This story, “Jug Head—a Coon Canine,” initially ran within the January 1949 difficulty of Outside Life.
IT WAS MAC who introduced the brand new canine residence. We had argued for a month, he and George and I, as as to if we wanted quicker hounds or higher luck. Mac insisted we’d by no means take the Wagonbox coon or some other like him with the pack we had—two redbones and two black and tans.
“You received’t run that coon down with any hound,” George contended heatedly. “He is aware of the nation too nicely.”
We had been searching in Boone County, Missouri. Little creeks come into the Missouri River from ten to fifteen miles again within the hills, and the place they lower via the bluffs they make tough and damaged nation. There may be loads of shelter for coon, plenty of dense timber, and right here and there are small caves identified domestically as sinkholes, some barely giant sufficient for a groundhog to squeeze into, others sufficiently big for cattle to loaf in whereas they battle flies.
Our coon chases had been endlessly ending up with the canines baying at a crevice main down into a type of sinkholes. Or, if the cave was sufficiently big, the chase got here to an abrupt and sudden end because the black gap swallowed up the dogs-and the clamor died away as all of the sudden as if any individual had thrown a blanket over them. For as soon as inside, the coon at all times managed to squeeze via a crack he would discover someplace within the cave wall.
We caught a whole lot of coons, however the one we known as the Wagonbox coon acquired away from us time after time. He was massive and previous and canny. He frequented the river-bottom cornfields close to an enormous sinkhole referred to as Wagonbox Cave. Some ten toes excessive and eight extensive, it went again right into a hill for about forty yards, then resulted in a sheer wall having however one tiny crack. From this crack a small spring flowed continuously.
Wherever we hit his monitor, the coon made it to the cave and to a crack within the aspect wall, midway again from the doorway. In that impregnable shelter he had eluded us again and again.
Mac mentioned the reply was quicker canines that will catch him on the bottom or push him up a tree earlier than he may attain the den. George and I maintained what we wanted was a fortunate break, as a way to get between him and the cave and switch him again.
We had some full of life arguments however settled nothing. Then, simply earlier than the coon season opened, Mac went out of city—and got here again with a brand new canine.
He was a whizzer of a hound! Regarded bluetick, Walker, and possibly one thing else combined in. A slat-ribbed, swinging-eared, going-away canine if ever I noticed one, solely George and I wouldn’t admit it to Mac. I allowed we may get 5 bucks for him from some fox hunter, however George mentioned he doubted it. “That pup couldn’t whip a fox if he caught one in a corncrib,” he jeered.
About that point the brand new canine, dancing red-tongued and panting on the clothesline that held him, dived for a passing home cat—and turned a whole somersault on the finish of his rope.
“Why, you jug head!” George shouted and went into loud laughter.
Jug Head! The title caught. Mac resented it a bit of, however he’d hunted with us too many nights to make a difficulty of it. So Jug Head grew to become a member of our pack. He was simply previous two years previous. And down inside, every of us hoped that finally we had discovered a brilliant canine.
The primary evening Jug Head went to the woods with us he disappeared with the remainder of the pack within the tangles alongside Hingston Creek. Shortly thereafter an odd yodeling bawl got here streaking from an open stubble area.
“What did I let you know?” Mac yelped. “That canine can burn the bottom!”
Then the chase ended as abruptly because it had begun. The whole lot acquired quiet. We headed for the place the place we had heard the pup’s final bawl. We met Large Crimson, sensible and seasoned, arising from the creek. After which—Whew! What a stench!
The flashlight revealed Jug Head mopping the bottom with the carcass of a skunk, whereas two redbones and a black and tan slunk away to extra respectable pursuits.
Mac was glum and we had been cruel. However he didn’t argue after we decreed that Jug Head was to remain on the chain until Large Crimson or Fanny opened on one thing reputable. Mac trudged alongside downwind from us and suffered each mentally and bodily because the impatient pup nearly walked on his hind toes in opposition to the leash.
Then Large Crimson’s long-drawn bawl floated throughout a cornfield. Large Crimson was sincere and positive. The three different previous canines joined him inside seconds. There was a short burst of ringing hound music, then silence as they solid for the correct finish of the monitor.
Mac slipped the pup on the fringe of the cornfield. All we heard from him was the crash of stalks fading throughout forty acres of unshucked corn.
