Chaseworld: Foxhunting and Storytelling in New Jersey's Pine Barrens

Chaseworld: Foxhunting and Storytelling in New Jersey's Pine Barrens

Chaseworld: Foxhunting and Storytelling in New Jersey's Pine Barrens

Chaseworld: Foxhunting and Storytelling in New Jersey's Pine Barrens

Synopsis

Chaseworld is a study of the foxhunters in the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey. Mary Hufford examines the activities that occur before, during, and after foxchases and analyzes the stories that hunters tell about chases. Through these activities and narratives, she contends, Pine Barrens foxhunters have collaboratively constructed an alternate reality-the Chaseworld.

Excerpt

In the United States there are basically two ways to chase foxes. in the minds of many, the term foxhunting summons forth the image of a scarlet- coated, black-capped cavalcade, thundering over rolling hill country dotted with coverts and fences, in pursuit of full-blooded foxhounds chasing a fox. the image is associated with place names like Middleburg, Virginia and Chester County, Pennsylvania. It is for the sake of riding to hounds that red foxes were imported from England and Spain in the eighteenth century, and for the sake of the same tradition that red foxes are strictly protected in some parts of the United States to this day.

Less well known is the other kind of foxhunting, the "listening to hounds" practiced by working class men in fields, woods, and mountains from New England and the upper Midwest to the deep South. This version of the sport is known in various regions as "hilltopping," "ridge-running," "forks-of-the-creek foxhunting," and "one-gallus (that is, one suspender) foxhunting" (Van Urk 1941). Foxhunters in the state forests of southern New Jersey, where I heard my first foxchase, call it "Pine Barrens foxhunting."

Both kinds of foxhunting are organized around the same animal text: a pack of dogs in noisy pursuit of a fox. But there the resemblance ends. Pine Barrens foxhunters, dressed for comfort, ride to the hounds in pickup trucks, which they park in long rows wherever the listening is good. There they convene to interpret the canine chorus, trade "lies," and enjoy fellowship before the fox -- often a gray one -- takes the hounds beyond their hearing.

What the hunters are listening for is "music," uttered by hounds, each contributing its own "note" to the proceedings. in the hunters' parlance some hounds are "bass-noted," while others are "tenor-mouthed"; some hounds are soprano dogs, while others issue "horn chops," "double yells," and "bugle notes." Like afficionados of other musical traditions, hunters make audiocassette recordings of foxchases, replete with interpretive voice- overs. "Ain't that pretty music?" comments John Earlin, on a recording of . . .

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