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From the Mouth of the River

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From the Mouth of the River

Every southern boy needs a beagle

A boy should always have a dog and some girls. That didn’t sound right. I meant to say children should grow up with a dog around to love on and for companionship. Of course, a boy should have a hunting dog and when he’s old enough, then girls.

I have had a dog ever since I was in diapers. Dad bought a collie when I was a baby to keep me company and from getting snake bit. She would stay by my side all day while my dad worked in the fields and would kill any snakes that would show up in the yard, and in the South there were always snakes. When I got old enough to untie the rope Dad had me tied to a tree with, me and Shep would run off from home. But Shep would never let me get very far before she would guide me back to the house. Dad told me years later she would just walk me in a big circle and back home.

Yes, as a single parent who worked on a farm my dad would tie me to a shade tree with 20 feet of cotton rope and put a pallet down made from an old quilt for me to sleep on and he would tell Shep to stay with me until he got back to feed me and change my diaper.

Growing up with a dog is just part of a country boy’s life. I never owned a purebred dog of any kind until I was in my seventies, yet I always had a hunting dog. Most any dog will hunt game with a little patience and encouragement from a boy. Grown men seem to lose their patience and understanding when it comes to training dogs.

Some years ago I went to Kentucky and Ohio to pick up a trailer load of show horses to take on a show circuit. While arriving at this one horse farm in Ohio I saw a pack of miniature fox hounds scurrying across the hills. In fact, I saw several packs of four running and baying like big coonhounds. They were black and white with some tan mixed in and they had long ears and short legs and their tails stood straight up like bird dogs on point. All were running as fast as their little legs would carry them, baying and howling at the top of their lungs with their noses right on the ground. I had never seen anything like this and when I pulled up to the stables I asked the owner what on earth was going on with these miniature hounds? “Those are Beagles,” he said. “They are having hunting trials on the farm down the road.” About that time a pack of four ran right through his yard. Each dog had a big number painted on its side and with their noses to the ground they didn’t even notice we were there.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “If the hunting trials are on the farm down the road why are there packs running all over your place?”

“I have no idea,” he exclaimed. “I can’t figure out how they judge these trials either, or how they pick a winner. All I know is every time they have Beagle trials around here it takes a week to find all the lost dogs.”

If there is one thing I admire it’s the baying of hounds, which is quite common in the South, especially at night. When I was a small boy my dad and I would sit out in the yard on a summer night and listen to the hounds run coons down on the river bottom.

All of the above has long been a distant memory from my past until one wintery morning here in North Idaho I stepped out to shovel snow from our door steps and suddenly I heard in the distance the baying of hounds. There were two. The lead dog was hot on a scent and baying constantly. The second dog was close behind and acknowledging the first dog was on the scent by letting out a howl occasionally. As I stood there in the cold morning watching and listening, the hounds came around our mountain, dropped down into the Bear Paw campgrounds on Trestle Creek and barked treed. I soon found out these dogs belonged to an outfitter with a license to hunt cougar. His client was a photographer who only wanted to film the cougar they had treed. When they arrived at the tree they were surprised to find a female cougar with two half-grown cubs to photograph.

The sound of those hounds baying brought back memories of those Beagles from my distant past, and I started my quest to own one.

 “Lovie,” I said, “we are down to just one dog and she is old and lonesome. What do ya say we get a pack of beagles?”

 “What? What’s a beagle and how many is a pack?” she asked.

“Well, they’re small and very cute little dogs and they don’t eat much and there are four to a pack.”

“What? Are you out of your @3$#* mind? There’s no way we are going to get a pack of beagles!”

“But, Honey. They sound just like big hounds.”

“All the more reason were not getting any. Case closed!”

A month or more went by and finally I said, “How about two?”

“Two what?” she asked.

“Beagles,” I said.

“No way. I thought I had made that perfectly clear.”

“No,” I said, “you said not a pack. This would be just two.”

“The answer is still No!”

Time dragged on into spring and one day our neighbor, Wind Stone the opera star and caterwauler, shows up at our place with a three-month-old Beagle puppy. Said he got it for his son. It was the cutest thing you’d ever seen; the Beagle, not the kid. The kid is cute, too, but thank God he takes after his mother.

Our neighbor, Wind Stone, teaches music and voice at one of those trade schools over in the back woods of Montana and he’s now a recording star. His first CD will be released this July and debuted at the Clark Fork transfer station. Don’t miss it. So much for his commercial, now back to the Beagle story.

