From November to May, a few dozen miles from Hollywood, scarlet-coated riders follow the hounds across the rugged ranch country north of Malibu, into the valleys of Oxnard and sometimes, if the quarry dictates it, up through a sycamore grove to the bluffs that overlook the Pacific. The quarry in this Far Western adaptation of the traditional English fox hunt is the wily coyote—bigger than a fox, faster, and seldom run to earth, offering a fine, difficult chase to the members of the West Hills Hunt Club.
Joint Master of the Hunt, together with Movie Actor Dan Dailey, is Thomas Welles (Tim) Durant, an all-round sportsman who counts—in addition to horsemanship—baseball, tennis and cooking among his special skills. At his house in Beverly Hills, Durant enjoys treating his fellow huntsmen to such tasty dishes as the brook trout with almonds which he is shown serving on the opposite page. His hunting companions at West Hills include Film Stars Jose Ferrer, Ronald Reagan and Joan Fontaine, as well as John Huston, the director. It was Huston who persuaded Tim to take the part of the general in The Red Badge of Courage—a role played entirely in the saddle—by telling him, "It's much easier to teach riders to act than it is to teach actors to ride."
Tim Durant found out how to sit a horse at the age of 7. A tall, lean New Englander with a soft voice, he moved to California in 1936 and has been associated with various producers in the motion picture business. He now divides his time between Beverly Hills and a home in Washington, Conn., where he and his second wife Mary, a fine horsewoman, are active in local hunt circles. They were married in January, 1953. The place: John Huston's house in County Kildare, Ireland. The wedding celebration: a fox hunt.
Durant, who is a past president of the United Hunts Racing Association, has engaged in almost every manner of competitive riding in many parts of the world. He hopes some day, before putting away his tack, to ride in that toughest of the world's equestrian trials, the Grand National at Aintree. The ambition was almost realized in 1957, when he bought the high-weighted Irish steeplechaser, Sam Brownthorne, and crossed the ocean for the event, only to meet disappointment when the horse was injured before the race.
Durant acquired his love of horses from his father, who drove trotters at county fairs and also owned the Waterbury, Conn, baseball team. Tim was the team's bat boy before he went on to play first base at Andover and Yale. He had a season of semiprofessional ball on Cape Cod and was given a tryout with the Cincinnati Reds before deciding to pass up a possible career in the game for a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Running true to the Durant bloodline, Tim's daughter, Marjorie, is not only a brilliant horsewoman but a champion swimmer as well, twice winner of the marathon La Jolla race. She is married to Ron Waller, a famous halfback at the University of Maryland and for several years a backfield star of the Los Angeles Rams.
As a cook, Tim Durant favors simple preparations and is a strong advocate of aluminum foil. He learned about foil cookery years ago from Charlie Chaplin on a camping trip. For outdoor cooking it has distinct advantages, since the heavy grade of foil can be shaped easily into leakproof pots, Dutch ovens, etc., eliminating the need for carrying these bulky utensils. Regular-weight foil can be wrapped around meat, vegetables or other foods and the silvery packages laid on a grill for cooking—or dropped right into the embers.
For use indoors, Durant points out that foil serves a special purpose in eliminating kitchen smells in the house that does not boast perfect ventilation. The smell of a cooking trout, for example, when wrapped in foil, is entirely sealed in with the juice of the fish—and so, he believes, is the flavor. Of course, like any food cooked in foil, the exterior of the fish will be moist. For the sportsman who must have the skin of his trout crisp, this is not the method to use. For the one with an open mind on the subject, here is Tim Durant's prescription:
BROOK TROUT WITH ALMONDS (serves four)
4 medium-size brook trout
¼ pound blanched, slivered almonds
½ pound butter
Place each trout on a piece of aluminum foil (the heavier grade is best). Put 2 tablespoons of blanched, slivered almonds in the cavity of each fish. Pack the cavity with butter, and put more butter on top of and beneath the fish. Use 4 tablespoons of butter for each trout. Wrap foil carefully around the fish so that it is completely sealed. Cook in the oven at 350° for 25 minutes. Unwrap trout, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with lemon wedges.
UNWRAPPING FOIL, Tim Durant prepares to serve trout with creamed new potatoes, a salad, sour-dough bread and beer. Among trophies is the Motion Picture Tennis Championship Cup, which he won in doubles partnership with Charles Boyer.