The Hunters of Kentucky
We spent 5 hours running beagles all over the hills of Green County yesterday. The 12 gauge Ithaca I traded for last spring felt good in my hands and I was glad to have it. The dogs ran like champs and we put rabbits in the freezer. For us hunting season mostly ends this weekend. Rabbit, geese, ducks, quail. All of them off-limits for the next eight months. Seed catalogs have started arriving and during February I will make the mental transition from hunter to gardener. It’s bittersweet, like the end of all good things, but turkey season will offer a brief return to the woods in April. I’ll spend the summer tending tomatoes and beans, cucumbers and lettuce. Not a terrible way to spend the off-season.
It’s at this time every year that I am reminded of one of my favorite poems. ‘The Hunters of Kentucky’ celebrated the critical role that Kentucky riflemen played in Jackson’s victory in the Battle of New Orleans. For a kid from the Bluegrass and a lifelong outdoorsman, it’s also a fun way to brag a bit. Mostly it just makes me happy.
The Hunters of Kentucky.
Ye gentlemen and ladies fair, who grace this famous city,
Just listen, if you’ve time to spare, while I rehearse a ditty;
And for the opportunity conceive yourselves quite lucky,
For ’tis not often that you see a hunter from Kentucky.
Oh, Kentucky! the hunters of Kentucky.
We are a hardy free-born race, each man to fear a stranger,
Whate’er the game we join in chase, despising toil and danger;
And if a daring foe annoys, whate’er his strength and forces,
We’ll show him that Kentucky boys are alligator horses.
Oh, Kentucky, &c.
I s’pose you’ve read it in the prints, how Packenham attempted
To make old Hickory Jackson wince, but soon his schemes repented;
For we with rifles ready cocked, thought such occasion lucky,
And soon around the general flocked the hunters of Kentucky.
You’ve heard, I s’pose, how New Orleans is famed for wealth and beauty
There’s girls of every hue, it seems, from snowy white to sooty.
So Packenham he made his brags, if he in fight was lucky,
He’d have their girls and cotton bags in spite of old Kentucky.
But Jackson he was wide awake, and wasn’t scared at trifles,
For well he knew what aim we take with our Kentucky rifles;
So he led us down to Cyprus swamp, the ground was low and mucky,
There stood John Bull in martial pomp, and here was old Kentucky.
A bank was raised to hide our breast, not that we thought of dying,
But then we always like to rest unless the game is flying;
Behind it stood our little force, none wished it to be greater,
For every man was half a horse and half an alligator.
They did not let our patience tire, before they showed their faces—
We did not choose to waist our fire, So snugly kept our places;
But when so near to see them wink, we thought it time to stop ’em,
And ‘twould have done you good I think to see Kentuckians drop ’em
They found at last ’twas vain to fight, where lead was all their booty,
And so they wisely took to flight, and left us all our beauty,
And now if danger e’er annoys, remember what our trade is,
Just send for us Kentucky boys, and we’ll protect your ladies.