Saturday, July 30, 2016

George Singleton tells of foxhunter extraordinaire Raymond Fountain

George Buster Singleton
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Raymond Fountain: The fox hunt is his world” was originally published in the Nov. 25, 1971 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

Everybody knows Raymond Fountain. If one is in Georgia, Florida, Louisiana or Mississippi – any place where foxhunters get together – sooner or later Fountain’s name will be mentioned. Whenever a foxhunter wants to verify his dog’s bloodline, he will almost always say: ask Raymond Fountain, he knows. And he does. Some of his fox hounds’ blood lines can be traced back to the early 1850s.

I have on many occasions talked to this Monroe Countian over a cup of coffee, about his hounds and his love for them, and fox hunting. “I owned my first hound when I was eight years old,” stated Fountain as I visited him one afternoon. “Everybody had a dog then. Fox hides would bring around six dollars on the market, and a coon hide would bring around four dollars and a half. Mostly people used the dogs to help catch the family’s meat supply.

“In 1920, I decided to start my own breed or pedigree of fox hounds. Some of the blood lines most common around here then were the Walker’s, the Goodman’s, the July hounds, and the Trig pedigrees. I decided to call my pedigree or blood line the Free Lance pedigree.

“Most every fox hunter, when selecting his line, looks for different things, such as the way the dog barks – if the bark will carry a great distance. Others might like a fast dog. Then some will pick a dog for endurance; one that can run a great distance without tiring, no depending on speed alone.

“I decided that I would try and breed some of the better features of the four pedigrees mentioned earlier into my Free Lance hounds. I started out with the Walker and July, picking up the Trig blood line as I went along. Over the years, I have had some good dogs. Got some good uns now.

“See that dog over there? That’s Old Bottom. His ancestors have been here in my yard for the past 50 years. His granddaddy, Old Ring, won the Burnt Corn Trials three years straight running. Come over here, I want to show you something.”

We went into a small building where I was shown several rolls of wide paper, each rolled up like one would a blueprint or calendar.

“These are pedigrees, like a family tree kinda. This one here is 36 feet long.”

I was handed a roll of paper about three feet wide, and I’m sure it was 36 feet long if it was an inch. I’m not smart much when it comes to fox hound pedigrees, but it looked legal to me. However, I did notice some of the names that I remember quite well; names like California Frank, Ring, Old Aggie, Stride Boy, Old John, Judy, and, most of all, Fargo Jake. This dog alone sired over 500 puppies.

As we visited each pen and each dog, I was told the date of birth and who its mammy was. I was told whether its daddy was better than the others, or the weak points if there were any. Occasionally one might have a soft foot that would get sore easily, or had a peculiar bark, or once on the trail wouldn’t want to come back when the fox horn was blown.

As I listened and marveled at this man’s ability to remember all that he had told me, I could see the great love that Raymond Fountain had for his hounds and the hunt itself. This was his world; a world that he both dearly loved and respected. Few men of our day see the elegance of our surroundings as he does.

As I was about to leave, I made the mistake of mentioning a dead fox that I had seen on the highway. I saw a twinge of pain cross the man’s face. I knew that I had found the secret behind it all; the secret that a true fox hunter jealously defends.

I suspect the object of the hunt is not to catch the fox, but for him to run long and hard. The longer he runs, the longer the deep music will last, made by the hounds as they give chase across the moon-lit fields, giving the listening hunters the feeling that all is well within their world.

Each one hopes that the sly old fox will give the hounds the slip after a while, so he can rest up and get in shape again, for other races to come.

(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School, served in the Korean War, lived for a time among Apache Indians, moved to Monroe County in June 1964 (some sources say 1961) and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. Some of his earlier columns also appeared under the heading of “Monroe County History: Did You Know?” He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

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