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Running the Hounds
Whistle up the Dogs
As October is about to reach the midway mark, my mind goes back to the days when I was a gandering boy. For you who are wondering what "gandering" might mean, it was a term my grandpa used to describe us young boys who had begun to grow a little peach fuzz on our face that required shaving and the time our voice changed from that of a boy to that of a man. The phenomenom of puberty and so much happening within our bodies changing us from boys to men.
It was during those cool October evenings when frost began to cover the morning landscape, the trees not yet having dropped their foliage but having begun to show the annual changes before becoming bare and dull. The brilliant yellows and oranges, crimson reds dot the hills of the Blue Ridge and the panorama like the canvass of an Artist that bring so many 'leaf peepers" from the low lands of South Carolina and Georgia. The Sumac pods are ripe now and Polk weed with berries plump and purple providing nutrition for the birds who eat them and who seem to regularly find the windshilds of vehicles and great place to deposit their nasty droppings.
October was the time we would take the beagles out to Huckleberry to turn them loose to run rabbits. Beagles are naturals when rabbit hunting is concerned. My Uncle had a pair, Whitey was the female and Old Big Foot the male. Whitey was a pure bred beagle and Big Foot was a cross between Beagle and Treeing Walker. They made a great pair and it didn't take long once we turned them loose before the music of a good race commenced. We never took a shotgun along during those times out on Huckleberry. We'd sit on the tailgate of the truck sipping coffee or a soft drink and talk listening to those hounds hot on trail of a mountain cottontail.
The mountian cotton tail is like old Bugs Bunny, pretty wily and smart and they'd run those dogs in a big circle. When things got too hot to handle, they'd go into a sink hole and the dogs would have to find a new trail. The grown-ups more experienced hunters, knew when this had happened and would call in the dogs and then let them go off agin to find another rabbit to run. Well trained beagles can run the rabbit in a circle and back to the hunter. Those late evening hunts would pay dividends once hunting season opened and the beagles would be in good shape.
Trigger and Hoss
My uncles had two other hunting dogs, Trigger and Hoss. Trigger was the pappy of Hoss. He had been mated to a blue tick female and had grown to be almost twice the size of Trigger who was an Airedale blue tick cross. These two dogs didn't wait to be hunted on the mountain, they hunted naturally on their own and on two occasions, brought coons and other game home that they had caught and killed all on their own.
My uncles used these dogs for coon hunts and caught many a coon with them on their night hunts. Trigger and Hoss would also run rabbits right long with Whitey and Old Bigfoot. Old Bigfoot was a great rabbit dog and once after my unlce had shot a rabbit that he had jumped, covered it with leaves. We had looked all over for the rabbit finding a blood trail but it wasn't until we decided to abandon the search, Bigfoot gave himself away by going to the spot where he had hidden the rabbit and looked at us as he sheepishly began to uncover the dead rabbit he did not want us to find.
Hoss would run deer and sometimes we would take him along to Pinaccle Mountain and let him have his fun. We never shot deer he chased but we enjoyed hearing him while he had his fun. We'd camp out at Long Rock, cook up some cabbage in one of my Grandma's old black pots and maybe throw in some meat. The last time we camped, my Uncle put three pods of hot pepper he had gotten from my daddy's grden in the black pot filled with cabbage. It turned out too hot for us to eat and he told us to pour it out. Old Hoss came back from running his deer and gobbled it all down like he was dying from starvation. All of a sudden, he raised his head as if he had been hit with a sledge hammer and darted off down the mountain as if he'd been shot from a cannon, barking and squalling like he was hot on the trail of some varmint. I suppose he was heading to the closest mountian stream to cool his scorching tongue. We didn't see him again till morning and he seemed just fine.
Old Trigger and Hoss lived to be old dogs and when the time came to leave this world of humans, each went off to die peacefully somewhere in the hills and hollows where they had run and played living the good life as only a dog can.
I no longer hunt or have hunting dogs but each year along bout this time when the cool night air beckons a warm fire, the sounds of a pair of beagles striking a new trsil is missed and the sounds of a coon hound treeing an old ringtale up a big Hickory and Hemlock are missed.