DAVE ISAY(DI), SHADE PATE(SP), HINKEL SCHILLINGS(HS) and ANOTHER HUNTER
(Sound of dogs clinking and whining in cages.)
DI: It’s Friday evening, and the sun has just set in Logan, Texas. Three beat up Ford pickup trucks are parked here at a clearing in the woods. On the back of each truck sits a cage holding a half-dozen eager foxhounds.
SP: Got one in there named Sam, one Strychnine, one Smoky, one Lucky . . .
DI: That’s Shade Pate surveying his hounds. At 77 years of age, Shade is a veteran of the hunt.
SP: Another one’s named Black Booger. Another one’s named Cover Girl . . .
DI: Moments later, Shade Pate unlatches the gate on the cage and his hounds leap out and race, gracefully, towards the woods.
(Sound of cages opening up, and hounds jumping out.)
DI: The other cages are thrown open as well. And the foxhunt begins. Almost immediately, an eerie sound rises from the distance.
(Sound of distant yelping.)
HS: Listen there.
DI: Ninety-year old Hinkel Schillings is the dean of the East Texas foxhunters.
HS: It’s music to a hunter’s ears.
DI: Indeed that’s about all there is to fox hunting — listening. There is no kill — the hounds simply chase the foxes through the woods around and around and around in circles. And the hunters listen to them bark.
HS: Each dog’s got a different voice. I hear old Sam.
(Shade Pate lets out a ”whoop.”)
HS: Old Shade’s got to holler when he hears old Smoky.
DI: Shade Pate and Hinkel Schillings have been hunting together now for more than sixty years. Hinkel Schillings is Shade Pate’s uncle, and partner in this rather unique past time of the rural south.
HS: Get to it Jim!
SP: Come on Sam . . .
DI: Shade Pate and Hinkel Schillings wander away from the empty dog cages and walk towards a campfire to join the handful of other men who’ve come out for the hunt tonight: Shade’s son and a couple of his friends from work.
They sit down around the fire on rusty chairs and a broken down couch and settle in for the night. It’s just after seven in the evening now, and the hunt will go on until the dogs get tired and return to their cages sometime after dawn.
HS: We’ve seen the sun come up lots of mornings o’ huntin’, and not sleep a wink all night.
SP: You hear that ”nyup nyup nyup nyup nyup” real fast — that’s old Smoky. You hear one of them bawlin’ ones, ”howww howwww” — that’s a dog we call Eagle. You hear that ”how how how how.”
DI: The barking. That’s what it’s all about. The hunters call it ”giving mouth.” They know the voice of each of their hounds — there are about 20 running tonight. They can tell from the bark how close the hounds are to the game, which hound is in the lead. This, Hinkel Schillings explains, is ”the music of the chase.”
HS: There’s all types of voices. There’s tenor, alto, bass, sopraner, and baritone. You take old Jim and Sam’s got bass voices. Well, you take there’s Smoky, he’s got a baritone voice. Well, you take old Cheater, he’s got a tenor voice. Well, you take Cover Girl . . .
DI: The half-dozen men sit around the fire talking and listening, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee from a thermos, chewing tobacco.
(One of the hunters spits loudly.)
Shade Pate and Hinkel Schillings dominate the conversation, bantering back and forth about hounds with a familiarity forged by countless nights just like this one. Shade, slightly heavyset and toothless, a hearing aid in one ear, his uncle Hinkel looking a good deal younger than 90 years of age — a spry man in blue jeans, wisps of white hair on either side of his head. Sitting here under the stars, Hinkel seems thoroughly content.
HS: What a beautiful night that we’ve got — full moon, about 32 degrees, still. And the hounds are running hard out, all around about us. But I want to tell you about a hound I had called Bone Hill Billy. He had distemper when he was a puppy that left him with a stiff hind leg that jerked, but he went to runnin’ and he was outstanding. And he could tell you just how close he was to his game the way he give his mouth. He started off — if he was trailing, he was way behind his game — it was just ”yaw yaw oohh oooh ooh ooh.” And then as he warmed up it was ”ho ho ho hoooo hooo ho ho ho hooo.” And he’d thrill you to death! Now Shade, I want you to tell him about old 47. He was an outstanding hound that Shade had just a few year ago.
SP: Well, 47, he was a white dog, beautiful dog. He had a big old heavy chop mouth, ”yop yop yop yop yop yop.” You’d know him every time he barked.
HS: Shade, I want you to mock old Smokey.
SP: Well, Elmer Hancock owned him . . .
DI: The hours fly by peacefully. Lots of hound tales, a little talk about politics, a little about sports. Long silences . . .. The men look down, jam their hands into their pockets, stare at the ground, take in the hound music. Every 45 minutes or so the routine is punctuated by a crossing — when the pack, on its endless chase, emerges from woods, and shoots right by the men. The hunters can tell when its coming. The younger ones stand up. All eyes turn towards the woods, towards the exact spot from which the pack will momentarily appear. And then it happens.
(Sound of dogs flying by.)
SP: Hound Jes-us.
ANOTHER HUNTER: Whoop. Whoop.
DI: The dogs shoot by in a blur. A ghostly train, then it’s over. The younger men sit back down, more tales get swapped, the hours pass . . .. Sitting here, it’s hard to imagine a finer way to spend a night than listening to this symphony of hounds with Hinkel Schillings — the dean of the East Texas fox hunters.
HS: Out under the stars, you can gain a lot of knowledge about what God has put here and the mysteries that he holds for us.
HS: You get a lot of lessons out a huntin’ under the stars, listening to your hounds. It’s wonderful.