Saturday, 5 February 2011

Oscar Wilde had a good turn of phrase!

"The English country gentleman galloping after a fox - the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable." Oh how right he was. And did you know that Oscar Wilde's full name was Oscar O'Flahertie Wilde? What a perfectly splendid moniker - sounds so dashing. I expect the men in their red coats, riding importantly up and down our lane today feel dashing too!

The huntsman had been round to tell us that the hunt were hunting our land today. As I have said before, the farmer just adores hunting and does see the fox as vermin. I, on the other hand, hate the idea of fox hunting and love the wonderful sight of the fox in the landscape (not that I see him very often - he keeps a low profile); maybe I would change my view if he got my hens but that hasn't happened yet. In any case, I came to the land late in my life and don't feel it is right to interfere.

We have had two days of roaring winds and pouring rain, so that the land is really waterlogged and the farmer was really hoping that the hunt gave us a miss today, but as Tess and I set out on our walk, all the horseboxes and all the followers in their fancy "country gentleman" coats and driving their Land Rovers, pulled up outside the farm, parked on my laneside lawn churning up the grass, and got out their binoculars.

Then came the hounds, closely followed by the huntsman, the masters (in their red coats) the gentlemen in their black coats and the so-called hoi polloi in their ordinary riding gear (it costs about £10,000 a year to keep a hunter, so not so much hoi polloi). Tess and I retreated behind a gate (I didn't trust those hounds, lovely as they are, to not mistake Tess for a tasty treat).

Camera at the ready, I waited - and at the last minute they turned down our furthest field, across the beck and up into our topland. I dashed upstairs in time to see them streaking across our top meadow in full flight.

Stay safe Mr Fox. We know you are there, for we saw you last week. Don't be tempted to come out of your earth. Lay low and let the hounds go and you will live to fight another day.

Poor quality photographs, mainly of people getting ready to join in as the hunt came past - but the best I could get and it does give you the general idea of what a churned up mess they have made, if nothing else.


Elizabeth said...

For some reason I have lots of your posts to catch up on....
such a very long time since I saw the hunt in person
they used to bring the hounds past my primary school in the 1950's.
Did you ever read "Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting man"? S. Sassoon.
Wonderful about getting up early etc.
I love Oscar Wilde in any form, especially his heartbreaking fairy stories.
Oscar Fingle O'Flaherty Wills Wilde
was what I remember, but I should look it up.
ps the phone app cost $1.99 which seems pretty cheap for all the fun!

MorningAJ said...

Isn't hunting illegal now? Or did I imagine that?

Pondside said...

I don't understand it - but then I didn't grow up in the country, own a horse or ever wish to dash after a fox. It's hard not to get swept up in the excitement though.

Dave King said...

I agree. He was spot on, as so often. I doubt the phrase could ever be beaten. I'm quite sure it never has been. Lovely post - again, as always.

Heather said...

I enjoy seeing the Meet - it is a very attractive spectacle - but after that I lose interest, apart from hoping the fox gets home safely. Having said that, I will always remember the sight of our neighbours' orchard strewn with dead geese after the fox had had his fun with them. Does that sum me up? Do I run with the fox and hunt with the hounds?! I can always see both sides of a story - it makes life very difficult at times. As for Oscar Wilde - well he was a genius.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I hate the idea of fox hunting too, but at the same time can understand the need to control foxes in some situations.... Excellent quote from Oscar Wilde

steven said...

it's an entire other world they come from and live in. i cheer for the fox! steven

Doohie said...

If I broke the law I would be arrested. How does the hunt get away with this so easily? I don't understand people who take pleasure from causing distress and suffering.

angryparsnip said...

I am rooting for the fox.

Here in Tucson we have lots of wild animals living along side people and housing.
The Javelina is the one I worry about. People here attack them because they have torn up the garden, they eat roots, or because in defending themselves have attacked their dogs.
What people here need to remember the animals where here first and we have built on their land and destroyed their homes.
So, long story sorry, I am rooting for the fox. He is part of natures circle and most importantly, I love the way they look.

cheers, parsnip

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh, I do think it's barbaric to hunt these fellows in such a way. Oscar had it right, once again.

Totalfeckineejit said...

I'm with you on this one Weaver, Vive la (le?) Fox!

Tom Stephenson said...

Oh Weaver - I too am on the fox's side, but I must confess to being a paid-up member of the Countryside Alliance. I am constantly telling my fellow members that Mr Fox will only take one chicken a night, unless he finds himself trapped in the same poorly-constructed coup as the chickens, but he will come back night after night. It's a difficult situation that only a devoted vegan has any right to influence.

Arija said...

I feel for your land and lawn. We had a 24hr point to point go through our land and some verges. They cut up the country badly and the verges needed major repairs before we could cut the grass again or the grandies take their horses on them for fear of hurting both child and animal. People like that are so inconsiderate of landholders.
Foxes in their native country I have nothing against, whereas imported to ours they have been known to destroy 49 lambing ewes in one night as well as their offspring. That I have no sympathy with at all.

