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History Monday: A Tale of Christmas Long-Ago

By Mike Watson

There was a time, not so long ago, when we would gather in large groups, kith and kin, check to jowl, and celebrate the season in jolly fashion. Such is not the case this year, but in time we will commune once more. We do not all celebrate in the same way, nor did our ancestors. Here is a little offering of...

A Christmas Fox Chase--A few days before Christmas, in the year 1869, I was notified that there would be a red fox turned loose near Gradyville, this county, on Christmas day, and that everybody was invited to attend and bring with them all the dogs they could muster. I accordingly mounted my horse at 8 o'clock on the appointed morning, and started for the grand rally.

I rode rapidly, for fear of being too late, until I arrived within about two miles of the appointed place; when upon a high hill I stopped and was notified by blasts from at least one hundred horns, trumpets, conchs, and bugles of every size and note that everybody, with his friend, was making one grand rally for the appointed place. I gave them one answering blast from my bugle, put spurs to my horse, and was soon landed, safe and sound, amidst the assembled throng.

I must say in truth, that I was not prepared to meet such a crowd as I there met. I may be a mild guesser at the number of human being there, but I do think there must have been from three to five hundred persons present, besides almost as many dogs consisting of "mongrel, puppy, whelp and hound, and cur of low degree."

Our much esteemed friend, Capt. Hindman [later Lieutenant Governor James R. Hindman], was called by the crowd to take command of the hunters. He, therefore, delegated an old and experienced hunter by the name of Yates, who understood the woods in that region perfectly, to take charge of his foxship. He started with his charge to a thick woods a half mile away, with instructions to set him at liberty in about fifteen minutes.

The Captain then took charge of the hunters and marched them a short distance to a large field nearby and arraigned them a few paces in front of the main crowd, to await the signal for the onset.

We were scarcely in our places when the straggle, who chanced to be at the upper end of the field, announced in a clear, shrill voice, that the fox had been loosed and was coming as straight as his legs could carry him to the gaping jaws of more than a hundred dogs. We looked. There he came, sure enough. Not a word was spoken; not a sound was heard. On he came, nearer and still nearer.

My pulse beat high, every hair on my head stood on ends. But still he came; not once dreaming what a snare he was running into. When within not more than ten feet of the dogs, he was discovered by one, more matchless than the rest. It was then that the trial so much talked of among the hunters, between the red fox and the hounds, commenced.

The fox, at first seemed to be somewhat alarmed, but soon recovering himself, turned a little and gathered himself up for the race. He ran about fifty yards without seeming to gain any advantage over his pursuers. By this time every dog was in full chase. The fox seemed to be measuring their speed, as there was not more than ten feet between them. All at once he turned and deliberately surveyed the crowd. After satisfying himself with regard to the speed of his pursuers, having no hat to wave over his head, he raised his plume over his back three times, as a token of defiance, gathered himself for the finish.

Up to this time not a word had been spoken; not a sound came from that vast throng. But when the fox began to increase the distance between himself and his enemies, such a shout went up as I have never before heard. In running about one half mile, while they were still in sight, I think the fox had gained one hundred and fifty yards, and continued to gain to the end of the chase, which ended a few miles away when Sir Reynard found refuge in one of his many retreats so common in that hill country, a cave.

So ends this chapter, but in conclusion I must say a word about the people on that occasion. I never saw a more genteel looking crowd of the size in my life. I didn't see or hear of one drop of whisky, or hear a single profane word used that day. Everybody was in the best of humor, all believed their dogs the best, and all were well pleased with their Christmas chase of 1869. (signed) C.J. Taylor. --Adair County News, 22 August 1900.

This story was posted on 2020-12-21 07:44:32
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