This time of year my thoughts linger back to the days of my youth and my dad and our coon hunting days (or nights, that is.)
Dad was a coal miner. He worked all day in an underground mine, then after supper had settled, He would say. “Boys (me and brother Tom,) get your boots on. It’s time to go hunting.”
Then we proceeded to try and find a pair of galoshes (rubber overshoes) in a pile that would fit us. Mine were usually 3 sizes too big.
Dad would get out his carbide light. He would then take off the bottom part and fill it with carbide, then fill the top part with water. Before he put the bottom part on he would spit on it, screw it back on quickly then rub his hand across the reflector where the flint wheel was. Then, presto, a flame came out of the nozzle. Then he would move lever back and forth on the top to regulate how much water to add to the carbide to keep the flame the size he wanted. He also got out his five-cell (D batteries) flashlight with a strap taped on both ends so he could wear it across his shoulder. That bright light could shine out the coons in the trees after they were treed.
Us boys always carried the rifle (unloaded) and some of the coons.
I remember some of the coon hounds we had. O Ring, Puny and Fanny all were Bluetick breeds. O Ring was not a hound but a Shepherd mix.
He was a little unusual as a coon dog goes. He wouldn’t bark when on a coon trail. Only when he treed a coon. That meant that he would get close to the coon before he was discovered. The coon then would have to climb the nearest tree and not just a tree of his choice.
Dad was a big man, over six feet, square-shouldered and raw-boned. He could never find gloves to fit his rather large hands. And when coon hunting, he never complained of it being cold. I always thought that when he smoked, that is cigarettes kept him and his hands warm. Ha!
After walking into the fields and woods for a while, the dogs would pick up a coon trail.
The dogs would usually consists of two older dogs and a 6-month old pup or two. The pups would learn from the older dogs how to chase coons.
After getting a coon track, the dogs sounded off with a long howl and a few yelps from the pups.
Then they would try to out bark each other. Boy, what a sound of excitement in the air. We would stay and listen to them bark sometimes for 20 minutes or so. And, boy, did my feet get cold. If I wanted to stomp them on the ground I had to move away from Dad. He didn’t allow any noise around him as the dogs got farther away, over a hill or the wind blew away from us, and he could barely hear them. Then all at once he would say, “Listen, hear that? Old Fannie’s treed.”
The bark was a short loud bark toward the sky with a steady rhythm. Then the race was on. We had to stay close to Dad; he had the light.
Through the bushes and briars and brambles we went. First you’re hit in the face with limbs from bushes then you were in water, then you were in a briar patch; ouch, ouch, all the way.
Finally we arrived, the dogs were trying to climb the tree, they were barking at the top of their voices. What a loud, exciting night.
Then Dad would turn on the five-cell flashlight and try to find that coon in all the leaves and branches. Then we loaded up the rifle and took turns trying to hit the coon. His eyes reflecting the light back is mostly what we saw.
Lots of times he would fall out after being shot, not dead, but really, really mad. Then the fight was on.
I’ve seen a big coon hold off three or four dogs at a time. They have a ferocious fight and four feet with sharp claws. They can bite the dog all the way through their lips nose and ears, stripping their ears. But occasionally we had a dog or two, usually a female, that could kill a big coon quickly. They knew how and when to bite a coon, usually behind the neck, and hang on, or grab him by the throat.
After the fight we headed on to find another coon track or toward the house, carrying our coons with us.
One night we went coon hunting just to run the dogs. You could hunt coons about three or four weeks ahead of the regular season, but you couldn’t shoot them.
My older brother, Cordell, was with us. He was about 15 years old. The dogs treed a coon up a big poplar tree, it was about 24 inches across and with no limbs until about 30 feet up. At about 30 feet a grapevine ran into the tree. Dad looked at Cordell and said, “Do you think you can climb it?”
Cordell said, “Yo!” so up he went.
I was thinking, “He can’t climb that tree.”
I was 8 or 9 years old at the time.
He hugged that tree with his arms and legs and up he went like an inchworm
Dad was shining his light all the time and he already knew where the coon was.
Cordell found the coon and somehow either shook or threw him out of the tree.
Then the fight was on until they could, with help, pull the dogs back and let them go.
Another time, my brother Tom, me and dad went coon hunting and it lasted all night.
It started about 7 p.m. after supper on a Friday night, then we came back home about 11:30.
We all got in the car, dogs and all, and went to Brazil to look for Jim McClelland (I think that was his name.) We found him at Albright’s all night garage and restaurant, located close to where Walmart is now, drinking coffee.
He had told Dad earlier that he had permission to hunt somewhere south of Harmony.
We got to the place, turned the dogs loose, and the chase was on.
The dogs caught two coons on the ground in a cornfield (that had been picked) then about 10 minutes later got another coon in a cornfield close by.
Both circumstances were uncommon.
Well, on the way to the dog and coon fight, we had to walk close to a creek bank, out in a pasture. The creek bank was cut straight down about 6 or 7 feet.
For some reason, Jim got a little too close and over he went.
We helped him back up the bank.
Dad was sort of grinning. I wondered then if Jim had been drinking a little something besides coffee. I’ll never know.
What a night. We got back home on the county line, just as the sun came up. And we all went down dead tired.
I don’t coon hunt anymore. I must have got foundered.
Oh it was very adventurous, but if dad came back and wanted me to go coon hunting again I’d say, “Don’t think so tonight. I still haven’t got rested up from those long and treacherous hunts that started 67 years ago.”