Tales of a Rat-Hunting Man (Wilder Places)

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9781558215955: Tales of a Rat-Hunting Man (Wilder Places)

Rat hunters are usually regarded as some kind of lunatic by the public at large, and, on reflection, the public at large may well be right. Verily, a rat hunter's lot is not a happy one! First, he must condition himself to expect his wife to leave him, his friends to point the finger of scorn and his boss to wonder whether he has a future with the firm. So advises Brian Plummer, whose notoriety as a rat-catcher began at age ten. Tales of a Rat-Hunting Man, first published in Britain in 1978, is both a serious book on rats and their habits and an autobiographical account of Plummer's eccentric and entertaining life. But the heart of this book focuses on Plummer's obsession with ratting -- and he discusses the uses of ferrets and terriers, including their training and entering.

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Review:

After the initial shock of even considering a rat-catching professional, the title and content of this book are intriguing. The rat is "the unheralded game-animal of Great Britain," so much so that its proponents are feared and reviled as not quite "right." But from the time D. Brian Plummer received his first rat terrier at the age of 10, he dedicated himself to the sport of rat-catching using either dogs or ferrets. He actually enjoys killing rats and is pleased to share his techniques. Thank goodness for Plummer's wit and charm, which make the experience of reading about such nasty creatures a delight.

From Kirkus Reviews:

The outlandish sport of ratting is imbued with character and purpose by the square-pegged pen of British novelist and sportswriter Plummer. Reared in the mining squalor and poverty of Wales, the youthful Plummer found little solace at home, so he took to rat hunting in the great raunchy outdoors, amid maggot factories and trash dumps: ``On a clear day, when they were not burning bones or rubbish, you could actually see the splendour of the near-by sewer beds.'' He learned a thing or two about ferrets (jills are best for the hunt, as hobs are a tad burly), ratting dogs (Sealyham blood for strength, some Bedlington blood for agility, a spot of bull for that extra something, as rats don't go down without a fight), and the good, old brown rat, with its mysterious origins and doleful history. Read this as a ratting primer--tips on feeding rats to ferrets in socially tenuous settings; the wisdom of tucking one's trousers into one's socks while hunting; whether a Lakeland, border, or Jack Russell is best (favoring Jack Russells despite their blend, he goes on to note, ``No, `blend' is the wrong word, for it implies judicious eugenics. I think `hideous hotchpotch' is more accurate''). But that would be to deny the book (originally published in England in 1978) its neat dissection of the British class system; its law-unto-itself effrontery; its baleful delineation of landscape and Plummer's own part therein, regarded by some as an anachronism and by others as lunatic; it would be to deny the book its soul-felt grace. Plummer coaxes nobility (he would cringe at the word) from his craft, for as a rat hunter he is shrewd, encyclopedic, beneficent, and mesmeric. (line drawings) -- Copyright 1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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