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To See Them Run: Great Plains Coyote Coursing

To See Them Run: Great Plains Coyote Coursing

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To See Them Run: Great Plains Coyote Coursing

138 pagine
1 ora
Oct 14, 2015


To See Them Run explores how and why Great Plains hunters have chased coyotes with greyhounds and other sight hounds since before George Armstrong Custer. Though a well-developed, long-lived, widespread, and undeniably enthralling tradition, the practice remains little known, even to those living in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and South Dakota, where the tradition is common. Coyote coursing, hunting with greyhounds launched from specially made pickup rigs, is a hobby by locals, for locals, and it has remained a quintessentially vernacular enterprise occupying a rung below the Plains' prestige forms of animal training and interaction--namely with horses and cattle. The coyote coursing tradition provides an ideal setting for exploring the relationship between animals and the study of folklore.

The book examines the artistry, thrills, values, camaraderie, economy, and controversies of this uncommercialized and never-before-studied vernacular tradition. Through ethnographic photographs and authentic collected commentary from participants, this book uncovers how hunting dogs and coyotes both have shaped and been shaped by human aesthetic sensibilities in ongoing folkloric and biological processes. Author Eric A. Eliason and photographer Scott Squire discover deep and sophisticated local knowledge in a unique interaction with the natural ecologies of the great North American prairie.

Oct 14, 2015

Informazioni sull'autore

Eric A. Eliason, Springville, Utah, is professor of folklore at Brigham Young University. He has published on hunting, as well as Caribbean, military, Mormon, Russian, English, Afghan, American, Mexican, and biblical cultural traditions. His books include Wild Games: Hunting and Fishing Traditions in North America with Dennis Cutchins, Latter-day Lore: Mormon Folklore Studies with Tom Mould, and Black Velvet Art with Scott Squire (published by University Press of Mississippi).

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To See Them Run - Eric A. Eliason

To See Them Run

Great Plains Coyote Coursing

Eric A. Eliason

Photographs by Scott Squire

Foreword by Stephen Bodio

The University Press of Mississippi is a member of the Association of American University Presses.

Publication is made possible in part by a grant from the College of Humanities, Brigham Young University.

Unless otherwise credited, photographs are by Scott Squire.

Copyright © 2015 by University Press of Mississippi

All rights reserved

Manufactured in Malaysia

First printing 2015

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Eliason, Eric A. (Eric Alden), 1967–

To see them run : Great Plains coyote coursing / Eric A. Eliason ; photographs by Scott Squire ; foreword by Stephen Bodio.

    pages cm

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-1-4968-0386-3 (cloth : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-1-4968-0387-0 (ebook) 1. Coyote trapping—Great Plains. 2. Coyote—Great Plains. 3. Tracking and trailing—Great Plains. 4. Prairie animals—Great Plains. I. Title. II. Title: Great Plains coyote coursing.

SK341.C65E45 2015



British Library Cataloging-in-Publication Data available


I love the jumping, leaping, baying right out of the box. But mostly I am in it to see them run. I’d follow them anywhere they go.

—Todd Fritz, coyote hunter

I am a writer by profession and scholar by inclination and an unabashed, old-fashioned, hands-on, tale-telling naturalist. My academic background is in evolutionary biology with a side dish of literature. Most of my books have been about the memes of human-animal interaction; as a falconer, pigeon breeder, and hound man, my passions have taken me from New England to the deserts of New Mexico, the fertile plains of Turkey, and the steppes of Central Asia to see, study, and enjoy hounds and horses, guardian dogs, hunting hawks and eagles, even pigeons. The ancient methods of work and sport with animals helped shape the way we all live, eat, even think. But until recently the fact that they were living practices seemed to be neglected by scholars, which is why I read To See Them Run with growing delight.

Hunting with hounds may be a perfect example of what Elizabeth Marshall Thomas calls the old ways; it is a practice that may date to our oldest human origins or even predate so-called modern humans. Humans have at very least worked with their co-evolved social partners for thousands of years. I have seen petroglyphs in the steppes of Central Asia six thousand years old that show hunters and hounds baying up big game. But, except perhaps for formal English fox hunting, hunting with hounds is an invisible practice, one that flies well under the academic cultural radar.

This is especially true of coursing, the sport of taking game or predators with what Eric Eliason’s hunting friends aptly call land rockets, practical, long dogs that run better than any track greyhound. These days the practice is banned in such places as densely populated England and most of Europe (though even there blue-collar hunters take deer and hare with lurchers similar to American coyote dogs). It now exists mostly in Russia, Central Asia, and the Middle East, and on the plains of North America, all places where those old ways persist.

To See Them Run is a scholarly but never boring appreciation of this ancient, vernacular practice, a book that shows how its participants themselves are a kind of evolved art, biofacts rather than artifacts.

Folklorist Eric Eliason and photographer Scott Squire celebrate local, vernacular knowledge rather than that of officialdom, saying, Practitioners close to a tradition are better positioned than others to make practical and moral judgments about it. While some ethnographers now routinely take account of the opinions of locals in Asia and Africa, it seems harder to do so in Nebraska. As Italian journalist Luigi Barzini once said, Scientists [and] managers . . . lack the humble skills of men who have to work with lackadaisical unpredictable nature, the skills so to speak, of sailors, fishermen, farmers, horse-tamers, the people who must at all costs avoid deceiving themselves. One old hunter Eliason interviews says, The new warden is . . . some young kid who grew up in the city and never hunted or lived in the country. . . . He just writes tickets to meet his quota. There is ten times more real knowledge about things like carrying capacity, ecological balance, and how disease passes through wild animal populations in one old farmer with coyote dogs than he’ll ever know.

The author does a good job evoking the salty dialogue of the hunters and writes vividly in his own voice as well. Here is his description of the hounds: Toned muscles flex and coil beneath taut skin and across long bones. Their eyes glow, focused yet calm. Everything about their lithe shape and smooth temper seems uniformly suited for serious speed. . . . [M]ost have Marine Corps short hair but some sport the coarse shag coats of recent Russian borzoi or Scottish deerhound crossbreeding. A few show the longer floppy ears and softer wavy hair of Arab saluki great-grandparents.

Scott Squire’s splendid photos are an integral part of the book, conceived of from the beginning as what Eliason called an experiment in synergy. Right from the start, writer and photographer planned to combine art, documentation, science, and folklore to achieve a synthesis greater than the parts. They have succeeded. While I have seen many informal coursing photos, I can truly say I have never seen any so expressive. Look at the sequence of dogs pouring out of the truck, then accelerating away after a coyote until they are nearly lost in the vast void of the landscape. He celebrates the stark loveliness of that land, one forgotten on the coasts and in the cities, and the functional beauty of the hounds, an esthetic far more moving than that produced by the arbitrary standards of show dogs. He celebrates plain people and their humble skills.

Squire’s photos of kids playing hound and coyote are both amusing and instructive. The photographer deliberately did not film a kill (probably the hunters, aware of the omnipresent, censoring eye of the animal rights groups, would have been reluctant anyway), but the kids were happy to act one out for him. I see a deeper significance in these photos too: he has taken pictures of kids in our culture playing as kids have played since the Pleistocene, playing out things they have seen and lived, without needing to strain images through a screen. Author Richard Louv worries about "the last child in the

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