Possibly the secret of that ghostly voice of Bugle Ann ringing through the hills of Missouri is to be found in the (following) recipe.
JUICE OF 1/2 LEMON
JUICE OF 1/2 ORANGE
2 1/2 OUNCES OF GIN
Pour Over Two Large Cubes of Ice in Tall Glass and Spray Tenderly with Seltzer from Siphon — not Bottled Soda. Don’t Stir. Drink in Thirsty Gulps. Repeat at Quick Intervals until You Begin to Bay Like a Fox Hound.
-From So Red the Nose
I love this drink for giving me an excuse to buy my new favorite bar toy: the old fashioned seltzer bottle — aka the soda siphon/syphon. Seriously, I cuddle this thing to sleep every night.
For those not in the know, seltzer bottles were the mechanism by which drinkers got fizziness into their cups before the days of fountain drinks, six-packs of Dr. Pepper, and the SodaStream. People required enough carbonation back then that you could actually get the the bottles, pre-filled with C02, delivered to your doorstep, right next to your milk and eggs. Modern readers, however, are probably most familiar with them as those things vintage clowns got blasted with.
This particular carbonated drink is pleasant, but not really delicious. Orange, lemon, gin, bubbles — these are all things I like; however, Bugle Ann has a very mild flavor, especially compared to the other citrus-based drink I sampled, the pungently sweet and sour Years of Grace. Of the two, I like the latter better, but really they are just different in type. Think of this drink as gin and soda, with just a little citrus flavor, rather than as an orange-flavored mixed drink.
You wouldn’t think that a man like that could ever be tried for murder, or become a convict.
Those things did happen to Spring Davis, at eighty-two. They didn’t affect him as they would have affected most men of eighty-two. Whenever he heard the gongs and whistles…He must have imagined instead that he was sitting by a fire at the edge of Bachelor’s timber, listening to the dogs as they hunted out of Chilly Branch Hollow, with Bugle Ann’s cry echoing against the blackness of the sky.
-From The Voice of Bugle Ann
I can definitively say that Mackinlay Kantor’s 1935 novel is the best book about foxhunting that I have ever read. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only reason it is still in circulation is that its current publisher does indeed maintain a library solely dedicated to the sport.
Regardless, Kantor was a respected and prolific writer in his time. Only 31 when So Red the Nose was published, he still had a lot of modern history left to experience, including reporting from the front lines during World War II and conspiring with one of the Hollywood Ten in the 1950’s. The former experience influenced his greatest achievement, the 1956 Pulitzer Prize-winning Andersonville, set in a Confederate POW camp.
In fact, most of Kantor’s work is rooted in a deep nostalgia for the Civil War, and we see the beginnings of this in The Voice of Bugle Ann. Though set in “modern” times, the main character, 82-year old Springfield Davis, is a venerated Civil War veteran.
Supporting characters include Davis’ son, said son’s over-the-fence Romeo/Juliet-style love interest, and, of course, Bugle Ann herself, the best foxhunter ever bred.
The book’s main characteristic is that it is extremely short. Like, so short that when I first saw it, I thought I had accidentally walked into the children’s section. I wouldn’t even call it a novella. It’s more like a longish short story that someone decided to bind.
Despite its brevity and a plot that includes a murder and a family blood feud, Bugle Ann is pretty slow-moving. Not in a negative way, in a this-takes-place-in-the-South,-so-let’s-linger-on-the-swelling-cicadas,-the-crackling-fire-in-the-quiet-of-a-country-night,-and-the-old-man-letting-his-beloved-dog-lick-his-face kind of way.
Forgotten classic or better left in the past?
There’s a certain type of person who will enjoy this story. If you think you can get sentimental about a gruff old farmer who affectionately calls his dog his “little lady,” you are one of those people. You also belong to this group if you like James Herriot, BBC sitcoms centered around spunky elderly characters, or the Southern childhood scenes of To Kill a Mockingbird.
And Bugle Ann is worth the read, if only because it will take about an hour of your life at most. It’s a lovely little piece of literature, with great pathos and a bit of a twist ending.
Kantor’s attention to the little details really sells the characters and turns them into believable human beings within just a few short pages. Still, less of a time investment often equals less of an emotional investment. I enjoyed Bugle Ann very much, but I think I will forget it quickly.
Welp. That’s all I really have to say about The Voice of Bugle Ann. It’s just so dang short.
Both digital and hardcopies of The Voice of Bugle Ann can be bought here.
Next time: A murder mystery by E. Phillips Oppenheim, the grandaddy of all British spy novelists, along with a drink that, by pure coincidence, is shaken, not stirred.