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Articles

Crazy Like A Fox


2017/11/03


By Tommy Brannon

Crazy Like A Foxis the tenth book in a series of mystery novels set in Central Virginia by writer and foxhunter Rita May Brown. This book, and the whole series, is as much about the sport of foxhunting in America as it is about “who dun it.” For those uninitiated in the sport, the author begins with a glossary of the characters, both human and animal, commonly used terms of the sport, and the locations of all of the action. This is handy because there are lots of characters in this book. The animals including, horses, hounds, foxes, both red and gray, birds, house dogs, and cats talk to each other – even between species, but the humans are clueless to the animal dialog.

Crazy like a Foxis a ghost story. Jane Arnold, MFH, known as “Sister,” is the binding thread of the series. She is a widow in her 70s who is just as fit and capable of riding and hunting as she was in her youth. She is the undisputed master of the Jefferson Hunt, founded by her family in 1887. Her personality lends itself to being the leader, contemplative, direct at times, diplomatic at times, and the wisdom to know the appropriate time for each.

The alleged ghost in the story is Wesley Carruthers, known as “Weevil.” He was the Huntsman for the Jefferson Hunt from 1947-1954 when he disappeared without a trace. Weevil was “as beautiful as a Greek God,” a great huntsman, but a notorious womanizer. Everyone assumed, at the time he disappeared, that had met his demise at the hand of some irate husband. The thing is – he shows up on a 21st century video, as young and handsome as ever, recorded on a cell phone, which has been misplaced and left on a display case at the Museum Of Hounds and Hunting. This is the same display case where Weevil’s cow horn has recently gone missing. The distinctive sound of that horn, with the proper hunting calls, is heard at the end of several hunts, as if Weevil were blowing it. Weevil also appears as a specter to Tom Tipton, who now in his nineties, was Weevil’s Whipper-In.

As all of the people still alive who knew Weevil are now nonagenarians, solving this mystery is a real challenge for Sister and her friends. She interviews as many as she can, and extensively researches with minutiae, the history of both the Jefferson Hunt and the region.

Intertwined in this story are some exciting descriptions of hunts, not only narrated in third person, but also with dialog from the hounds, the fox, the horses, plus an observant bird or two.  Foxhunters will love this perspective!

It is obvious that fox hunting is in the DNA of the author. In an interview, Rita May Brown said the she grew up in the sport and was taught to ride by her mother, who was an avid fox hunter. She said that some things have changed over the years in the sport, but traditions have, for the most part, remained. She noted that when she was a child, everyone rode Thoroughbreds, but she now sees lots of other breeds. Hunting is as good as ever in her part of Virginia and with her pack. She welcomes newbies to the sport and in her hunt gives them leeway to learn the traditions, rules, and dress. She says that most are quick to catch on and participate. “The traditional clothing gives them confidence,” she said, and she loves sharing her sport with others.

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