Saturday, October 16, 2004

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Alright, I can't snag the pictures so I've done this with links. When you see one, open it in a new window and there you go. This is meant to be a skeleton, but he's a bit fat because I know editors would rather have more content than too little! I'm using Sarah's pictures from her website, but I'm sure she has lots more too.

Staghunting in France- Focus on the Hounds...

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6fe4b9c2#h6658c69e

 (another possible title- Hunting in France- the Same,  but Different!

It isn't every day that I have the chance to take American  friends for their first day staghunting in France. And when magnificent  hunting photographer Sarah Farnsworth comes along, you know the pictures will be better than real life!

We met, as usual, deep in the forest.

Even though we were early to the meet, we weren't first.

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h66213a25#h6fe4b9c2

French hunting with hounds- the chasse à courre- is a spectacle that has been refined since medieval times. It's the ancestor of English hunting, and so it's more formal. And it's France, so it's less formal.      

All French hunting is done in the forests, which have been carefully maintained for centuries. The woods are organized-  they are cut with two-horse-wide pathways in a pattern that resembles a pattern of spider webs. You always know where you are- every intersection has a name, and in this forest, a signpost telling you which clearing is which way.
http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6fd655f7#h64942c68

Just like a North  American day with hounds, more people show up. But they show up earlier, and there are more of them, and they are different-

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6cefed22#h66213a25

The first thing Americans notice is that all sorts of people, with all sorts of motive power, come out. On foot, in vehicles, on bicycles. Mounted hunters are distinctly a minority, although the etiquette is that they have the right of way. It's an occasion for everybody. This man on his very well muffled scooter is a regular.

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h684f5396

Like hunters in the states, everyone is smiling.

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h64942c68#h6fd655f7

And everyone shakes hands, or gets a kiss on the cheek!  The meet-and greet goes on for a while,  snacks come out, and the tufters straggle up. Just a coincidence.

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h68e533f1#h6c591eef

These hounds went out with their handlers at dawn, looking for signs of big red deer stags- this pack's quarry.  Horses show up, and their riders- the French are very efficient users of truck space.

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h60871554#h60871554

We joke that it's a 16-horse van. But Patrice, who's providing our livery for the day, always has wonderful horses. Well turned out, mannerly, and hard as nails.

And here come the hounds! They have their very own minivan-

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6fe4b9c2#h6157e8b1

"We want to hunt!"

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6cb2cf4d#h69b965cb

Out they get, and everyone gathers up for the rapport.

In the U. S., hunting is preceded by some announcements and social chitchat, but here things are getting different. The tufters line up, and each one tells the Master what he's found- or not found- in the solitary misty dawn. It's an example of how French hunting is more crowdsourced than ours is. Those volunteer tufters who think they have a good stag try to "sell" what they've found to the Master, and there's plenty of banter.  Eventually he decides where he will draw, and puts us all in the picture. He also warns us about possible problems, where things are going on in the forest, and so forth. So, to horse/truck/bike/track shoes!

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6cb2cf4d#h6e996fb7

The hounds know it's almost time.

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h69b965cb#h67cbe128

This is where another French difference starts- the music!

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h6bad70c3 

They have no truck with our little one note horns, senior hunters all carry full sized, valveless French horns wrapped around themselves. Everything that happens during a hunt has a specific tune to go with it, and "Let's go" is first. All through the day, you'll hear those horns telling you what's going on. Remember this s the woods, so unless you're right there, you can't see the action. But your ears will let you know if they have found, what kind of stag it is, when it crosses a road or goes along it, goes to water, or gets away out of the forest.

And by the way, another difference and one of my favorites- NO electronic communication. They'll send you home if you use a cell telephone to hunt, and I think a radio might get you a head shaving. If you can't keep up or get lost, you miss out. Eyes and ears were good enough for Charlemagne.

We're off!

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h69b965cb#h67cbe128

Dress is different here too- gold braid, long coats, and swords add panache and draw the eye in a way our somber livery doesn't.

Drawing is the same in Virginia or the Vendee. But when hounds strike, they just don't go. Because of wildlife management requirements, hounds can hunt only a mature stag. So all eyes are out to see the game- everyone is looking along the allees to see it cross.

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h63c0c2ed

 And another difference appears- there's no field! You're on your own here- everyone  goes where he thinks he'll have the best  chance to spot the quarry and hounds. Again, it's something I like and it would make most English and American huntsmen crazy. Thirty horses, twenty cars,  a hundred foot and bicycle people all over the place.

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h6841314d 

I love it myself, but it will look like seven train wrecks the first time you see it.


