It was beginning to seem more like winter every day. The white oak had lost most of its leaves and on some mornings the chickens' watering pans were covered with a thin layer of ice. Old Pudge, the hunting dog, lay curled up in a ball next to the back door, out of the wind. The air had the smell of wood smoke coming from the pot-bellied heating stove.Daddy started hunting at night now. He took down the carbide lamp, cleaned it, and filled it halfway with small gray carbide pellets. When he added water, the pellets sizzled inside the lamp, forming a gas that ignited when he put a match to it. He clipped the lamp to his cap and it gave enough light for him to see how to get through the woods.
Pudge wagged his tail and barked, excited to be going on a chase. He was a fine dog; Daddy had been offered $100 for him, but good coon dogs were hard to find. A good dog meant there would be more hides to sell; 35 cents for opossum hides, and skunk hides brought $1.00 each. Raccoons were the animals Daddy liked best to hunt because their hides brought $2.00 to $3.00 each.
Uncle Dewey came after dark with his hounds and the two men left, the dogs straining at their leashes, eager to be freed. At the foot of Turkey Mountain, Pudge picked up a coon's trail. He let out a shrill bark and Daddy turned him loose. The men walked carefully through the thick undergrowth of briers and vines. They heard the dogs in the distance. Daddy recognized Pudge's bark; he was treed!
When Daddy and Uncle Dewey reached the dogs, they were barking with every breath, at the base of a big sweet gum tree, and clawing, trying to get to the animal overhead. Daddy aimed the light from the carbide lamp up into the branches of the tree; the animal turned one eye to the light. "It's a coon alright! A coon will always turn one eye to the light! Get him Pudge!"
He raised the gun to his shoulder, took aim, and fired. The coon ran to the other side of the tree and jumped. He ran; the dogs gave chase again, hot on his trail! The coon took refuge under a rock ledge along the creek. "I believe we've lost this one; we might as well head on back home."
The next morning, Daddy skinned the two opossums he had killed the night before. He stretched the hides over boards and hung them on the wall of the smokehouse to dry. Two hides meant only seventy-five cents, but the excitement of the hunt had been worth much more.
Thank you for the comments you have made about my stories. Some have suggested that I put them in a book. Well, actually, they are from a book I wrote for my grandchildren, titled, "In the Shade of the White Oak". I wanted the kids to know what life was like for us in the 40s and early 50s, the first ten years of my life. Right now they aren't too interested in the stories; older people, who remember these things, have seemed to enjoy it though. Other parts from the book may be found under the label "family". Charlotte