The Long Hillside

Thomas Nelson Page
The Long Hillside, by Thomas
Nelson Page

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Title: The Long Hillside A Christmas Hare-Hunt In Old Virginia 1908
Author: Thomas Nelson Page
Release Date: November 16, 2007 [EBook #23514]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by David Widger

By Thomas Nelson Page

Charles Scribner's Sons New York, 1908
Copyright, 1891, 1904, 1906

There do not seem to be as many hares now as there used to be when I
was a boy. Then the "old fields" and branch-bottoms used to be full of
them. They were peculiarly our game; I mean we used to consider that
they belonged to us boys. They were rather scorned by the
"gentlemen," by which was meant the grown-up gentlemen, who shot
partridges over the pointers, and only picked up a hare when she got in
their way. And the negroes used to catch them in traps or "gums,"
which were traps made of hollow gum-tree logs. But we boys were the
hare-hunters. They were our property from our childhood; just as much,
we considered, as "Bruno" and "Don," the beautiful "crack" pointers,
with their brown eyes and satiny ears and coats, were "the
The negroes used to set traps all the Fall and Winter, and we, with the
natural tendency of boys to imitate whatever is wild and primitive, used
to set traps also. To tell the truth, however, the hares appeared to have a
way of going into the negroes' traps, rather than into ours, and the
former caught many to our one.
Even now, after many years, I can remember the delight of the frosty
mornings; the joy with which we used to peep through the little panes
of the dormer-windows at the white frost over the fields, which
promised stronger chances of game being caught; the eagerness with
which, oblivious of the cold, we sped through the garden, across the
field, along the ditch banks, and up by the woods, making the round of
our traps; the expectancy with which we peeped over the whitened
weeds and through the bushes, to catch a glimpse of the gums in some
"parf" or at some clearly marked "gap"; our disappointment when we
found the door standing open and the trigger set just as we had left it
the mormng before; our keen delight when the door was down; the dash

for the trap; the scuffle to decide which should look in first; the peep at
the brown ball screwed up back at the far end; the delicate operation, of
getting the hare out of the trap; and the triumphant return home,
holding up our spoil to be seen from afar. We were happier than we
So far to show how we came to regard hares as our natural game, and
how, though to be bird-hunters we had to grow up, we were
hare-hunters as boys. The rush, the cheers, the yells, the excitement
were a part of the sport, to us boys the best part.
Of course, to hunt hares we had to have dogs--at least boys must
have--the noise, the dash, the chase are half the battle.
And such dogs as ours were!
It was not allowable to take bird-dogs after hares. I say it was not
allowable; I do not say it was not done, for sometimes, of course, the
pointers would come, and we could not make them go back. But the
hare-dogs were the puppies and curs, terriers, watch-dogs, and the
nondescript crew which belonged to the negroes, and to the plantation
What a pack they were! Thin, undersized black-and-tans, or spotted
beasts of doubtful breed, called "houn's" by courtesy; long legged,
sleepy watch-dogs from the "quarters," brindled or "yaller" mongrels,
which even courtesy could not term other than "kyur dogs";
sharp-voiced "fises," busier than bees, hunting like fury, as if they
expected to find rats in every tuft of grass; and, when the hares got up,
bouncing and bobbing along, not much bigger than the "molly
cottontails" they were after, getting in everyone's way and receiving
sticks and stones in profusion, but with their spirits unbroken. And all
these were in one incongruous pack, growling, running, barking, ready
to steal, fight, or hunt, whichever it happened to be.
We used to have hunts on Saturdays, just we boys, with perhaps a black
boy or two
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