Saturday, October 29, 2016

George Singleton laments the passing of the bygone era of fox hunting

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 “Vanishing of hunters ends era” was originally published in the Nov. 7, 1996 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

There was a time, not too long ago, that this time of year was the beginning of the fox hunting season. The full moon and cool winds, which gave a slight chill to the early autumn evenings, would give warning to the sly old fox that the hunters moon now hung in the heavens.

But the time of the old fox hunters, as some of us once knew them, has slowly slipped from the scene. The nights of the chases across open pastures and across the freshly harvested fields and the fireside gatherings have almost disappeared. No more do the night winds of autumn carry the laughter of the fox hunters as they gather together for a hunt and the many stories of the great fox hounds that used to be. Such names like Danny Boy, Old Bottom, Dixie Darling and many, many more are no longer. This was truly a breed of special people; people who are fast vanishing from the scene and from a special place within the countryside.

No more does the smell of wonderful hot coffee, brewed over an open fire, ride the night winds of our autumn. And, having a glorious full moon overhead while feeling the warmth of an open campfire has almost been forgotten.

What is the reason for the end of such a wonderful era? Why has the beauty of the chase and the music of the faithful foxhounds, as they trail the crafty old fox across the meadows, have lost their calling? Is it the lack of love for the outdoors? Has the bloob tube (television) captured all of our interests? Have we become so weak and lazy until we no longer have the strength to go forth on a chilly autumn evening and be a part of the Creation?

Whatever the reason, a time in our history has almost disappeared from among us that will never be recaptured again. The beauty and the romance of the fox hunters moon will soon be no more. The campfire tales have disappeared from the scenes, never to return. Those few of us that remember have lost a beautiful portion of our lives.

What will we tell our children? Will they pass through life without the pleasures of hearing the music of a pack of fox hounds as they give chase to wise of gray fox? How will they know the feeling and satisfaction of hearing the tall tales of the fox hunters as they sat around the glowing fires? And, as they sat there, listening to sounds of the chasing hounds, deep in their hearts, each hoped that the hounds never caught up with the sly old fox. And, are we depriving them of knowing the love of an open campfire under a full harvest moon? Truly, we should never let this happen. If our trend of life continues on its present course, these wonderful times of our past has just about disappeared into the darkness of oblivion.

As Southerners, we are now at the time in history when we desperately need some of the old forms of entertainment and some of the pastimes of yesterday. I believe that we must have a knowledge of these if we are to identify ourselves with our past. Laugh if you must, but the time has come when we have separated ourselves almost completely from our upbringing. We have become so absorbed in our lives of fantasy, in a world of make believe, we have forgotten what has made us great.

I know that many of you smile, and many wonder just how, perhaps foolish to some, this form of entertainment could be of value in our today’s way of life. But, today our world is a finer place to live because of the ways of the generations before us. I do not wish to sound like the voice of doom, but I think the time is at hand when we need to share all the knowledge and know-how we can extract from our past so our youth of today may live a sane and more useful lives into tomorrow.

This does not mean that one has to be a dyed-in-wood fox hunter to survive the coming years. But, the peace and contentment of such a pastime will be a great plus in the minds of our youth when facing the coming tomorrows. It seems that we try very hard to separate ourselves from our history of the past. But, we should so whatever we can to pass our experiences, both good and bad, to our youth of today. I have a saying that a person, a family, a community or a nation does not know where they are going unless they know where they have been. This, I believe with all my heart.

Many of the problems of the day was talked about and discussed around those evening campfires and things looked much better with the coming of the new day. I know that honor, respect and decency were common words of the old fox hunters. These men put great faith in the words of others. Their word was law; that’s all they had. This practice could be of great use in today’s society.

Today, as we push deeper and deeper into the age of the computer, we are less inclined to give much honor and respect to the word of our neighbor. We turn to the machine for much of our thinking and advice. We cannot see the rising of a glorious full moon on our computers or televisions; we cannot sit in our dens and living rooms and feel the wonders of our surroundings and know that somewhere up there a loving and caring God is watching.

We must be a part of our creation; we must smell the campfires and taste the crisp evening air. And, as we feel the chill of the evening and listen to the lullaby of the autumn winds across the hills, we will know that our God is forever present and all is well within our souls. And, as the fox hounds race in the distance, you will know that peace of mind is at hand.

 (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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