Growing up in Proctor: Pap’s Hound Dogs
By: GARY ELLER
My Dad (“Pap”) loved hound dogs and we always had them around. When he was a young man, Pap had blueticks and would hunt with them at night on occasion with his buddies. Believe me, in West Virginia stumbling around for miles half the night in the dark, through thickets of brambles and multiflora roses, is not for whimps. Often as not, Pap would lose the dogs and after working all day, had to spend part of the next night to find them. He would shoot a treed coon once in a while to hold the dogs’ interest, but for the most part he let them go. The great joy was hearing the dogs in the chase. If you know your hound dogs, usually you can tell exactly what they are doing by the sound of their voices. Not long before he stopped keeping coon hounds, Pap was hunting and heard some new dog sounds. The dogs had cornered a bunch of possums inside a very ripe horse carcass and had engaged in a battle royale -inside the carcass. It must have been a long trip back to the truck and home with a bunch of reeking blueticks. And no, we never even talked about eating possum after that incident. Eventually Pap switched to beagles and rabbit hunting, which can be energetic but is an immensely easier proposition than coon hunting. At least Pap liked to eat rabbits, and just as important beagles made much more practical house pets. Once Pap came home with a beautiful pair of beagle pups, which he named Lulu Belle and Scotty after his favorite hillbilly duet who were very popular in the 30s and 40s. They wrote and recorded the immensely popular country song “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” among other great songs, and are in the Country Music Hall of Fame. The pups grew up to be terrific rabbit dogs, with one exception, and once or twice a week Pap would turn them loose at night. It was a beautiful thing to sit on our porch and hear them trailing rabbits on the farm. But Scotty had a fatal flaw -he loved to fight skunks. Striped kitty perfume only made him fight harder. One night we heard Scotty baying in the way Pap hated, headed towards Roy Palmer’s place. Then the baying stopped. The next morning, we found Scotty back home, thoroughly drenched in skunk juice. Roy told us that Scotty had run an entire family of skunks under his clapboard house and had a fight for the ages. It must have taken years for the stench to abate at Roy’s house. Not long after that incident, and without a word of explanation from Pap, Scotty simply disappeared from our farm.