A boy and his Papaw American Cooner
I can remember when I was small, nipping at the heels of my Papaw, Janis Miller. I was waiting for the chance to tag-along on one of his coon hunting trips. Then one day it happened. He took me to town and bought me a pair of green and tan waterproof boots. They were the first pair I had ever owned. I knew then he was preparing me to go with him. This was the beginning of the best years of my life.
He had a dog, a Walker, that he had bought from one of his hunting buddies. My picture of Papaw is with this dog. His name was Duke. Duke really had a mouth on him. Papaw could hear him when no one else could.
One hunt, which sticks out in my mind was with Duke. We heard Duke open up and Papaw said, “Something’s not right.” He could tell by the way Duke was barking. As we got closer, we could see Duke and thought he was baying at a snake. It was striking at him so quickly that we could not see it. We ran to help.
Papaw didn’t want his dog getting hurt. As we got closer, we could see it was a coon. Papaw took his big walking stick out and struck the coon. The stick broke and the coon got away. Duke ran after it but the coon would not run up a tree. Duke finally killed the coon and he looked as if he had been in a war. We got out another pup that we had brought along and it began to play with Duke, but Duke didn’t want any part of that. He was too exhausted. I had many good years hunting with my Papaw.
I gave up coon hunting for about 10 years. I began wanting to get back into the woods but Papaw wasn’t for it. I could not figure out why he didn’t want me to go back. My buddy, Bill Stiltner, had told me about his uncle who had a Redtick hound. The first night Bill and I took it out I realized why Papaw didn’t want me to go. It happened again. I had the hunting fever back in my blood. That night, Red, the dog, turned my life back around. She treed one and we went to her under the tree. The tree was very leafy and all we could see was a set of eyes looking at us. We shot it out without knowing it was a slicktail — a possum. Looking back on that night, I still think we would have done the same thing. We were so happy we didn’t care if it was a slicktail.
From that night on, I continued to hunt. My Mamaw was very ill and I would take turns staying with her and letting my Papaw go hunting. The nights that Bill and I would hunt I would take the coon and lay it at Papaw’s door. It got to where first thing every morning after one of my hunts, Papaw would open his door to see if there was a coon laying there.
All those years that he hunted he kept a good dog. The last one was a Black and Tan. I buried it last year. His name was Jed. You know there are two different types of hunters: A pleasure hunter and a competition hunter. If you looked up the definition of a pleasure hunter, you would see my Papaw’s picture. The most important thing he ever taught me about hunting is that I would rather be at a tree with my buddy with dogs barking and looking at a slicktail than to be by myself with dogs barking, looking at a ringtail.
Today, I am here taking care of my Mamaw and Papaw. We talk sometimes about hunting. He told me the only time he could remember that he didn’t hunt were the four years he spent on the banks of Okinawa, Japan during World War II. He will turn 82 on June 1, 2012. He stopped hunting two years ago. Thanks, Papaw, for leading me down a path which brought so many wonderful memories. Just remember, on some cool, dark night, you’ll find me in the hills of Eastern Kentucky waiting for the dogs to open up.
By Donald Griffith