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Coon Hunting
By Tim Brown

     It was mid winter, my usually routine was to come home from work, get something to eat, take a nap then watch the local news. Then around eight o'clock I would get ready to go out for an evening of hunting coon. This particular night it got extremely cold very fast, up to that point it had been a mild winter. I looked at the thermometer and it was sitting on 5 above zero. I probably would have stayed home if there was something interesting on TV but even back then most shows weren't worth watching. 
I'm not one to sit around and do nothing, reading makes me sleepy so I told my wife I was going to take my old hound Buck and go hunting. She looked at me and said you got to be crazy....LOL.....she said that a lot to me over the years. Some people wonder what the C in my middle name stands for, I guess its stands for crazy cause my wife calls me that a lot. Anyway she never argues too much with me because she knew when I made up my mind to go hunting there was no chance of changing it. 

     I didn't know how long I would stay out that night so I decided to take Buck, he was a semi silent trailer that could put a coon up pretty fast and he hunted close to me and checked in often. Old Buck was one of my all time favorite hounds, I got him on a trade and $25. I was visiting my grandfather one day and he was telling me about a young dog his friend had, he thought it would make a good hunting dog. I told him I was interested in seeing it so he said lets go I'll take you over there to see him. On the way there he was telling me about the dog’s owner Hayden Miller, he said he was an older fellow that wasn't in very good shape, I think he said he had something wrong with his lungs so he couldn't hunt anymore. 

     Now Hayden lives back in the hills so it took some time to get back to his place. We pulled up to the house and went in and knocked on the door. Mrs. Miller opened the door and I ask if her husband was home. She said sure, so we went in and grandpap introduced me to Hayden. We sit there for awhile talking about dogs and telling hunting stories. It would have been rude to just come out and ask him if he was selling his dog. That's not how thing were done back then, the conversation kinda had to lead into the subject. After awhile he told me he was having a hard time getting around and wasn't hunting dogs anymore. That gave me an opportunity to ask him what he was going to do with his dog and he said he didn't know. After we talked some more it was time to go, I told him if he ever thought about selling his dog to let me know because I was looking for a nice young dog to train on coon. He said he didn't want to sell his dogs because he liked having a dog around the house that barked when someone came. It was funny because when we got there his dogs wasn't barking and was no where to be seen. I think he just wanted me to think the dog had some value because the dog was only six month old and wasn't hunting yet. Hayden knew when we got there that we wanted to buy the dog because he told my grandpap he wanted to sell him....That's was just part of dog trading, you have a dog you want to sell but leave on its to valuable to get rid of, then the dickering begins. I mentioned to him I had a big Walker I would trade, I said he barked good but he wasn't a very good hunter. He said he didn't care, he just needed a dog around that barked when people came to the house. So we settled on my dog and $25, the deal was done and I didn't even see the dog, I was just going on what my grandpap told me. 

     Hayden could hardly walk so I didn't mind that he didn't take me out back to see the dog before we made our deal, besides I trusted what my grandpap told me, he was a hounds men all his life. Hayden told his wife to take me out back of the house and get the dog, grandpap stayed with Hayden so he could talk some more. 

     When we got out back to the dog box the only thing I could see was two little shinny black demon eyes looking out of the dark box at me and I could hear him growling. Mrs. Miller told me not to get to close because he might bite, Hayden didn't say anything about him biting when we was talking price, if he did I might have only offered him $15. She told me to stand back until she got him out of his box. She said she was the only one that could handle him, Hayden didn't say anything about that either. So I let her reach in and snapped my leash on him, he even growled at her when she pulled him out of the box. She said he was a little strange and wasn't used to being around strangers. I could see that right away...LOL...He was a very pretty Blue Tic, he might of had some Plott bred in also. At that point I didn't really want him but I had to take the dog. Back then once something was settled on you had to uphold your end of the deal no matter what. Anyway it was to late to renegotiate I already gave him the money so the deal was done and I couldn't go back on my word and not take the dog.  Didn't matter if I came out on the short end of the stick. Caveat Emptor, a deal was a deal and besides, no one like to admit they got took, especially me. 

     Anyway that's how I came to get Buck, when I got him home I told my wife to stay away from him, I didn't want her to get bit. I went out to feed him that night and he came out of the box and tried to bit my hand so I thought. I thought to myself boy you got took on this dog, what in the world did I even bring a dog like this home for, I didn't even know if he would hunt and I just wasted $25. He stayed in his box most of the time and would growl if I got to close, so I just put his feed and water down hoping he would come around. A few evenings later I was feeding him and the other dogs; I wanted to see if he would try to bit me again. I turned my back on him and started to walk away. I could hear his chain dragging as he came at me but I didn't let on I was watching him, then he had me by the hand. I didn't try to pull away because he wasn't biting down hard, just enough to hold me there. I started talking to him and ask him what he was doing. He started to wag his tail a little so I petted him on the head and he let my hand go. I turned to walk away and he grabbed my hand again, I petted him again and he let me go.
Then I realized what he wanted, he wasn't trying to hurt me but he wanted me to stay and pet him, so I did. I gave him a good talking to and gave him a good petting and from that day forward he became my dog. This went on every time I went out to see him. 
I didn't tell my wife what he was doing because I never liked anyone fooling around with my hunting dogs. One day she decided she was going to go out and make friends with the new dog, even though I told her to stay away from him. So you know how good she listens to me. 

