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Hunting Sketches Anthony Trollope

The Hunting Farmer

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Always shake hands with your friend the farmer. It puts him at his ease with you, and he will tell you more willingly after that ceremony what are his ideas about the wind, and what may be expected of the day. His day's hunting is to him a solemn thing, and he gives to it all his serious thought. If any man can predicate anything of the run of a fox, it is the farmer.

I had almost said that if any one knew anything of scent, it is the farmer; but of scent I believe that not even the farmer knows anything. But he knows very much as to the lie of the country, and should my gentle reader by chance have taken a glass or two of wine above ordinary over night, the effect of which will possibly be a temporary distaste to straight riding, no one's knowledge as to the line of the lanes is so serviceable as that of the farmer.

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As to riding, there is the ambitious farmer and the unambitious farmer; the farmer who rides hard, that is, ostensibly hard, and the farmer who is simply content to know where the hounds are, and to follow them at a distance which shall maintain him in that knowledge. The ambitious farmer is not the hunting farmer in his normal condition; he is either one who has an eye to selling his horse, and, riding with that view, loses for the time his position as farmer; or he is some exceptional tiller of the soil who probably is dangerously addicted to hunting as another man is addicted to drinking; and you may surmise respecting him that things will not go well with him after a year or two. The friend of my heart is the farmer who rides, but rides without sputtering; who never makes a show of it, but still is always there; who feels it to be no disgrace to avoid a run of fences when his knowledge tells him that this may be done without danger of his losing his place. Such an one always sees a run to the end. Let the pace have been what it may, he is up in time to see the crowd of hounds hustling for their prey, and to take part in the buzz of satisfaction which the prosperity of the run has occasioned. But the farmer never kills his horse, and seldom rides him even to distress. He is not to be seen loosing his girths, or looking at the beast's flanks, or examining his legs to ascertain what mischances may have occurred. He takes it all easily, as men always take matters of business in which they are quite at home. At the end of the run he sits mounted as quietly as he did at the meet, and has none of that appearance of having done something wonderful, which on such occasions is so very strong in the faces of the younger portion of the pink brigade. To the farmer his day's hunting is very pleasant, and by habit is even very necessary; but it comes in its turn like market-day, and produces no extraordinary excitement. He does not rejoice over an hour and ten minutes with a kill in the open, as he rejoices when he has returned to Parliament the candidate who is pledged to repeal of the malt-tax; for the farmer of whom we are speaking now, though he rides with constancy, does not ride with enthusiasm.

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Hunting Sketches
Anthony Trollope

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