30 December 2008

Sports & Entertainment: Fox-Hunts

By Jennifer Linforth

Oh bloody hell. Was I completely foxed last night?

Digging, snorting...even pulling on the plug with his teeth did no good. The hole to his den was completely plugged. Lifting his whiskers to the pre-dawn light, he cussed again--a sneezy, yelping sort of combination. For a moment he thought his late night romp in the farmer’s chicken coop had resulted in him digesting some foul meat--until he recalled what he ate was fowl—thus removing the notion that he could be hallucinating.

He certainly would not plug up the entrance to his hole. Nocturnal animals would not do this. Yet here it was plugged solid. He scratched his ear with a back paw as he thought. Could only mean one thing—the field was gathering. Horror struck, he stopped scratching. Beady black eyes shot toward the sun then down to his bushy tail. He regarded his shadow. 11AM.

Spinning in a circle until he was crazy like the fox he was, he pondered his way out of this one. "The field," those mounted sportsmen would be gathering with their dogs...usually forty to fifty to a pack if he recalled correctly. They would be at the "meet" by now--the designated spot for start of the hunt.

He paced frantically. He was a fox. His instinct told him to head to the covert. Hide there. But wait, what the hell was that saying? He paused to bang his head repeatedly against the trunk of a tree. Think, think, think you red furred fool...this is important! 'A fox can change his fur but not his habits'...damn it.

Seems he would have to change his habits...

The covert would be out. That is the first place the master of the hunt would lead his sporting troupe. All foxes would run to a covert if they found their den plugged. Coverts meant shelter--unless a fox-hunt was under way. Then it meant dogs. The hounds would be sent in one end of the thicket or gorse patch with the intent of sniffing their way through until they flushed him out.

Then all hell would break loose and he as so not in the mood for that.

For as soon as he ran from the covert, the "tally-ho" would be sounded and men, horses and hound would all be charging after him. It was not a good time. Seriously. Man found it a good time… but from his point of view it was anything but a delightful afternoon. Trotting in a circle pondering what to do, he failed to see the sport in all of it. Men riding at ridiculous speed through forests, streams, dashing across fields all while trying not to break their necks in pursuit of him. Eventually they would corner the fox and the hounds would eat him.

Relatives often made the worst friends...

They would typically not eat all of him... the "brush" (tail), "mask" (head), and "pads" (paws) would be cut off and handed out as macabre trophies to the sportsmen.

So. Not. Fun.

Though instinct told him to heat for shelter and hide he decided to turn tail and run fast and far--immediately. He heard there was a new gathering of geese at the farm on the opposite end of the estate. Perhaps they might care to listen to him preach a sermon or two...

This day he would keep his reputation intact and avoid the hunt.

He was, after all one sly fox.