To See Them Run
Great Plains Coyote Coursing
An unforgettable and up-close portrait of the men and dogs who hunt coyotes
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.
Eliason has written a compelling ethnographic account of his fieldwork among the men and hounds who sustain the coyote coursing (hunt) traditions of the Great Plains. But the work is more than an interesting monograph on a small group of people trying to maintain a folk tradition in the face of animal rights pressures and ill-conceived government policies. Eliason uses the culture of this tradition to make larger, important points about the evolution of cultural and biological systems, about the evolutionary significance of the human pleasures in finding things beautiful, and about the value of folk knowledge and folk ethics. Scott Squire's photographs more than merely illustrate the work. They show us how the images of visual ethnography can show us some subtle meanings that the words might miss or might be incapable of expressing as fully and as richly.- Jay Mechling, professor emeritus of American studies, University of California, Davis, and coeditor of American Wildlife in Symbol and Story
In To See Them Run, Eric Eliason has somehow woven his way thru a minefield of anti-hunters, neo-puritans, and aggrandizing urban blight to give us a study/narrative/reportage, at once scholarly and vernacular, about a little-known pursuit across America's remaining open range. Along the way he peels back layers of history in the man-dog cultural evolution, and he knows when to get out of the way and let today's Great Plains nimrods describe the hounds, the prey, and the curious thrall of the chase. Finally, we get to see them run too, via the medium of Scott Squire's excellent complementary photography. An extraordinary book.- M. H. Dutch Salmon, author of Gazehounds & Coursing: The History, Art, and Sport of Hunting With Sighthounds and Tales of the Chase: Hound-Dogs, Catfish, and Other Pursuits Afield
To See Them Run offers a significant contribution to documenting an American sporting tradition that few know exists. With respect, and with humor, Eliason and Squire provide a fascinating look into the complex relationships between man and beast, and for the first time, shed light on the traditional ecological knowledge found in the Great Plains coyote coursing community.- Cat Urbigkit, Wyoming rancher and author of Shepherds of Coyote Rocks: Public Lands, Private Herds, and the Natural World
I commend Eliason for his work to introduce outsiders to this small, and likely soon to be eliminated, subculture of the hunting community.- Stephen M. Vantassel, Great Plains Research Vol. 27 No. 1, 2017