     I was in the house when I heard her yell for help, I looked out and Buck had her whole hand in his mouth. I told her to stand still until I got there....I thought this would be a good time to play a trick on her. When I got there my wife didn't know what to do. I left on she was in dyer peril and could lose her hand if he bit down. I thought maybe I would just let Buck hold her hand for awhile maybe she would learn a good lesson, I knew he wouldn't let lose until she petted him on the head. 
I left on I couldn't think of a way to get her hand out of his mouth unless I would shoot him. Finally I told her to reach down real slow with the other hand and pet him on the head, right away he let go. I started to laugh and she knew I was having fun with her. She didn't get to mad about it and really thought he was kinda of cute for doing that. I got a good laugh out of it anyway. After that Buck was "our" dog, somehow I lost half a dog to my wife.

     I trained old Buck to be a good coon hound, I really thought a lot of that dog, he acted a lot like the Decker's. He liked to stay with me around the house and love to fight with me. When he wanted to play I would put on a heavy coat because he could get pretty rough....I didn't take it to easy on him either. He would come running at me then jump up and grab my arm then give it a good shaking. Then I would grab him by the head or neck and wrestle him to the ground, great fun for him and me.

     Now where was I, oh yeah, I going going hunting and it was 5 above zero. I turned Buck loose and he done one or two laps around the house bawling from excitement as he always did. My wife always like to come out on the porch and listen to him, he sounded just like he was running a coon in the yard. After he got that out of his system I put him in the cab with me, it was so cold that even with the heater on it was still freezing ice on the inside of the windshield, so it was a pretty chilly ride until the engine heated up a little after five miles. 

     I knew a good spot down along the river, I always got a good chase there. I pulled into where I usually parked and turned Buck out and off he went. We were hunting pretty fast because it was so cold, it was hard standing in one spot very long because I never wore a heavy coat when I was coon hunting, you can get pretty hot running after a hound. I guess we only went a about a mile or so and Buck hit a hot track. Within a couple hundred yards he had it treed and that big Blue Tic voice echoed up and down the river bottom telling me to hurry up he had a coon treed, always made the hair stand up on the back of my neck when he opened up on a coon like that. The river water was not at the point of freezing so it looked like smoke coming off the water because of the cold air hitting the warmer water.

     I caught up to Buck and he was locked down barking tree, I knew before I got there that he had treed one. He had a great change over bawl and he only used it when he was sure he had one up the right tree. I shined the light up in the tree but didn't see any coon, then I shined the lower limbs and there sit a big ole coon on a limb right over the water. Me and Buck were standing on a ten foot bank and the river kind of cut in at that spot. I thought if I shot the coon the currant would bring him into the bank. I put a shell in my little bolt action 22 and Buck stopped barking like he always did. He knew what was coming next when I locked that shell in my gun, so he just sat down and looked up at that coon in the tree. I shot and down came the coon just as I planned, what I didn't plan on was Buck jumping off the bank into the water to get the coon. I knew when I heard that big splash he was in trouble.  One thing a coon hunters fears is a dog in the water with a live coon. Sure enough when Buck got to the coon he wasn't dead, I had just nicked him and he had plenty of fight left. Buck grabbed the coon but the coon was able to get up on top of Bucks head and down under the water they went. The only thing I could see were air bubbles coming up, I knew I had to do something quick. I throw down my gun and ripped off my coat, I was going in after Buck. That coon wasn't going to drown my dog, no way, even if I had to freeze my butt off trying to save him. I had no idea how deep the water was and it didn't matter, that was my pal that was in trouble. 

     I was just about to jump in the water when up came Buck blowing water out of his nose with that coon in his jaws, I don't know how he got that coon off his head under the water but he did. He swam to the bank with that coon in his mouth, when he got to the bank he tore that coon a new one....LOL...he sure was mad. 