Each morning, Wind Stone dragged this little pup up to our house and had coffee. In the meantime the pup would jump all over Lovie and you know how a woman can’t resist a snuggling puppy. I could now see the handwriting on the wall, as my evil mind contemplated my next move. Fudge brownies, cake, pies and lots of coffee kept Wind Stone coming back for more and now Lovie was looking forward to seeing and playing with that pup.

Finally, one day when Lovie was snuggling with the pup and it was licking her face I said, “Boy, I wish I had one of those Beagle puppies, so Wind Stone’s puppy would have someone to play with when he comes up for coffee.” Two weeks later I returned from a fishing trip and there she was, the cutest Beagle puppy you ever saw. And, she had papers on her as well as under her. I was in love all over again.

If you have ever been around dogs much you have seen them dragging their butt across the yard or making brown streaks on the carpet. I have always thought this was a funny sight. So, on behalf of dogs everywhere I have named my dog Scooter.

Generations after generations of breeding has taken place to create a Beagle or all purebred dogs for that matte; from a lap dog to a hunting dog they are bred for a specific reason. Then there’s the back alley dogs whose blood line is a mixed bread of fence jumpers and unintentional breeding. There are not many breads of hunting dogs whose bloodlines include family pets, though you can make pets out of most dogs. Here in the Northwest labs and lab crosses are the predominant pet with little Foo-foo lap dogs for the older generations. I know one fellow who has a Pit Bull as a seeing-eye dog. it wasn’t until the dog tore off one of his arms and most of his face that he needed a seeing-eye dog.

If you ever, and I mean ever, decide you want a registered dog, read everything ever printed on that breed. Ask anyone and everyone who owns one what they like and don’t like about their dog. Not just one person but as many people as you can find. For instance, Beagles are bred to hunt; they have a nose second to none. Our Beagle can track a two-day-old ant track across the carpet.

When we first got the pup all we did was try to love it and play with it, getting it acquainted with us. I couldn’t wait until it was old enough to start baying. All I new about Beagles was they were bred to hunt cottontail rabbits. When they get the scent of a rabbit and jump it from its hiding place, they chase it howling and bowling at the top of there lungs. It’s easy for the rabbit to outrun a Beagle but with all that baying they stay right on the rabbit’s scent trail —the rabbit just runs in a big wide circle, right back to where it started, thinking it is safe to come home only to find a man standing there with a shotgun waiting on his return.

That’s all I knew about Beagles. We don’t have any cottontails here and only an occasional snowshoe rabbit, so what was our Beagle to hunt that she could bay at? It wasn’t until spring that her voice changed and we discovered that one morning when a bull moose walked around the corner of the barn and met Scooter in the middle of the yard. The bull stopped and looked down at this little dog barking at the top of its lungs twenty feet away. When the bull became irritated enough he shook his head. Scooter whirled and scurried towards the house in a dead run, then stopped and charged right back at the moose; this time her voice started to break like that of a teenage boy. Standing on her hind feet with every hair on her body standing straight out she began to bay, howl. Her voice would break up but ever so often she would put it all together and sound just like a big hound.

I was a proud Papa, but was somewhat concerned for her safety. However, any time the bull would look at her or take a step she would scurry towards the house, keeping the bull at a safe distance. I was as proud as I could be of my little Beagle; even Lovie was excited about our little Scooter and the shenanigans she would pull with this moose,

Eventually the moose got bored and trotted off. Much to our surprise Scooter thought she had a hunt going for her and proceeded to run the moose to Great Falls, Montana. While the moose trotted over the hill little Scooter, running as fast as her little legs would carry her, was barely out of the yard. But nevertheless she was in hot pursuit.

We hollered, screamed, whistled and shouted at the top of our lungs to no avail. Lesson one about Beagles. They will look you right in the eye and totally ignore any kind of command you give them when it comes to hunting. If they hit a scent of a squirrel or catch a glimpse of one or any other animal they are in hot pursuit, instantly baying and howling with their noses right on the ground.

And when Wind Stone brings his pup up to play, it gets twice as bad, veins sticking out on our necks and heads from screaming unheard commands at these two Beagles. This became more than we could stand. When we would finely catch up with them they would act like they had been waiting on us to show up and were so delighted we could join them. But after being out-smarted so many times, we got the upper hand by the use of an electric collar. Both dogs have an electric collar that lets them play and chase each other through the house and yard up to ninety feet from the front door, at which point the collar starts to make a buzzing sound; just a few feet further and it begins to lightly shock them. They know where that boundary is and respect it. We now have two happy dogs and even happier owners.

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Boots Reynolds Boots Reynolds The "internationally-renowned cowboy artist" Boots Reynolds has moved his comedic interpretation of life into the writing field with his regular column in the River Journal - From the Mouth of the River.

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