An Open Letter to My First Coonhound

May 27, 2016:
By Josh Mace,

Wow, I bought you at four months old for two hundred dollars off that ole muddy chain. Ole boy, we had our ups and downs. When everyone said to write you off and get a new hound, that white walker ain’t going to make a coonhound. I gave you a chance and I’m sure glad I did. You were a little slow at first, but boy, Flint, buddy we proved them wrong. It wasn’t till you hit three years old that your light came on and boy did it shine even into your golden years.

I still remember your first wild coon. Standing on the old tractor road, I heard you and Sassy open up in the briar patch below me, after a short fifty yard chase your voices got muffled. I knew you put that
coon in a hole. By the time I beat my way through the tangled jungle of green briar. I got there just in time to see you pulling that big ole boar coon off of little Sassy’s head, you were always her protector. After a short scuffle the coon made it back in the hole. As I knelt down in the blood stained snow to look in the hole, I knew that boar coon was close and I could hear his growl. I laid down to position myself for a shot, Sassy calmly sat back and waited while you stood at my guard bleeding and battle wounded. I saw your warrior heat showing for the first time and that night I found a good heads shot and took it. I was barely able to move out for the way before you jumped in and pulled him out of the hole. After wiping blood off of both you and Sassy we walked back to the house with coon in hand. Once back home, I took you guys in the kitchen and with some help cleaned and patched your first battle wounds. When you were fixed up, I took you both to bed with me, so I could keep a close eye on you. That was the first of many long nights of patching wounds and sleeping on the floor.

Through the years you kept getting better and better, Sassy became a yard dog because a pack of coyotes ran her off a track, after that she would not hunt. Once in your prime there wasn’t a coon in the woods we couldn’t tree. I knew once you barked it was only a matter of time till I had a coon looking down at us. Through the years we have witnessed some once in a lifetime of things together. Like the night you treed your first bobcat. That thing had me yelling at you so bad, but little did I know the reason you kept leaving the tree till I got close, the cat kept jumping out. Another hunt of ours I remember well is when we were in that deep hollow of Aunt George’s on super bowl night and those coyotes came into your tree. Good thing you were big mean dog because you stood your ground till I got to you. Little did you know I was scared to death that night I would lose my best friend. I had a mishap of my own on my way to you, in a rush to get to you I had tripped over a dead buck and fell face first into the cold creek, I finally got free. With all the noise and commotion, I made the coyotes scatter. That was the end of that night and we packed it up and headed home. Tree after tree, coon after coon, through the years I could see age growing on you. My once full fire young hound is now older and slower, but your heart is still filled with warrior pride and your mind is like a library full of tricks from the coons in your past. You are now a well-seasoned and very accurate true coonhound that any true hound’s men would be proud to own. I know I am sure proud to have shared our time together.

To this day I still remember our last hunt together. It was the last night of your thirteenth hunting season. That night was so cold with snow a foot or two deep already on the ground and the weather man was calling for more. We jumped in the truck and headed to the local coon hunter’s club to sign
up for their big coon contest. After a bite to eat and a couple tall tell hunting stories, we headed for the woods. Our first drop was a big dairy farm we had done well in the past hunting. You picked up a track shortly after I unsnapped the leash, in about a half hour you located and treed roughly three hundred yards to my left. When I got to you like always there it was looking down on us, but it was too small. I leashed you up, petted your head and went to find a bigger one. For this hunt we needed something around 20 pounds. We loaded up and went to a new farm on down the road. Pulling down the old farm road it started to rain, that in a short amount of time it changed to sleet and snow. This spot I just cut you right out of the truck. You struck a track right off the edge of the corn field. You took it deep into a steep hollow, with a winter storm in full swing lighting and all I grew concerned for your safety. There was no sense in trying to call you off a track you would never listen. My only hope was you could push the coon hard to make it go up a tree fast. In you prime you could really push a track, but now on what would become your last hunt. I was concerned. Flint, you had the deck stacked against you, but you found that warrior heart deep in you and pushed that track harder than I have ever seen you do before. To hear you locate was somewhat of a relief. You did your part, now it was my turn. Slipping, sliding, falling, and tripping I made my way to you. Not being able to see through the snow by the grace of God, I found the coons eyes with one shot from my old 22 rifle he came rolling out of the tree top to you. It was a good sized coon. When we got back to the truck the look in your eyes, I knew it was your last hunt and time to retire you to the house. The coon weighed 15 pounds, we got beat by a coon that weighed 31 pounds, but in the end we won with the friendship that we had.

Flint, you and Sassy laid around the house and kennels for the next couple of years. Sassy finally left you and I when she was fifteen years old. You, my friend, made it till the following year before leaving me. Dad buried both of you under the big tree on the farm next to the old tractor road where you both found your first coon. To this day when running my young dogs on the farm I swear at times I still hear your long lonesome locate. Although I may have many more coonhounds there will never be any like you my friend! Thank you for being so much more than just a hound. You taught me some life lessons I will carry with me forever.

As I close this letter with tears in my eyes “Keep em treed till I get there”.

 Ecclesiastes 4:9: Two are better than one, because they have good return for their labor.