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Rita Mae Brown
October 19, 1987
A noted author extols the rigor and excitement of the hunt
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October 19, 1987

Awake To The Challenge

A noted author extols the rigor and excitement of the hunt

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Grover was the huntsman of the Farmington Hunt from 1928 until 1960. This meant he was the professional who trained and oversaw our hounds. For years Grover had his eye on a fox that had outwitted our hunt, time and time again. For years the fox had let himself be chased until it eventually became tedious to him, and then he would just disappear. No one could figure out how this fox managed to destroy his scent. One day Grover had absorbed all the defeat he could take. He separated from his pack of hounds just as they were in full cry after this singularly wily creature. Grover then retraced the fox's steps. He wound up at the edge of a large meadow crowded with sheep.

Grover could hear the hounds baying more loudly as the hunt circled back toward him, horns wailing, hooves thundering. Then it all stopped, and Grover heard the hounds whining in complaint: They'd lost the scent, again. A few minutes later Grover spotted the fox—trotting smartly to the edge of the sheep meadow. To Grover's surprise, he saw the fox jump on the back of a sheep and then leap from back to back, across the entire flock, until it reached the other side of the meadow, where it dismounted its woolly saviors and walked home. Presumably to laugh.

So why do we put ourselves in a position where we are outsmarted on a regular basis by an animal? In truth, it couldn't matter less. We are after the persistent elements of risk and chaos in the chase. We are there to have our senses sharpened, our joys heightened. We can actually smell the fox on the days the earth heats up and allows the scent to rise on the wind. We feel that our horses are comrades. We are out there to ride harder, harder—away from it all, away from the world.

We all need some retreat. Who among us has a psychological carburetor that doesn't need tuning up? When I go fox hunting, who knows where I'll run, how long, how hard, and what will happen to me? I take my chances. I accept the chaos, I seek it. Then the master signals that the day's hunting is done, and I return to the stable, untack, cool out my horses, and slowly, slowly, return to the vicissitudes and pleasures of adult responsibility. It may be that I'm a nickel short of a dime, but I'm having a million dollars' worth of fun.

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