Once hounds are off, everyone is h-u-n-t-i-n-g. The focus is on hounds and the game, period. Even the horses know what's what-
http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h6c190791


And so we settled in for the middle.
Once hounds find, the stag puts on his skates and runs. Like a coyote back home, they have superior speed and strength, intimate territorial knowledge, and they evade for a living. So there's going to be an hour or two of find him lose him, draw again.

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h663a7781

Sarah will do whatever it takes to get the shot, you can't see it but she climbed a pretty good little bank to get this one, and took a pretty good tumble coming down quickly! You don't have to be on a horse to get hurt doing this.



And here we saw more of that crowdsourcing. The Master and the Huntsman weren't shy about asking what we'd seen, or what we hadn't seen. After a while, this whipper-in saw the hunted stag- lucky us, we were right there-  and we were off again!

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h68780a88

Injured hounds have priority, just like at home.

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h6927b919

Horses were getting tired,

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h6cb367b2

And people too. Another French difference- no alcohol out hunting! I know, it sounds crazy, but it's true.

The Americans were still in it!

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h66ff1538



 A tai-o,

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h6e8fd174

and we were off again! This find-lose-find took much longer on this day than usual, there was speculation that the stag was a visitor because  he did not seem to run typical routes. We got to see lots of forest!

And then, away! I must confess that your humble correspondent made the mistake of taking a chance on where he thought the stag would go. I have got to quit that thinking stuff, it hurts my head. I was wrong, and we were thrown well out.

It turns out that the stag left the forest! They do that now and again, and once they do, it's tough to catch them up again. Although I've seen this pack do it they didn't today. Shadows were lengthening, there were only a few people still up (including the Americans!), so they gave him best.

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h6137e3d9

I admit that I like this part of the hunting day a lot.

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h628587c1

Piled up hounds,

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h628587c1

tired horses,

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h645acdf7

Making sure everyone is accounted for,

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h6e9da132

and loading that last one who's just too tired to take another step.

http://www.sarahfarnsworth.co.uk/p831166707/h6658c69e#h6061964a

I've left off talking about differences, because this is universal. This might be different for you, though.  TheGirl diaried it- "We saw the hunted stag six times, six hours in the saddle, 45 Kilometers".

By French standards,  not a particularly big day.

 THE BOX

You asked for a box -

I love my hunting, and I encourage everyone who hasn't to go hunting in France.

There are packs of stag, roebuck, boar, rabbit, and even fox hounds all over the country.  Like American hunts,  they are happy to have visitors. If you want to ride, livery horses are usually available. If you just want to follow afoot or in car, the more the merrier.  Ask questions, and try to connect with someone to guide you around if you aren't assigned one. Just behave as you'd want a foreign visitor to your pack to behave and you'll be fine.

Venerie.org is the French MFHA site and is a good gateway. If you want more information, shoot an email to untacked and they will forward it on to me.

There you go. I'm way over word and picture count, so cut away. And if you want me to talk about other things, tell me what.

On review, there's not much heritage and dress up stuff so if you want more of it, let me know. I can sort of change it up and just do extended picture captions as it were if you like that instead.

HCB

























Friday, October 15, 2004

Where are the sick people?

Listening to all the health care complaining, I'm confused by the absence of sick people.

Maybe I'm lucky, but I don't see lines of people seeking treatment snaking around the hospital I pass each day.

Nor are the streets filled with the collapsed. No dead carts making the rounds, either. My co workers seem to show up regularly enough that I don't notice many absences.

When people have heart attacks they get bypasses immediately, and I've never heard of an 18 week wait for a hip replacement, which takes 18 MONTHS in England.

So where are the sick people?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

A wager for Senator Kerry...

I'd like a new car, so here's a bet for him, or anyone who whinges about "poverty in America".

Let's go to any place in this country where tax money is dispensed to the poor- food stamp office, housing project, or welfare office. We'll take a scale and a table of normal body weight.

For every applicant or recipient present who is under normal weight, I'll give him a thousand dollars.

For every one over weight, he gives me a thousand.

For every applicant or recipient present without a cellular telephone, I'll pay the same thousand. Every one with a cell, a thousand to me.

One proviso- the only applicants or recipients who count are those born to U. S. citizens.

Just for enlightenment, try going to one of those places yourself and doing a count of the portly cell carriers by eye. Your money at work.

Debate a'comin'...

Here's my dare for the President-

"You think that the "richest Americans" should pay more taxes. Why don't you, and Mrs. Kerrey, and Michael Moore, and George Soros, and Senator Boxer, pay extra? All of you have 8 figure incomes. The government will take your gifts, I guarantee it.

But no- you each employ lawyers and accountants to make sure you avoid paying an extra nickel.

Liberals- rich liberals like you and Barbra Streisand- believe that the government is the best judge of how to spend other people's money, but not your own."

Naaah- too honest.