Thursday, December 16, 2010

Well, THIS Won't be Much of a Day...

Read all the way on this one!

So off to the Futaie des Amis. A sharp, cold, grey, ice-breath day. The meet was in the forest not far from Compiegne, which s a pretty tightly compacted city. As usual here, there are no suburbs- the wheat fields go right up to the tower blocks.

They aren't all hammerheads. Although every time I've tried to take a picture of something I'd take into the hunter ring, something gets in the way! Still, this fellow looks useful and is pleasing to the eye:

There's no rapport picture!

The Rapport is that event before the hunt. Everyone lines up in front of the Master. The (usually four) people who have taken out tufters then each describe what, if any, huntable game they have found in their section of the forest. It's practical and interesting. Even with my idiot foreign baby French, I can see the tufters compete with each other to "sell" what they have found, and sometimes it's an occasion for a little ribbing.

This time, there wasn't one! Why?

No one found anything! They would have to draw blind! In the land of Marshal Berthier, this is no light matter.

Everyone seemed much bothered by this. Snow started coming down, there was lots of talk about hard and slippery ground, and so forth. A couple of people said to me that it probably wouldn't be a good day.

What do I know, I looked at hounds and they seemed sniffy.

So, into the forest:

Waiting as the snow came down a bit harder.

Looks cold, doesn't it?

My pilot was excellent, and spoke very little English.

He was driving a big Toyota four wheel drive. The only other occupant was his son, maybe four years old. While we were creeping through the woods, he climbed into the front and up onto his father's lap, and his father let him drive. I suppose fathers do that universally- the first one with an oxcart probably did.Suddenly I remembered how my own used to do the same thing with me oh so many years ago, and how it felt. I didn't know the last time I had that memory, and it just teared me right up.

Enough emo. I did notice that we were with some familiar faces, keen hunters I'd seen out before in the right places, afoot today. So I was thinking good thoughts...

And they struck! Pretty quickly it got strong, then loud. Coming this way...

Droit au gauche! Really, there was a stag there!

Look down the next allee.

Hey, wait a minute... Let's have a closer look:

Yes- taiii-o!

And it was on.

Here's where I become even more useless as a correspondent. (Read on to the end for proof, even though none is required.)I don't know the geography, so can't tell the places. But there was some running! It seems every time we stopped, along the deer came. He started out with the usual bunch o' biches, but hounds parti'd them pdq. He was a three atop:

And hounds started right on him:

Of course he opened a lead soon, and kept it. Lots of waiting at allees:

And security on busy roads.

My horse is on fire!

This stag was clever. He kept swirling around, picking up women to help him out and get hounds confused. He even managed to get one larger stag to get on foot, trying to seduce them away. (Remember this picture, you will be reminded of it later.)

Hounds paid little attention to the horned tempter, but stayed on the hunted three atop:

My camera was drunk, alright?

In this picture, I had just taiii-o'd a stag, I thought the hunted one but maybe not. He came from the forest and topped just inside the tree line, above where the Land Rover's hood is.

When the whipper-in arrived, I explained what I saw by pointing to this scene

and saying ( I think )

"Stag here come,no street, to, in wood on land, wood down."

No wonder people think foreigners are stupid.

We had been joined by the sister of my pilot.

Wow! I thought I was enthusiastic, on my wildest day I am in a coma compared to this lady! And speaking of dynamos, these two stayed up all day:

Sometimes you have to kick on:

And others, keep it on the down low:

So on toward later afternoon, we stopped- halalli in the woods. Apparently this was cloooose to Compiegne-

But he was afoot again! Off we went, again back and forth in the forest, view after view.

A final halalli, and he was killed.

I paced it off, 40 yards from the Avenue de Royallieu.

Thirsty hounds!

A welcome sight:

Curee in the dark, and home.

Now, why all this read to the end stuff? Also out that day was Didier Delahaye. I thought all my reader would like to see what a REAL observer noticed. Most if not all of these pictures were taken in my presence, the last one- the stag we didn't chase- literally over my shoulder just before I took my futile snap.

For serious, I saw some of these things with my OWN EYES and they didn't look nearly this good.


"Yeah, they ARE that good."

"Gotta go!"