If you were to line up in priority order all the important things in a man’s life, well I reckon a good hunting dog would be just about at the top of the heap. Most likely it would be just below his shotgun and just a little ahead of his wife and his pickup truck. All dogs are mighty fine critters and companions, but a really special dog only comes around about once in a lifetime.
Nothing points out the special bond of affection a man has for the specialness of a fine hunting dog better than what my Uncle George said one time. He and my two cousins, Thurlow and Winston, were out all night hunting raccoons. The dogs had chased a big old boar coon until it treed in a tall pine. They didn’t shoot �em back then; buyin’ bullets cut into your whiskey money. Somebody climbed up and knocked the critter out of the tree so’s the ones on the ground could get it in the sack. Uncle George sent Cousin Thurlow up the tree. But about halfway up, him being a little bit on the chunky side, a limb broke and poor Thurlow fell to the ground and broke his neck. “It could’a been worse,” said Uncle George. “He could’a landed on one of the dogs!”
I remember another really good coon dog. He was just about as good as they come. Got to the point where I didn’t even have to go out with old Blue – I’d just go out to the shed and get down the size hide stretcher that I wanted. Old Blue would take a look at that stretcher and off he’d go. Sometimes he was gone all night but he most always came back with a coon just the right size to match that stretcher.
But you know one time my good wife went and left the ironing board out on the porch. Old Blue took a good long look at that board and off he went. Well he was gone almost two months, and the coon he eventually brought back wasn’t quite as big as that ironing board, but it was pretty close. Golly he was a good dog and I still miss him.
But then there’s bird dogs too, and they can be pretty special. I had a fine Irish Setter for years. She could sniff out a bird where most other dogs never could. If I let her smell the scrambled eggs I had for breakfast, she would hustle on out to the hen house and bring me back the chicken that had laid them. She was a joy to hunt behind. Well the old girl liked to go to town too. One day I took her along when I went to the hardware store. As we got out of the truck, she looked up at an old man sitting on a bench in front of the store and immediately went on point. I called her and called her but she wouldn’t break. So’s I ambled on up the steps and introduced myself to the fella. Turns out his name was Bob White!
My friend Duffy had a Brittany Spaniel that liked finding quail better’n about anything, even eating. But she didn’t just point them out, she would run that covey around and drive them down a ground hog hole. Then she’d sit down right on that hole. When Duffy finally caught up she would move just far enough to let one bird at a time fly out of that hole. Duffy was a sportsman though. He’d never shoot more than three or four out of one bunch.
Yep, even after one of those special dogs passes on to the great hunting grounds in the sky, it’s nice to remember them. My neighbor Bill had himself one of the finest rabbit dogs you ever did see. That old Beagle, “Roundup” Bill called him, was just pure terror to any rabbit within a quarter mile. He lived to be a ripe old age that dog did, and hunted hard and well right til the end. Bill knew he was sure going to miss that dog when he passed on.
Well when the Beagle did finally die, unknown to him, Bill’s sons had him skinned out, and got the hide tanned and had a nice pair of leather gloves made out of it. Bill thought they were such a fine pair of gloves that he just kept them on the shelf. “Too good to use,” he would say. It wasn’t until a few years later that his boys fessed up about the gloves. Remembering what a fine dog Roundup was, Bill gradually began to wear the gloves. One day in the fall, just about opening day of hunting season, Bill was wearing those gloves while he was splitting some firewood. He stopped to take a break and took off the gloves and laid them on his splitting stump. Just about then a rabbit popped out of the brush and ran across the yard.
Quick as a flash, that pair of gloves hopped down off that stump, caught that rabbit as it went by, and choked that rabbit to death. You know how it is – a good dog just doesn’t know when to quit !!
So there. If you haven’t got a good huntin’ dog, get on out and fetch one!