Monday, February 23, 2009

Catch, Bays and Birthdays

I have very fond memories of hunting dogs from my childhood. In a small town in Tennessee, my father raised them for a good friend of his, the town jeweler, Horace Jones. That’s the way I remember it anyway. It is a clear memory of puppy breath from excited lapping kisses, and later, chasing after the dogs all through town when they got out of their pen. They were housed in a room inside our garage. The room was connected to an outside pen. There was also a very small corner-room where the mother hound stayed while she was pregnant, giving birth and nursing her puppies. I remember going out and sitting with her, petting and talking for long periods of time. It upset me that she was often alone, fat with puppies or taking care of her litter.

At times, Daddy would catch us girls playing with the puppies, dressing them up in doll clothes and pretending they were human babies. On those occasions we got into a lot of trouble and were told that we were ruining the dogs and they would never be any good for hunting if we didn’t stop spoiling them!

Those puppies were such fun. They were black, brown and white, Walker Hounds, I think. They had long, soft floppy ears and big beautiful brown eyes. I've had a fondness for hounds ever since.

Anyway, lots more stories could be told, but what brought all this to mind was Saturday morning, when a mountain friend stopped by Northcroft to visit. He and his truck bed full of dignified hunting dogs were on their way up the mountain to hunt wild boar.
The Bay Dogs: Taco, R.D, Charlie, Henry and Rose, wore radio collars and were excited with the anticipation of getting to run. The Catch Dogs: Booger :), Timber, Patch and Cohutta. They hang back with their master on leashes, just waiting for something to be spotted so they can be released to move in for the kill. There was one old pro that lost an eye after he was released to kill a wild hog, but when he got there, it turned out to be a very angry bear!

These dogs had a purpose; they knew what it was and were well trained to do it. They were fit, happy and had an air of dignity as they patiently waited while their owner stopped to chat a while. I connected with them. I connected from my childhood, from the pages of The Education of Little Tree, and from the traditions of my people here in the mountains.

My father would have loved to stop and talk a while with us. That thought made me want to blog about it so I could spend a little more time with the dogs.


Later in the day, several more puppies came with their trainers (and I mean that in a good way!). Kim and the big kids came first to help prepare for William's 5th birthday party camp-out/in. We fixed up the shack for sleeping, as it was just too cold to be outside. Andrew set up a treasure hunt, while Mom and Emily set up the campfire-birthday cake and balloons, to greet the boys.

When they arrived with their Dads, William and his two little guests took off up the mountain on a quest to find the coveted Jelly Bean Tree, that only blooms on very special occasions - and that's only if you can find it! It took quite some time to find that tree, but thanks to their leaders' (Andrew and Emily's) sharp eyes, the mission was accomplished and there were enough jelly beans for the pick'n.

A fabulous treasure hunt followed (where individual survival kits were found), then a hike to the waterfall where a photo shoot took place; an incredible, glowing campfire cake (made by Tom); gifts, tent play, hot dogs and s'mores, and more, more, more!

Great dads (and mom!), great kids and a really special time. Can't wait 'till next year, William!


family said...

It was a wonderful birthday and a wonderful place to have our celebration. Mimi made it so special for us all. Thank you Mimi. We love you and all your special ways of celebrating! bo

juju said...

I love the hound dogs and Will! Another special memory.