The Last Hunt
My buddies an me had a standing date the first Saturday of every month; we went coon hunting. Now a bunch of guys goin coon huntin don’t need much but there are a few things that they just caint do without, such as; a good pickup, dawgs, shotguns, an plenty of beer. Straightaway some of yall reading this will notice that not once did I mention a coon.
It just so happened that this night one of the fellows by the name of John David brought a jug or two. None of us had ever officially spoke up against a jug but it has been my experience that the stuff in those jugs cause a considerable lack of judgement on the part of the consumer. Add this to beer chasers, a bunch of rednecks with shotguns, an coon dawgs, well you can bet it won’t be long before a squabble’s gonna break out.
Five of us were the reg’lars. We had got as high as eight in our little club but they usually didn last long an this night was just us five. We had a sizable fire built in no time an we let the dawgs out of the trucks an tied their leads to convienient trees. We throwed some Hank Jr in the boom box an everything went along slick as could be for two or three passes of the jug but then Junebug spoke up, “I bet I got the gol-durndest best coon trakkin dawg in five counties, six if’n you count Butler. Caint no dog out sniff Ol Blue (yep his name is Ol Blue) an I got twenty dollars that says I’m right. ”
To be fair I’ve taken some liberty with the language used by all concerned in this story. Junebug caint speak good when he’s sober an by now none of us was strictly sober.
Junebug’s cousin Henry just had to pipe in, “You know we don’t count Butler county in nuthin no more, not since Franklin was put in as sheriff.” With that he hawked an spat to emphasize the way everyone felt about Butler county and its inhabitants, adding, “an you know my Bear Bryant can take your Blue any day of the week when it comes to trakkin coons.” Henry was a big Alabama football fan ifn you couldna guessed.
Well naturally Sam stuck in his two cents, “I don’t know why you two are making such a fuss. My Susie can take both of your dogs in a tracking contest any day of the week and twice on Sunday.” Sam went to college so he liked to talk fancy and look down on the rest of us, we just tolerated him cause he bought the beer.
To be fair I gotta say right now none of these boys could hold their liquor so there commenced the biggest ruckus I’d seen at the campsite in quite a while with first one then the other hollerin and cussin back an forth sayin how good their dogs were. The deeper in the jug they got the taller their tales got. Me, I just sat back with one of those jugs and watched for a spell enjoying every minute of it. Bout this time I noticed John David sitting over to one side with what my granny used to call a possum- ate- the- persimmons grin on his face. I’d kept my dawg out of this fight and seeing this I knowed I’d done right. He had somethin up his sleeve .
I aint gonna go into details but when it got to the point of Bear Bryant runnin on top of the water of a stream he was crossin an barely getting his feet wet I decided to save the boys further embarassment not to mention saving them some prayin time come Sunday for the lies they’d told so, to move things along I yelled, “I ain’t never in this lifetime heared such as y’all.” I started pacing an waving my arms.“ Ain’t a one of you done nuthin but sit around and brag. Why don’t we have a race, best dawg wins? An lets put yo money where yo mouth is, what I mean to say is I think fifty dollars a piece, winner take all is a fair price for the bull I been hearin here tonight. What you think, John? You aint had much to say tonight.” I guess I was further in the jug than I thought cause for me this was one of them soliloqy things I’d heard about in school.
John just looked in the fire for the longest then he finally spoke, “I’ve been coming on these hunts with yall for years, aint that so?” We all allowed as to how he was right and he continued, “I came her tonight an brung them jugs to ease the pain of tellin yall that this was my last hunt. I went to see Doc Adams the other day an he had some bad news. Seems Tucker (that’s John’s dawg) has arthritis.”
We were all quiet at the news. I mean we have been coming out here once a month for years and we were like famly. We even took care of each other’s dawgs when the situation came up, so this news hit home with all of us so we naturally passed the jug.
“I thought to make this his last hunt the best ever you know?” We agreed and he continued, “In all our years comin out here we aint never hunted no coon, we come out here, we take the dawgs outn the truck, then we drink, let loose with guns ,tell lies, drink some more an come daylight we head home. Well tonight was gonna be special for Tucker cause I went down in the bottoms an bought a coon offn this guy I know down there.” About this time he let loose with a long sigh and his breathing sort of hitched, when he spoke again his voice was was a sort of croak, “I got him outn his pen tonight an boys, it was a sad sight to see him tryin wid all his might to jump up in the truck. He just couldn do it. I was gonna lift him up but this long whimper came out an I just had to let him be.”
By now we barely could hear John and you could hear the tears in his voice, truth be told I had teared up some myself and I know the other guys was the same, cause we all was turnin our backs and lookin up at the sky so nobody could see.
After a few minutes and a couple more pulls on the jug we all told John how sorry we were an offered our help ifn there was anything we could do and so on an so forth and after a couple more rounds of those lovely jugs everthin was right as rain an we got back on track wid the race.
Well you can see where this is headed, and it weren’t pretty. Lets just say that when that coon was let go all them dogs just naturally gathered round a bayin and a sniffin but as soon as that coon let out with a hiss and swatted Blue on the nose they turned and ran. Seems it’d been so long they’d forgotten all about coons.
It took them all night to round up them dogs. John and me sat by the fire with what was left in them jugs and jawed the night away. They all got back about daybreak and me and John convinced them that
they should pay us the purse since it was obvious no one had won and they didn want it all over town about cowardly coon dawgs. With a lot of grumblin and I swear I heard blackmail mentioned once or twice they ponied up.
That was our last coon hunt an me and John we kept our word, until now that is.
Thomas Whitfield is the director of a homeless shelter in Montgomery, Alabama, and writes fiction in his spare time.
To comment on this story, visit Fiction365′s Facebook page