Coon hunting with hounds

The Heart of a Hound

Written by Casey Houtz

A cool rain pounded onto the metal roof. An old man grunted and groaned because the cold seemed to sink deep down into his weary bones. Picking up a wool blanket and making his way around the old lnternational Farmall H tractor, he came to the corner of the shed where his old coon dog lay. Placing the blanket over the hound's rough body, the dog replied to him with a lick of his warm tongue. The old man's farm work-calloused hand rubbed down the hound's scarred ear.

Well, boy," he said, "lt seems that you've fought your last coon now." Tears gathered in the old man's blue eyes. It seemed so hard to say goodbye to his devoted hound dog. As he looked down at his dog, whose eyes were begin- ning to have a glassy look to them, he knew it wouldn't be long until his dog would be out of his pain and misery.

That thought added some comfort to the old man's heart. Reflecting his thoughts back to the hound's youth, a smile made its way onto the old man's suntanned face' He remembered that warm summer day that he got into his GMC farm truck and drove eight miles to pick out a pup. lt wasn't an easy task picking out the right pup. The old man stood there gazing at the six puppies jumping and barking for attention. Just as the old man about made up his mind, he heard a long bawl of a pup. And he heard it again. Following the pup's voice, he walked around the corn crib and there sat the smallest pup of the whole litter looking up the side of the corn crib treeing one of the farmer's black and white barn cats. Standing there and watching, the old man fell in love with that small pup barking all his worth at that barn cat. Walking over to the pup he said, "Good boy, sic em!" The old barn cat meowed pathetically hoping for someone to save him, but the pup was twice as excited now that he had someone paying attention to his hard work. Jumping up on the old man's pant leg he began barking louder. The old man reached down and, chuckling, he rubbed his hand down the pup's long silky ear. Picking up the pup he said, "Come on boy. lt's time to be heading home," and paid the farmer fifty dollars.

The farmer asked if he wanted to look at the other pups again. "That one there ain't near as pretty as the other ones, and he sure ain't much to look at."

"That may be true," said the old man looking down at the pup tied to his bailer twine leash walking around sniffing the ground paying no attention to them. "But this is the pup I want. He seems special someway."

Shrugging his shoulders, the farmer turned and walked down to his barn. Putting his pup in the box the old man brought, he closed the lid and started for home. As he turned down his farm lane, he kept looking back to make sure that the box didn't tip over because of all of the pot- oles in the lane. Finally, he parked his truck, walked over to the box and took the pup out and set him on the ground. The pup sat there blinking for a few seconds, letting his little black eyes adjust to the sunlight. Then the pup got up and began walking around the barnyard sniffing here and there. Letting the pup alone, the old man went down to his barn and began feeding his cows. After an hour passed, he went up to his house looking around the barnyard and couldn't see the pup any WHERE , He figured that he must have found the woods and become distracted playing and running around discovering new things.

Later that evening, the old man relaxed in his rocking chair on the porch and watched the sun set behind the mountains that surrounded his 4O-year-old farm. He heard something climbing up the porch steps and looked over to see what it was. There came the pup waddling over to the old man. He jumped up on his pant leg, begging for attention. Laughing, the old man reached out and rubbed the little pup's head. "Well, boy," he said, "lt's probably high time you get a name." The old man looked hard at the pup and still no names came. Then he figured that the pup was hungery and went into the storage shed to get some food. Looking down at the food bag, he couldn't believe his eyes.

There was his pup's name, Ole Roy. lt was perfect. lt would suit the pup just right! Filling up the dish and walking out onto the porch, he watched as Ole Roy finished all of his food and waddled over to his old coat laying along the wall and curled into a tight ball and fell fast asleep.

Bringing his thoughts back to the present, the old man looked at his dying hound named Ole Roy who was still sleeping on his old coat. He thought about all the times they had hunted together. Never had Ole Roy failed to tree a coon for him. He also was a devoted companion. Every- where he went, Ole Roy followed right along. Then he turned and left his sleeping hound.

As he went down into the barn, he focused his thoughts on feeding the cows and bedding them up. Going up to his house, he relaxed in his easy chair and fell asleep. Coming out of a deep sleep, the old man glanced out the window and could see pinkish-gray colors stretched way across the sky. He must have slept the whole night in his chair. Getting up and stretching, he groaned as his old bones ached a whole lot. lt was probably his old age.

Walking out to the tractor shed, he dreaded the thought of losing his hound' Opening the door, stepping inside and turning on the light switch, he looked over at the box, and to his surprise, the blanket slowly rose and fell. Walking over to his hound and hunkering down, he rubbed his old hound's head. Ole Roy stired and opened his eyes. Then an old familiar thump of his tail sounded in the old man's ears. Tears quickly sprang up in his eyes and trailed down his wrinkled face. This was the final goodbye and he knew it. Ole Roy breathed real deep and thumped his tail one last time and closed his eyes forever. A few more tears fell down in front of the old man. Ole Roy was gone. His friend and companion. But his memory held a special place in the old man's heart. Standing there in the silence looking down at his dead hound, memories flooded his mind.

Memories of training, hunting and working. lt felt good to know that his old hound was free from the pain of the world. Ole Roy was hunted and loved, and that bond between hunter and hound was something that would never perish. lt all took the work and lifetime of understanding the heart of a hound! Thanks for reading.

God Bless!

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