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The Hunting Farmer
by [?]

All this is not sufficiently remembered by some of us when the period of the year comes which is trying to the farmer’s heart, when the young clover is growing, and the barley has been just sown. Farmers, as a rule, do not think very much of their wheat. When such riding is practicable, of course they like to see men take the headlands and furrows; but their hearts are not broken by the tracks of horses across their wheat-fields. I doubt, indeed, whether wheat is ever much injured by such usage. But let the thoughtful rider avoid the new-sown barley; and, above all things, let him give a wide berth to the new-laid meadows of artificial grasses. They are never large, and may always be shunned. To them the poaching of numerous horses is absolute destruction. The surface of such enclosures should be as smooth as a billiard-table, so that no water may lie in holes; and, moreover, any young plant cut by a horse’s foot is trodden out of existence. Farmers do see even this done, and live through it without open warfare; but they should not be put to such trials of temper or pocket too often.

And now for my friend the hunting farmer in person, the sportsman whom I always regard as the most indispensable adjunct to the field, to whom I tender my spare cigar with the most perfect expression of my good will. His dress is nearly always the same. He wears a thick black coat, dark brown breeches, and top boots, very white in colour, or of a very dark mahogany, according to his taste. The hunting farmer of the old school generally rides in a chimney-pot hat; but, in this particular, the younger brethren of the plough are leaving their old habits, and running into caps, net hats, and other innovations which, I own, are somewhat distasteful to me. And there is, too, the ostentatious farmer, who rides in scarlet, signifying thereby that he subscribes his ten or fifteen guineas to the hunt fund. But here, in this paper, it is not of him I speak. He is a man who is so much less the farmer, in that he is the more an ordinary man of the ordinary world. The farmer whom we have now before us shall wear the old black coat, and the old black hat, and the white top boots, rather daubed in their whiteness; and he shall be the genuine farmer of the old school.

My friend is generally a modest man in the field, seldom much given to talking unless he be first addressed; and then he prefers that you shall take upon yourself the chief burden of the conversation. But on certain hunting subjects he has his opinion, indeed, a very strong opinion, and if you can drive him from that, your eloquence must be very great. He is very urgent about special coverts, and even as to special foxes; and you will often find smouldering in his bosom, if you dive deep enough to search for it, a half-smothered fire of indignation against the master because the country has, according to our friend’s views, been drawn amiss. In such matters the farmer is generally right; but he is slow to communicate his ideas, and does not recognize the fact that other men have not the same opportunities for observation which belong to him. A master, however, who understands his business will generally consult a farmer; and he will seldom, I think, or perhaps never, consult any one else.

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.