Thursday, October 21, 2010
Coon Huntin'- Ain't Nothin' Like it!
The Hump Day boys and I spent this past Wednesday night like we usually do. We socialized, cooked some good food, and spoke about such things as football, fishing, and philosophy. Towards the end of the evening when things were dying down a little, my fellow mid week celebrator Hal W. pulled up his truck and started playing some Jerry Clower stories for the boy's entertainment. We all got a good laugh listening to old Jerry tell his stories, the majority centered around Coon Hunting in Mississippi. Now I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that even though the Hump Day crowd is full of some mighty fine hunters and fisherman, the majority of them have not done their share of Coon Hunting. It is a dying art here in these parts and the opportunity does not present itself much anymore. But Hal and I can say that thanks to one very fine man, we know what it's all about! We've been there!
J.W. Poole was a tall gentle man who had a great way with kids. I seem to remember thinking that he was the strongest old man that I had ever seen. He always had a kind word or would make sure that he spoke to me whenever I would visit the local pool hall for lunch. I was just a high school teenager at the time. He sort of became bigger than life in my eyes because my Dad and several others had told me stories about JW in his younger years. They all said that there was never a badder man than JW and that folks wouldn't dare mess with him even today! To me he was just a Grandfatherly figure that worked hard all day and played harder all night. You see ole' JW was a coon hunter and he struck out with the dogs every evening to chase that old coon through the swamps of South Georgia. I am so happy and consider myself blessed to say that I got to tag along with him.
Daddy and JW were good friends. Daddy knew that JW chased coons every evening and thought up a pretty good plan. My Daddy has always said that if you take your kids hunting and fishing, you will not have to hunt and fish for your kids! What better way to keep up with your teenage son than to take him coon hunting on Friday or Saturday night? Daddy asked JW if he and I could tag along for some hunts. JW was more than happy to let us tag along with him and Mr. Jim Dorminy, his hunting partner. In his eyes we were two young bucks that could carry the light and rifle. He would be free to just work the dogs!
I had no idea what I was in for as we pulled up on this dark dirt road to meet up with JW and Mr. Jim. The meeting place was called the sewer pipe and some nights we would turn the dogs loose right there or we may start in another location all together, but we always met at the sewer pipe. I was dressed in my best waterproof boots and had been told to expect some trudging through some thick swamp country. I acted like I was ready, when in fact I had no idea what I was getting into. I didn't even know how this game worked! Daddy told me to just sit back and take it all in. The dogs would let us know when we were needed. I didn't understand that either!
JW and Jim let the dogs out to start the hunt. The dogs hit the woods and I remember wondering how in the world we would get them back because they let out of there running 100 miles per hour. Directly I heard the most wonderful sound in all of the world. One of the dogs let out the prettiest little howl that you have ever heard as it carried through the cool night air. JW yelled out "SPEAK TO 'EM"! The others joined in and soon you could follow the sound of the dogs as they trailed the coon through the swamp. It was awesome. The coolest part of the whole thing to me though was that JW and Jim could actually tell you which dog was doing the howling. "Ole Queen has found us one!" "I believe ole Belle is on the scent of another one." There would be 5 or 6 dogs screaming through the woods and JW could tell you the bark of each one of them. Just as I was getting use to the sounds of the pretty music I was listening to in the night, the chorus changed. "We got him treed boys!" was JW's cry. The dogs had started a different song. They were no longer howling, they were now sort of baying and that I learned meant a treed coon. It also meant that you gathered up your stuff and hit the woods with light in tow to go to where ever the dogs were. I have been in some thick stuff before, but never as bad as it gets when you are chasing that masked bandit through the pitch black swamp in South Georgia. When you finally reach the dogs you shine your light into the tree to spot your coon. One shot and down he comes and the dogs go crazy. If he is not dead yet, he will put up one hell of a fight. JW usually didn't want his dogs fighting with the coon so he would tell Daddy to make sure he put a good shot on him while he was in the tree. Once you retrieve your coon and your dogs, you head back to the truck, which is always a good 22 miles away at this point, to star over at a new spot. Repeat all night long!
Now you may be saying to yourself "How can Jerry Clower make that kind of hunting sound funny"? Well all sorts of things can happen in the woods after dark, and coon hunting is just slap full of stories like this one that my Daddy likes to tell...
JW, Jim and Daddy met up at the sewer pipe, decided on a location and let the dogs out. JW was proudly listening as one of his prized dogs started that all familiar night music. Again it amazed me how they could tell exactly what the dog was doing just by listening to it sound off into the night. The dogs treed a coon and started their familiar baying. JW said that something wasn't quite right. One of the dogs sounded a little different. He couldn't put his finger on it, but something wasn't like it was supposed to be. When they reached the tree where the coon was supposed to be, one of the dogs was missing. Then they noticed the tree. The tree was sort of half blown over and was sitting at about a 45 degree angle. As they shined the light up the base of the tree they found the missing dog. He had run up the tree and he wasn't coming down!
Now this was a very expensive coon dog stuck in the top of this tree and the fire department does not make swamp calls in the middle of the night to bring their ladder. The boys had to come up with a plan to get this dog down. They decided that they would have to cut the tree down to get the dog out. They went and got a chain saw and discussed how they were going to accomplish the feat that was set before them. It was figured that Daddy could just start to cut the base of the tree and it should just ease on down to the ground real slow like. So Daddy started cutting little by little. The tree slowly started to bend toward the earth. The plan was working. "Just a little bit more John", said JW, so Daddy gave it a little more juice and the tree again started to slowly bend when all of a sudden POP! The tree broke clean in two and down came the tree and the dog! Daddy says he can remember that dog grabbing that tree around with all four legs as it started the fall, howling all the way down. The tree hit and the dog started yelling. They thought for sure that they had landed the tree on top of the dog. You have to remember that it is still pitch black dark and they haven't got their light on the dog yet. Come to find out, the only thing wrong with the dog is that he bit his tongue when he bounced off the ground while holding his death grip on the tree. Now that's funny right there, I don't care who you are!!
I could go on and on with stories about coon hunting. I spent some great time with my Dad and two wonderful old guys that are no longer with us. JW and Jim have both passed away and the woods are a little quieter at night around here. I miss those days and whenever the boys bring up Jerry Clower and his coon hunting stories Hal and I just kind of look at one another and know that we have a little bond between us. You see, JW was Hal's uncle and Hal got to spend time in the coon hunting woods too. I enjoy swapping stories with him and reliving some fun times as well as rehashing the life lessons that we learned in those dark swamps. JW was a good man, and I am so glad that he let me go coon hunting with him!!
SPEAK TO 'EM!! Arrooooooooo!