Driving down to Brighton
in my swift de Dion Bouton,
I ran over several trippers.
Squashed ’em “aussi mort que mouton”.
What a nuisance trippers are
I must now repaint my car.
This is one of many ditties that my grandfather repeatedly recited as my dad and his siblings were growing up. I was very young when my grandfather passed away and was too little to remember the great poems, ditties, songs, and words of wisdom that he loved to share with his friends and family. Luckily, with the right trigger words, my dad, aunt, and uncle, will launch into a recitation of these ditties and tell me more about my grandfather.
The above ditty regarding turning tourists into mutton was dutifully recited as we followed the local fox hunt through the hills of Roxburgh and drove by a van full of German trippers looking out over Scott’s View.
Overlooking the River Tweed, this spot was allegedly a favorite viewing point of Sir Walter Scott. The favorite local story says that he stopped there so frequently that eventually, his horses learned to stop without command. They even stopped to look out over the view during Scott’s funeral procession through the Borders.
Now, as I previously mentioned, we were out chasing a fox hunt when we encountered these trippers.
In case you are unfamiliar with the concept of a fox hunt, it’s pretty simple: you are on horseback following hounds that are chasing a fox’s scent. The tradition began in 16th century England as a form of pest control when farmers started training their dogs to track the scents of various pests, like deer and foxes. The farmers then started following their hounds on horseback to track and kill the vermin.
It wasn’t until the 18th century that hunting on horseback became gentrified and was considered a sport. This was mostly due to deer hunting becoming more difficult as land was parceled and fenced off around England.
Many things about fox hunting have changed over the centuries, including the addition of 4x4s, radio communication, and chase by car. What has remained the same is the social aspect, the hunt master’s pink coat, and the ultimate goal of catching a fox.
Thank goodness for radio communication because that’s how we found the current location of the hunt despite showing up an hour and a half late. My aunt was calling and radioing her friends to find out the best place for us to set up and watch. Where we ended up pulling over looked down across a plowed field then up to the top of a ridge of farmland.
We hadn’t been there long when suddenly, a red fox ran across the plowed field straight toward us!
My aunt told everyone to not make a sound so as not to cause the fox to change course. As it passed through the middle of the road, the fox stopped for a moment and looked quizzically at us, then dashed through the fence to the next field and off through the hills.
The second the fox was through to the next field, my aunt started hooting and hollering at those on horseback that were 200 yards away to let them know that the fox had gotten away from them. The bad news for the hunt at this point was that the fox got a good 5-minute head start on them after it scurried past us.
Once we pointed the hunt master in the right direction, we quickly hopped back in the car to chase the hunt back over to Scott’s View. It was here that we encountered the van of German trippers. We didn’t end up smooshing any of them into mutton, so I had to settle with taking pictures of the perturbed sheep instead.
As the hounds scoured the fields for a trace of the fox, I took advantage of the photo opportunity and the interesting lighting coming over the hills.
Fortunately for the fox, but unfortunately for the hunt, the wily fox outsmarted the hounds and lived to be chased another day.
Hopefully, it won’t lead us to trippers next go round.