I followed the
dachshund all the way to the edge of town, waiting for him to blow his cool and
sniff at something, but he never did. He walked like a five-gaited horse,
raising his front paws the way circus horses do. I couldn't figure what a
dachshund would be doing on a hunt, except to provide comic relief, but I found
out later that he was the toughest fox dog in the Black Forest, and the only
reason he was way in back with me was that his legs were so short.
When we finally
got to where we were going, it didn't look much different to me—just another
one of those little squares that are around every corner in Germany. The street
opens out, the houses move back, and there is an open cobblestoned space the
size of half a basketball court with a tree or two in the middle and a green
wooden bench to sit on. I was thinking about sitting on the bench for a
breather, but I didn't because just then everybody spread out as if by plan.
The hunters were in a quarter circle behind Riehle, the drivers were in another
quarter circle, seven hunters with brass horns were across the square from me
and I was in the last quarter circle all by myself.
And there wasn't a
sound. Everyone had been talking while we were walking, but as soon as they
were arrayed, nobody said a word. Then Riehle stepped out into the middle,
waited a few moments and nodded to the seven hunters with the horns.
The sun was coming
up over the houses and the hunters brought the horns to their mouths. They
started to play fanfares that sounded like something out of Mozart, and the
dogs began to howl. The dogs stuck their noses straight up into the sky and all
10 or 12 of them just let loose. It must have awakened people in France or
Switzerland, but actually those dogs howled pretty well in unison. I had only
heard one dog howl at a time before, and 12 dogs together was something to
hear. The horn players lowered their horns, the dogs howled a while a cappella
and then stopped. Riehle began to give a speech.
I don't like
speeches much, normally. Usually around the third paragraph I give up and go
into a state of suspended animation. I usually find something to look at during
speeches, and then I stare at it until everything gets blurred and I keep
regarding this blur until everybody starts to clap. But this was a different
kind of speech. In the first place, it was in German, but instead of making it
worse, it made it better, and Riehle was talking more than speechifying, and
every once in a while he would reach down and pat his dog on the head. Even
though the only German I know is Achtung!, I knew what he was saying.
He was talking to
us about the land and the animals and how it was not a right to hunt, but a
privilege. He was saying it was something we had that we must be careful of
because it was fragile; the land was fragile, the birds and rabbits and foxes
and deer were fragile, and everything was balanced and easily tipped if we
forgot that hunting was not a right but a gift. He talked about men and dogs
and the farmers who would do the driving through the woods, and finally he
turned a little in my direction and talked about me, and everyone smiled at the
big American with his dictionary. Then it was over and everybody gave a cheer
and we started down the road that led to the Black Forest.
The drivers moved
out in front and after a few minutes I couldn't see them anymore. I was still
in the back but there were a few hunters around me now, smiling and saying
guten Morgen! One of them handed me his gun to look at. All the guns seemed to
me to be 12-gauge, and three-quarters of them were double-barreled with a third
barrel on the top or on the bottom or even on the side. The one I was holding
had three barrels. I was trying to figure out what you did with three barrels
and wondering if there were four-barreled guns in Germany when somebody next to
me said, "The one for the birds, the one for the deer and the last for the
I looked up and
walking beside me was the tall, gray-haired man who had arrived in the
Mercedes. Even though his hair was gray he wasn't as old as I had thought.
"I am Stefan Wocher," he said. "I will talk to you about our
hunting here in Germany." I introduced myself but he already knew about me.
Riehle had fixed it, and I was to ask him anything I wanted.
"Are you a
hunter?" I said.
He smiled and
patted his shotgun. "I was a hunter as a young man, but now I only walk
with the hunt. I work for the Higher Hunting Authority of