The Weaver of Grass said...

The law and foxes - they can stilll hunt but (in theory) the fox must be cleanly killed with a shotgun rather than letting the hounds tear it to pieces (!!!) - all very suspect in my opinion. Glad that you are all with me on this issue.
Have a nice Sunday.

Acornmoon said...

Hi again, thanks for your kind thoughts.

I am told that my great grandmother wore "hunting pink", as for me I am firmly on the side of Mr Fox so hopes that he keeps a low profile.

The Spiritual Hobo said...

I like your site.Thank you! Here is a story in exchange.
The cattle truck showed up an hour late but at least it did finally arrive. We grabbed a long strong rope, some feed and a four-wheel drive Ford Tractor that had a bucket loader on the front of it.. The man in the truck followed us over to the other barn which was across the road from the main barnyard.

The bull that we were after was almost as big as the tractor but he was white with some light brown spots and the tractor was blue. Many men have been mauled and even killed while trying to remove a bull from a pasture but this bull was good natured and like all cattle, loves feed.

Coaxing cattle with feed is an old trick and more often than not it serves the purpose perfectly. I've seen whole herds of heifers chase a quad down the road when a man sat on the back with a five gallon bucket of feed for them follow.

But, we weren't driving cattle this time, so we tried to lasso the bull and separate him from the heifers. The man who brought the truck was following the bull around a feed trough that was out in the middle of the pasture while trying to toss the looped end of the rope over the big bulls massive head. The first attempt failed because the rope only grabbed one-half of the bulls head so we had to wait for the beast to shake it off before we could try again.

The idea was to lasso the bull but to let the rope go once we did. Once the rope was finally around the bulls neck, the plan was to recapture the loose end of the tether and tie it to back end of the tractor while the bull was being preoccupied with the feed. It would have worked if the rope had fell just right on the first try but since it didn't the bull was spooked and wouldn't come close enough for us to try it again.

One has to be calm and quiet around cattle because they can spook easy. Seeing that we had no chance of capturing the bull under the circumstances we decided to relocate the feed trough and get a longer rope. We moved the trough from the pasture up to the lower level of the old barn and started shaking the feed bucket again. The cattle answered the dinner call and as fortune would have it the bull went into the barn behind a heifer whereupon we closed the two in by shutting a metal gate.

Once inside the barn, the bull was preoccupied with eating feed so we were able to lasso him correctly this time. The bull was tied close to the back end of the tractor and then led to the cattle truck which was parked down by the road. I held the tether tight while another fellow operated the tractor. I rode on the tractor by standing on a running board and secured the animal by wrapping the rope around a solid bar that was attached to the tractor.

The bull came quietly but at one point it seemed like the bulls massive head was going to get jammed in between the back tire and the tractor's frame so we halted and readjusted the rope. The ramp up into the cattle truck was already down and the side gates had been attached so we pulled the bull up to the ramp, loosed the rope and prodded the bull up into the truck.

Well that was one down and another to go. The second bull was back in the main barnyard. So we repeated the process again, over there. The second bull was younger but he seemed to be more dangerous which is unusual because generally it's the other way around.

I was the youngest of our crew of four. George was the oldest at 88 years old, his brother Bob is 84 and John is about 70 years old. I am 55. Bob has breathing problems and he can't walk around to good so he operates the tractor. Bob has poor circulation also. I took my glove off and held his frozen left hand in mine for a moment so that it would warm back up. I overlooked the snot that had been wiped off onto the wrist and grabbed it anyway.

We all know how cold noses can run in the winter time. It was zero today.

sleepinl8 said...

The fox is good, He's got himself covered. Do they hunt much else?

BT said...

I must say I find the spectacle of a hunt thrilling - but not the idea. I would hate them to come across our land - they would destroy it as it's so wet and boggy. Thankfully I've never seen a hunt around here. The dogs all seem to go off hunting on their own!

thousandflower said...

Foxes were introduced to San Juan Island a number of years ago. They are amazingly beautiful and I love the occasional sight of them along the road. But because they have no natural or human predators and because people feed them because they are cute, they have become a menace to chickens, house cats, etc. A balance needs to be found somehow. I don't know if traditional fox hunting keeps the fox population in balance or not. But without that balance you get real problems.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Pat, and good journalistic pics too, for all your dismissing of them.

An old-school farmer friend of mine in Devon - Tory to the core and ready to hang trade unionists from the lampposts - hated the hunt. He had no truck with foxes, but he saw the hunt as wilfully inefficient and wantonly destructive. He shot foxes, taking no particular pleasure in the exercise, but regarding it as doing the business. I posted a poem a short while back about one such expedition - 'Shooting At A Fox'.