Then Large Crimson rolled his discovery once more. Three different voices chimed in, throaty and mellow. Virtually earlier than the final one spoke out we heard that keen yodeling bawl as soon as extra. In lower than a minute it was manner forward of the remaining, and turning again towards us via the cornfield.
Not sixty corn rows away Jug Head caught his coon. An enormous previous boar, filled with anger and battle. Jug Head couldn’t have killed him in every week however he was making an attempt. The opposite canines sailed in and made quick work of it.
Jug Head caught one other coon on the bottom earlier than the evening was over, and George and I took the kidding from then on. However not like Mac, we suffered in blissful silence. What’s a bit of skunk odor on a two-year-old canine who can overtake previous coons forward of 4 skilled hounds that aren’t precisely slouches?
The following half-dozen hunts assured Jug Head a house for all times. He caught extra skunks. He opened on possums and crunched ’em within the pawpaw thickets earlier than they’d time to climb. And I truly noticed him chase a rabbit, yodeling at each bounce, until it slipped right into a groundhog gap.
Large Crimson wouldn’t come to him, Fanny wouldn’t honor him, and we wouldn’t imagine him both till one of many different canines had verified his discover. All the identical, Jug Head was a coon canine. When one of many previous hounds began a coon it was the pup with the ticks and spots on his lean cover who present in a rush the place the path led. Mac and George and I knew we had a comer!
As Mac’s confidence within the canine grew, he stored suggesting a attempt for the Wagonbox coon. However George and I hadn’t admitted our rising appreciation of the pup, so we continued to ridicule the concept for fairly some time.
We Couldn’t Maintain Out Any Longer
Lastly, nevertheless, there got here an evening in late November when George and I couldn’t maintain out any longer. We advised Mac to attempt it. “But when Jug Head runs a possum or a skunk tonight he’ll by no means go down with the previous hounds once more!” George threatened.
We drove out of Columbia on U. S. Freeway 40 and headed up a aspect street. The previous canines pressed their noses in opposition to the home windows of the jalopy and moaned softly. Jug Head did his customary dancing and scratching and stored up a continuous whine. We grumbled and cuffed him, however there was no malice in our rebukes. For this could possibly be the evening!
We pulled up in an open place beside the creek. From right here it was lower than a mile straight over the ridge to the cave. Up the creek backside and thru the cornfields it was half once more that far.
We lighted the lanterns and opened the door, and out tumbled our pack. Large, lumbering, regular Crimson; quiet, bugle-voiced Fanny; Invoice along with his jet-black coat and floppy ears; Drum, a hurrying, chopmouthed black and tan. And Jug Head. He turned a cartwheel on the finish of his chain and bawled his eagerness. Mac swatted him along with his previous felt hat to close him up.
We struck off up the creek backside. The 4 previous hounds ranged out forward of us. Mac was main Jug Head and the pup was straining so arduous on the chain that his entrance toes barely touched the bottom.
It was a coon hunter’s dream evening, heat and nonetheless, and black as the within of your hat. We moved alongside at a sluggish shuffle, speaking typically in low tones however principally simply listening and ready.
“Perhaps he didn’t come down tonight,” Mac remarked finally, after we’d gone half a mile and heard nothing from the canines.
“He’s down,” George mentioned flatly: “If he’s not, on an evening like this, it’s as a result of he’s left the nation.”
Jug Head was nonetheless lunging on the top of his chain, frantic with impatience, and sweat was operating from underneath Mac’s hatbrim. George and I took pity on him and known as a halt. George leaned the shotgun in opposition to a tree and we sat down on an enormous elm log. Mac took a flip of the pup’s chain round a close-by pawpaw bush. Jug Head bawled his disapproval and made a few lunges. A lantern overturned and the previous shotgun went clattering down in among the many leaves.
“One thing positive has to present when that darned idiot makes up his thoughts to go searching!” George commented.
Mac was snubbing the pup to a bush farther away when off to the north, within the subsequent valley a full mile from us, there got here the sound we’d been ready to listen to—Large Crimson’s lengthy, rolling bawl. Then Fanny’s high-pitched bugle sounded, and Drum and Invoice lower unfastened, their voices muffled by distance and timber.
Jug Head squalled at Crimson’s first observe, and for the few seconds it took for Mac to show him unfastened he babbled as if one thing had been consuming him alive. Then he was gone, racing north towards the operating pack with out a sound.
