Whistle Up the Hounds We're a Goin a Huntin
Up one hill, and down the holler
Carrying 9 baby coons in an old tow sack
And their paw and mother
Well cousins, it's that time a year again and many of my friends are already taking their hounds to the woods just to get them tuned up and in shape for some coon hunting. There's no music like that of an old Black and Tan, Blue tick, or a Treeing Walker when they catch the scent of a coon and the chorus from under the tree as they announce the varmint has been tree'd. It may have been a long run through the mountains and hollers through creeks or streams in an effort to evade the sensitive noses of their attackers before the coon decided a tall Hickory or Red Oak would provide certain safty from those devilish hounds on their trail.
I no longer hunt but as a youngster coon hunting was a favorite pastime on those cool autumn evenings and into early winter. In those days coon hunting was the sport of choice for country boys over football, basketball or some team sport. The fact was a coon hide could be sold for money and the barns of many of my friends had coon hides nailed up one side to sun dry before being tanned and sold. Coon hides were made into hats (remember those Davy Crockett hats) or into gloves or other garments. The demand and price fell and and soon the interest in hunting for many.
When a high schooler, my friends would often stand around the school yard at lunch and between classes to talk about their hunting experience of the previous night. It was not unusual for one or more to reach into their britches pockets and pull out a coons foot to show evidence of the nights hunt. Some even removed the males public bone to show what kind of a stud they had really caught and to brag about their prize catch.
The coon hunt wasn't always fun. Those willy critters could take the low road as well as the high road, along mountain cliffs and on more than one occasion I have had to grab the branch of a mountain laurel to prevent a serious fall over a rocky cliff. Today coon hunting is more of a gentleman's sport and I would bet limited to those of us who live in the Blue Ridge Mountains or in the Southeast, though I have heard coon hunting is a big sport in the swamps of Florida. One town near my home, Saluda, NC has an annual event called Coon Dog Day where hunters and dog breeders bring their dogs each year to showcase and enjoy a full day swapping tales.
I have always loved the movie Where the Red Fern Grows a story about a boy and his dogs ordered by mail which became champion hunters. I suppose it is because of the nostalgia associated when my younger brother ordered a Treeing Walker from Arkansas just before he went into the Army in 1968. Before he left for duty he had time to train the pup and left him with a close friend. My brother made a career of the Army but that hound went on to become a champion dog, treeing over 400 coons during his life time. He died happily of old age and remains a legend in our community.