     I had to get my coat back on because I was freezing and I didn't even get wet, my fingers were so cold I could hardly button my coat. I got the coon away from Buck then put him on the leash. It was so cold his hair started freezing, it looked like he was on fire with all the stream coming off him. I took off running as fast as I could for the truck. After a mile of flat out running plus carrying that wet coon and leading Buck I was pretty well played out but warm. I throw the coon in the back of the truck then me and Buck got into the cab, I turned the heater on high. We weren't gone that long so the engine was still warm, that heat felt pretty good, by the time we got home Buck was dry, didn't think to much of him shaking water all over me but he was alright.

     Whenever I came home from a hunt my wife would always ask me if I had fun. I always would say of course I had fun, I wouldn't have gone if I wasn't going to have fun. I didn't bother her with the details, she would just have said I was crazy anyway...LOL... I didn't skin the coon that night but I wish I had, by the time I got to him the next day he was as hard as a cement block.

     One year later I was hunting Buck along the river again, it was warm that night and so was the water, it was early Fall and the leaves were still on. Buck treed a nice big coon and it was over the water again, I had a real good shot at it this time so I thought, why not. Ole Buck will retrieve it for me.....wrong.....I shot and the coon was dead before it hit the water. Buck just sat there looking at the coon float down the river,.... LOL....I had to follow it for almost a half mile before it got close enough for me to fish it in with a long stick. Buck never went in the water again after a coon, can't say that I blamed the old boy. Tim 

Henry’s Porcupine
By Milton Decker

     During September of 1979 or 80 , Mary and I along with Ellis and his older sisters, took off early one Sunday morning, in hopes of seeing elk in the Coast Range mountains.  We had seen elk in this area before and although it was over an hour’s drive, we had usually had good luck seeing elk and deer in this forested area, which was a patchwork of fresh logging, mature second growth and all stages of Douglas-fir reproduction in between.  In those days while logging was still allowed, this western, one third of Oregon was a Mecca for wildlife, especially deer and elk.  We took Henry, our 32 pound male terrier and Sassy our 12 pound spayed female.  After an early drive around of the forested area for an a couple of hours, we found a locked gate that said no motor vehicles.  A nature walk seemed in order so away we went.  The logging road led down to clear cuts above some natural meadows along Indian Creek.  Lots of elk and deer tracks were everywhere and we just quietly kept going.  The road ended with a landing that had been used to load out the logs.  To clean up, the loggers had shoved up a pile of limbs, tops, etc. to be burned later.  Sassy and Henry had been having a wonderful time running everywhere and exploring everything. 

     We were nearly a mile from our rig at this point.  We noticed the dogs excitedly barking down in  the interior of the large pile of debris.  I thought skunk, and was immediately worried.  We called and finally Sassy crawled out on top of the pile, but something wasn't right about her.  On closer inspection, we could see two porcupine quills sticking out of her nose.  We called with no avail, to Henry.  We could hear him growling and tearing the porcupine to pieces way down inside the big pile.  When he had his job finished, he emerged looking totally unbelievable.  His head was twice its regular size.  So many long quills were sticking out that we could barely see the dog's head.  He couldn't begin to close his mouth and his tongue was full of quills, also.  What a mess.  All uphill and nearly a mile to our rig with a pair of pliers in it.  He would travel about fifty feet then stop to paw at his mouth and face, trying to get rid of quills.  I was afraid he would puncture his eyes, so I picked him up and started as fast as I could out of there.  He would go quietly for a little while then the pain would convulse him.  It was all I could do to keep him from thrashing out of my grip, until each convulsion ended.  Even though he was totally consumed with pain, he didn't try to bite me.  I think that may be the most the most unique part of this whole experience. 

     I thought we would never get to the pickup, but finally we did.  Pliers were there but, after the pain I caused taking out two or three, of the hundreds, I asked Mary to drive as quickly as possible to Florence, Oregon, in hopes we could find a vet on Sunday. 

     What a wild ride.  Trying to hurry over those twisty gravel roads was a nightmare.  Mary seldom drove that big truck and we were all so worried about Henry and wrecking, that it seemed that the one hour drive, took forever.  We were lucky and did find a vet.  We had to leave Henry and return the next day for him.  His lean 32 pound body held no fat to speak of, and since we learned that fat is where the anesthetic dissipates, Henry stayed "out cold" for three days.  The vet said he counted over 700 removed quills.  His eyes were a bit bloodshot, but otherwise unharmed.  Quills kept festering and needing my removal for about six months, but our big dog made a full recovery.  My own arms and shoulders were extremely stiff and sore for over a week from struggling with that berserk dog.

     Years later, one evening on one of our wilderness river float trips, I saw a huge porcupine near the river.  We camped a little further on and I forgot for just a minute and away went Henry from our campsite.  I heard him baying and thought the worst.  By then it was too dark to try to find him and believe me, I was extremely relieved when he returned without quills.   He may have known not to attack, or the huge porky might have gone up a tree.  I never trusted him to stay out of a fight, but he did learn to leave skunks alone after a few encounters.