It was late on a
December day when my wife and I drove up to the shooting park of Prince Carl zu
Loewenstein in western Germany for a boar hunt in the grand old manner. The
prince's shooting lodge commands a sea of huge old beech trees in the Spessart
Mountains just east of Frankfurt. The game of ancient Europe roams these
carefully preserved 3,000 acres, and it is as abundant now as it ever was over
the centuries. This was to be a hunt such as one seldom encounters in the
mundane 20th Century, for the boar is still hunted with all the formality and
observance of tradition practiced by an aristocracy which has almost vanished
from the European scene.
When we arrived,
we found 22 other guests from half a dozen countries, with titles too long for
my lame memory. I tried calling them by their last names and it sounded as
though I were reciting a lesson in geography?counts and countesses, dukes and
duchesses of Greece, Bavaria, Liechtenstein. There were nine different
nationalities represented by the 11 ladies present.
morning was at 8 and by 9 the whole party had assembled on the steps of the
lodge, the ladies bundled in long woolen Loden coats, the men in shooting
jackets, breeches and stalking boots. Each of the men also had a cape thrown
over his shoulder or tucked around his knapsack.
old barouche was pulled from the stable by a couple of strong farm horses.
Several of the guests who'd either been maimed in one of Germany's wars or had
merely sprained an ankle climbing a mountain got reluctantly into the carriage.
Behind it was a long farm wagon for the lazy but more agile. A third, the game
cart, with a butcher armed with cleavers and knives, brought up the rear. A
slight fall of snow had left patches of white on the copper-colored leafy floor
of the forest. All around us the sleek, gray-blue trunks of beech trees rose
like pillars in an endless cathedral.
Half a mile from
the lodge, the Jagerei, or hunting personnel, were drawn up in parade
formation. In the rear rank, 30 rubber-aproned woodcutters, wearing a weird
assortment of headgear, stood at attention. They were the beaters, the men who
did the work of scrambling through the thickets, whooping and calling and
banging their sticks against the trees to drive out the game. Between their
legs a howling pack of dachshunds and terriers tugged at leashes. Before them
stood the foresters in gray-green forest uniforms, each with a stiff-brimmed
hat smartly cocked over one eye. They were the officers of the hunting army,
who helped post the gunners, tracked down wounded game with specially trained
bloodhounds and generally made themselves useful. In the front rank, also in
forest uniforms, were the trumpeters, seven in all, their feet slightly
SALUTE TO THE
Before them all
stood the Chief Forester, Herr Bichelmayer. As we approached, he raised his hat
in greeting. We paused and removed ours. Everyone said, "Weidmann's
Heil!" which is the traditional German hunter's greeting. The trumpeters
lifted their horns to their lips and blared out a salute that echoed through
this 'The Salute to the Prince,'" a redheaded Irish girl next to me
whispered, "but I've never discovered what happens if there's no prince
said her husband, a duke. "Don't be irreverent."