A Research Guide for Students by I Lee

Autobiography of Carl Kaas

A Member of the Dutch Underground in World War II

Chapter 13: Fox Hunt

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Vossenjacht (foxhound). This was a kind of hunting too, but totally different from the mayor's sport. In this case, you had to be a real horseman (Ruiter) and a good rider and jumper.

First, you had to belong to a club, which consisted of the elite (Adel) - barons, lords, earls or whatever them bigwigs called themselves. Then you had to have a stable of riding horses, etc. So you see, this was far above our simple way of life. But we had the benefit of being the host, if you want to call it that, to this selected group of citizen sportsmen.

This event too took place once a year, after the harvest. When we kids heard about it, we became very excited. A few days before the hunt, some men came around and visited several farms, asking for the farmers' permission to race through their fields. They probably bribed them for a buck or so. Anyway, all the farmers consented.

On a nice sunny day, the route was laid out. Workmen came in the morning dragging a bundle of wet straw, supposedly fox manure, through the countryside, across ditches, barbwire fences, through hedges and fields and into the far yonder.

Then in the afternoon, after three o'clock, when school was out, we all raced to the place where they would cross the Hamersveld weg. This was a fairly good place to watch. One could see them coming from a long way off.

Those hunting parties sure were a sight to see: magnificent horses with their heads high in the air like they knew they were something special. And in our little wide open eyes, they were something special. Not a bunch of draft horses, these. No, these beasts could trot, run, gallop and jump.

Then there were the horsemen (ruiters). How beautiful they looked with their special uniforms: a black cap, a red jacket with white pants and black leather boots. Onlookers came from faraway places: rich people with expensive clothes, and ladies with fancy hats.

One lady had something I had never seen before. It was a walking stick with something funny towards the top. I figured I had better keep an eye on it - it was no use to ask anyone because no one else had anything like it. I could not ask the lady herself - she was of such a high class it was not permitted. The only way a person could talk to her would be to walk up to her, take your hat off and keep your eyes down. Well, I was not up to that. Besides, I didn't have a hat. Eventually I did find out. It was a fold up seat on one leg. What will they think of next? Papa wondered.

The longer we had to wait, the more the tension grew. We listened carefully because the first sign of them coming was the howling of the dogs. Finally we heard them, far away but growing louder and louder until we could see them: big dogs - red and white with big floppy ears, noses to the ground, criss crossing and running but steadily coming our way. There must have been ten or fifteen with their tails flopping from side to side, their ears bobbing up and down but with their noses to the ground as if they really smelled something. They kept on yelping, barking, howling and growling. Right behind them came the riders - what a fantastic show!

With the rider high in the saddle, the first horse took a graceful leap over the first fence, then over the second fence, then over the ditch beside the road (where we were watching), one jump in the middle of the road and he leapt over the ditch on the other side and he was into open field again.

A hedge is looming in front of him but we didn't have time to watch him anymore because a whole bunch together were trying to take the obstacles. Here was where the real fun began for all us kids. We tried to watch them all at the same time.

Some horses went over the fence gracefully but then others refused and turned right around, much to the chagrin of the rider. Still others raced right up to the fence as if they were going to jump but changed their mind at the last second, put on all four brakes and dumped the rider unceremoniously on the ground. We thought it was wonderful.

Some horses tried a few times but figured it to be impossible so the rider gave up and steered the horse around the fence through a gate to the following obstacle to try it all over again, which of course was a disgrace.

Some of the riders looked awful - proof that they fell off their horse with their beautiful red coats and white pants full of mud and grass stains. When the last rider jumped the hedge and disappeared, and the bigwigs climbed back in their automobiles and showed their back bumpers, it was all over for another year.

However, stories continued to circulate about other places where riders got thrown in the water or where horse and rider plunged in, but that of course was further down the trail. We had what I called our day at the races.

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