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OUTDOORS COLUMN: Deep South fox hunts not suitable for minors

Bob Kornegay

Bob Kornegay

I was driving around the other day and found myself looking at subdivisions, shopping centers, apartment complexes and trailer parks.

Don’t you just love the names bestowed upon these locales by the creative “geniuses” who develop and sell them? Monikers like Fox Chase, Deer Run, Quail Hollow, Fernwood Forest, Hidden Woods. I realize, of course, it wouldn’t exactly be good marketing to call such places things like “Raped Wilderness,” “Clearcut Hideaway” or “Red Dirt Construction Run-off Villa,” but you’d think at least they could be more honest. Maybe something like “Lost Oak Lane,” commemorating the 100-year-old trees cut down and replaced by tract housing and discount-nursery dogwoods. Anything but all those nauseating insinuations that there might still be deer at Deer Run or quail at Quail Hollow.

But enough social commentary. I couldn’t change the world when I was young and passionate. What makes me think I can now? Besides, the baffling BS of realtorspeak is but one thing I contemplated during my drive. Fox Chase for example, a lovely strip mall, conjured up memories of fox hunting.

As a youth, I knew a few old-timers who were fox hunters. They were a mysterious lot, not wont to converse with little boys about their leisure-time activities. Heck, they weren’t apt to talk to me at all other than to say “shut up” or “get out of my way.”

They were wonderful. Eavesdropping, I’d hang on every word of their tales of moonlit nights and fox “races.” Raptly, I’d hear their hotly contested foxhound debates. As in, “You’re a liar. My old Annie Bell’s the best in these parts. That Booger dog of yours can’t hold a candle to her. Purtiest voice you ever heard. Won’t quit, neither. Run all night, she will.”

One of these guys even had a phonograph record of a loud and boisterous hunt. He and his buddies played it over and over. I kid you not. A record album! You’d have thought those dogs were Elvis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash rolled into one.

Now I’d read about fox hunting before; the gentlemanly English variety. You know, horses, hounds, horns. Tally-ho! While I knew the Southeast Alabama version would be quite different, I still believed it would be very exciting. After all, look at the caliber of men and the wonderful, mythical hounds who did it. Lord, I wanted to go.

And I did go. One time. I went with my friend Casper Osborne and his daddy. Casper’s daddy and his buddies took us fox hunting one night out of sheer necessity. I was at Casper’s house, Casper’s mama wasn’t home, and Mr. Osborne had no choice but to take us along. Neither did the other men, since it was Mr. Osborne who had the whiskey.

Well, folks, fox hunting wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. To shorten a long, boring story, we trekked about a hundred miles back into the woods before the hounds were loosed on fresh fox scent. As the race began and subsequently heated up, a fire was built. Nice, big fire. We all sat down around it. Mr. Osborne extracted a bottle from the pocket of his overalls. The men passed it around once, twice, ad infinitum.

The fire burned brightly, the moon glowed beautifully, and the mournful hound voices split the dark stillness. The fox hunters listened, pulled at the passing bottle, and reminisced.

Casper’s daddy cried over a long lost foxhound and soon the whole crew was in tears.

And that was it, people. That was fox hunting. No guns, no foxes. At least none we could see. We sat there until just before daybreak, by which time the dogs had enough and came drifting in to the fire one by one. Mighty confusing to a nine-year-old boy. I mean, you shot the deer ahead of the deer hounds. You shot the rabbit ahead of the beagles. But you didn’t shoot the fox? Go figure.

I never went fox hunting again, and it was years later before I understood its real attraction. That understanding was reached about the time I first tasted really good whiskey.

Tally Ho!