Skip to comments.A Resting Place For Hunting Hounds In Alabama
Posted on 09/03/2012 12:46:04 PM PDT by Theoria
Seventy-five years ago, Key Underwood and his raccoon-hunting dog Troop had a connection. Years of training and a deep relationship make human and canine a seamless hunting unit. The two can share a special bond.
So when old Troop died, Underwood buried him on the crest of a hill hidden away in the lush countryside near Cherokee, Ala. It was Underwood's favorite hunting spot. He marked the grave with an old chimney stone he chiseled with a hammer and screwdriver.
That was the start of Coon Dog Cemetery, according to Franky Hatton, who hunts in this area with his Bluetick Coonhound, Cletis.
Today, more than 300 dogs are buried alongside Troop. All of the dogs buried here earned their keep hunting raccoons.
The Thrill Of The Hunt
Raccoon hunting is a night sport. The dogs are put out near a creek bed or corn patch at dusk. The hunters wait and listen. Hatton says he wants to hear a pickup in the pace of the dog's bark.
"When he settles down and goes to chopping steady, that's when you know he's treed," Hatton says. The dog has chased a raccoon up a tree, ready for the hunter to take aim.
Hatton says Cletis has to prove his coon dog cred if he wants to spend eternity with his forebears. All of the dogs interred here were expert hunters who met high standards.
"You have to have three references that have to contact us and have actually witnessed the dog tree a coon by himself," Hatton says. "Not with another dog all by himself, where he can prove he done it on his own and didn't have any help."
The graves are lined up on the crest of a shady hill. Newer ones are marked with traditional headstones. The older ones are carved from wood or handmade from whatever materials were available: sticks tied together in a cross with a dog collar, or a broiler plate from an old stove.
'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Under a rustic picnic pavilion, a binder serves as a guestbook logging the thousands of visitors a year who stop at the Coon Dog Cemetery. Carol and Bob Pearson of Greenville, Ky., are among the guests.
"We'd never seen anything like this. Never," Carol says.
"It's unusual," Bob adds. "We're rural people anyway, and I used to coon hunt, so it means a lot to me."
The peaceful hillside is also a gathering spot for local hunters. Franky Hatton says he has been coming to Coon Dog Cemetery since he was a toddler listening to the old timers tell their stories.
"The first thing they'll start out with is 'you remember that night?' " Hatton recalls. "And they'll start in. Especially if it was a night they beat you and outdone you, they'll remind you of it."
The Coon Dog Cemetery celebrates its 75th anniversary with bluegrass, barbecue and a liar's contest on Labor Day.
Franky Hatton and Cletis pose in front of the gravestones of Hatton's champion coon hounds at Coon Dog Cemetery.
Dogs buried here have to be proven hunters.
The grave markers range from homemade signs ...
... to formal marble stones.
I.ve done a little coon hunting in my time. It’s aplace where one of the first things you learn is not to let that branch go in the face of another hunter.
No sweeter sound than a treeing Bluetick! Not even my 147lb Bloodhound can compete with that. Bloodhounds don’t typically hunt and don’t tree but they sure can bay. :-)
My dad had Blueticks and Walkers.
I spent my summers checking all the live traps for coons to train them on.
Walked a lot of miles leading the horse and carrying two traps with royally p*ssed coons in them and the Dobe running circles around us all.
Then the libloons kicked the bottom out of the fur trade with their incessant whining.
Dad still has probably a hundred traps still hanging in the basement.
Can’t give ‘em away.
Walkers and Blues are nice dogs.
I have a place not too far from this. Pass it on my way to the range.
Thanks! A very poignant story as we had to put our 15 year old Springer Spaniel, Rosie, to sleep on Saturday morning. I have spent most of this
“holiday weekend” in tears :(
Rest assured she's frolicking with my Timber at the Rainbow Bridge, waiting patiently for us to catch up with them.
I have two female half Mountain Curs and a few weeks ago they started barking a lot at night, which was unusual for them. They are good watch dogs and don’t bark without reason. Finally I decided to check out what the problem was and found a coon in the tree in their yard. One of the girls would go part way up the tree trying to get it. I put out the live animal trap and 30 minutes after dark I had a coon. We took it about four miles from the house and turned it loose. I can’t believe the coon was stupid enough to climb a tree in the yard with three hounds!
Thank you! It's been several years since she could "frolic" so I'm enjoying imagining that scene.... My grandmother had a dog named Timber - he was a wonderful German Shepherd... the first dog I ever played with and thus began a life-long love of these wonderful animals :)
Tomorrow is my first day of school (teacher) so it will be easier not to be home all day, I keep thinking I hear her...
Most of the coons around here are rabid now, which I found out the hard way.
I ain’t eatin’ them thangs.
There’s deer and other stuff aplenty.
They were nice dogs but dad won’t keep a dog that doesn’t earn its keep so he sold them all.
I have the Ibizan, the PPM and the Dobe.
I can get grub if I need it and won’t have to spend hours walking the trap line.
It’s been a really bad couple of weeks for FReeper dogs.
Rabbits habitually have their babies in my backyard...where _rabbit hounds_ run every day!
I think they’re smart.
If they have their babies *here*, they know stinking stray cats can’t get them.
This spring the hounds found the nest and I yelled at them to leave it be and Odin raced out and rammed them away from it.
Until the babies left, he wouldn’t let the girls anywhere near it.
One morning he kept running up to the thicket and back to me, looking ‘concerned’ and when I checked, something had ripped the head off of one of the babies.
He *knew* something was wrong and made me come look.
I took the body out and the mom came back and the other two babies are now teenagers running around the goat pasture.
He’s a funny dog.
He’d kill our cat if he got a chance but is perfectly fine with me having one of my snakes on the sofa with him and I.
He even keeps the girls away from it.
I have a funny story to tell with regard to coon hunting.
Back in ‘48 my grandfather often took me coon/possum hunting (hence, the screen name) with our hounds.
One night the dogs treed something and I, with my trusty BB gun in hand—I was 8 years old and too young for anythng more powerful—went flying through the woods, disregarding my grandfather’s calls to not get ahead of him. I got to the place where the dogs were, spotted some eyes up the tree and fired. At about that time my grandfather caught up with me, just in time to get sprayed by that skunk up that tree.
You cannot imagine how powerful that scent is when you get directly sprayed with it!
The dogs scattered. Didn’t see them again for days. When we got back to the house grandmother contemplated whether to let us in. Grandfather never forgave me. And I don’t blame him.
Heh. Jerry Clower would have been proud of that story.
Yes, I imagine he would. I used to have some of his stories on tape, and they were funny.
Is treeing a coon a big deal? I hate to sound ignorant since I grew up hearing coonhounds on the mountain at night and seeing the campfires of the hunters, even had a few uncles who kept Bluetick Hounds, but my folks were more urban types who moved back to the country. I have no direct exposure.
I do however have a sweetheart of a Treeing Walker that I took in as a pet, she was abandoned, starved and covered with ticks in March, so she was from well south of here.
She’s treed two coons in my backyard since I’ve had her. Very motivated, wraps her paws around my neck when inside and scans the cathedral ceiling. I’m safe from ceiling coons, Susie’s on watch, lol.
She’ll start baying and trying to climb up my torso if I tell her there’s a coon up there, lol. Very talkative and communicative, lots of eye contact, so I’m sure I’m more than just a tree that feeds her.
I’m so sorry about your Rosie, Momto2. It’s so very hard to lose them. She couldn’t be in better hands, but I know how much you’re hurting. God Bless you & Give you comfort.