For the following jiffy it sounded virtually like a sight chase. As an alternative of swinging again towards the cave the clamor continued north till the canines had been practically out of listening to.
“That’s not the Wagonbox coon,” Mac declared.
“Whether it is he’s ranging fairly extensive,” George agreed. “He’ll tree over within the subsequent valley.”
We had been up off the log, able to comply with the hounds, when the chase turned. And because it turned we heard an keen squalling yodel. Jug Head was there.
The pack topped a low ridge and 5 distinctive hound voices echoed within the evening, driving in an extended circle again towards our valley.
We headed up the steep hogback towards the cave. Midway up we stopped to pay attention. They had been coming our manner for positive, nevertheless it appeared like two separate chases now. One was led by Large Crimson’s rolling bawl, with Invoice and Drum and Fanny crowding on his heels. However on a hickory ridge 300 yards forward of them, Jug Head was operating a one-dog race, his yodel hitting the evening each quarter minute.
“They’re on a fox!” Mac declared, and George and I believed the identical. They’d run greater than a mile now. A coon can journey when he’s pushed, however not that far. If this was a coon it was one for the guide. Our hearts had been pounding extra from pleasure than from the exertion of climbing the ridge.
Eventually we panted out on the crest of the ridge 200 yards above the cave. Down the valley towards the mouth of that black gap the canines had been coming at a tongue-hanging clip. However Jug Head nonetheless had his lead. His yodel was shorter now and got here much less typically. We heard him clear a fence right into a close-cropped pasture 400 yards from the Wagonbox.
A Working Battle
Then it occurred! Jug Head caught him! For maybe ten seconds the quiet Missouri evening rang with growls and squalls of rage. Then it broke up and a operating battle began towards the cave mouth.
We charged down the ridge, stumbling and yelling encouragement to the sport younger hound. Large Crimson and his gang had been approaching, disregarding the monitor, racing for the sounds of battle.
No different coon had ever given Jug Head that form of scrap. Perhaps he couldn’t kill an enormous one by himself, however this was the primary that had been in a position to battle him off and run on the similar time. “That’s no coon!” Mac yelled as we pounded the final fifty yards down the ravine to the cave.
Jug Head carried his operating battle straight into the black gap. He was out of sight after we got here up. We had been simply in time to see the opposite canines streak in after him.
The muffled screams, yelps, and snarls that got here out of the Wagonbox Cave had been one thing to make your hair get up! We heard a single terrifying howl of agony rise above the sounds of the battle, after which as we crowded into the cave entrance the battle broke off and the canines had been barking tree. There was rage and hate of their clamor, however there was a chopping cringing undernote of concern too, as if they may see their quarry, may virtually attain it, however had been unwilling to attempt.
The white beams of our flashlights stabbed into the cave, looking for the canines. There they had been, 4 hounds. Two redbones and two black and tans, on their hind toes, leaping and baying up the aspect of the cave.
At what? My mild probed greater and caught a inexperienced glint of eyes. There, on a bit of ledge, stood an enormous bobcat. His again was arched, his tooth had been bared, his stub tail was twitching. He slashed down on the clamoring hounds with an extended entrance leg, leaped again and slashed once more.
Mac switched his mild all of the sudden again to the ground of the cave, nearer our toes. A canine was mendacity there, a white canine with spots on his aspect and little ticks that appeared like pepper patches within the glare. We couldn’t hear him for the baying, however we may see his mouth open and shut in a howl of ache as he tried to tug himself towards us.
He couldn’t make it. Then we noticed the lengthy jagged gap in his stomach.
Mac had jerked the shotgun away from George. A flash of fireside stabbed towards the cat, a blast hammered our ears. Bobtail tumbled off the ledge and was smothered underneath a pile of tearing, ripping hounds.
There was only one factor left to do, and Mac did it. Then he set the gun in opposition to the wall and walked out of the cave.
If he mentioned something I didn’t hear it. We had been all deaf anyway from the concussion of the 2 pictures. George dragged the cat away from the canines and began them for the doorway. I picked up the gun and turned my mild on the nonetheless, white kind on the ground.
Only a mutt of a hound. A purebred nothing. However a jug head? My eye. He’ll be an important hound in my guide as long as the little stream trickles from the again wall of Wagonbox Cave.
This story has been minimally edited to fulfill modern requirements. Learn extra OL+ tales.