functions, serving as an officer or committee member. Given the premium foxhunters place on tradition, our focus more backward than forward, those who provide a living link to earlier times play a vital role in preserving the sport’s history. Old timers are the elders of our village, the sages who have seen it all, were there for the glory days, took the risks, and lived to tell.
Assuming, that is, they can still form intelligible words. Some are way overdue for a one-way trip to the old hunter’s home. Not only did they live the glory days, they think they’re still in the glory days, that it’s 1956 and Ike has just won a second term.
Anyone who has lived much of his life outdoors is likely to end up with skin that looks like they did a Rip Van Winkle in a tanning booth. These folks are walking warnings to remember the sunscreen.
Assuming, that is, they can still walk. I knew one old chap who kept a collection of glass jars filled with all the pins, bolts, and screws that had held various busted parts of his body together while they healed. Another fellow still rode for a few years after he had to give up foxhunting and had a special flap affixed to his saddle pad from which he could hang his cane. The broken neck that ended his hunting career left him a bit gimpy. Another gentleman could walk without aid, sort of. His unsure footfalls made him look like a parody of the drunken sailor.
They may be blubbering, decrepit, withered old sods but they’re our old sods. And we all hope to be like them one day. Either that or go out as a privileged few have, to suffer a massive heart attack in the saddle, preferably just after taking a long swig from a lovely lady’s flask, and to then find yourself following hounds through the fields of Elysium before your mortal carcass hits the turf.
© 2010, J. Harris Anderson