As far as my Father was concerned, fox hunting was music to his ears. In a pack of six or eight hounds, he could tell by their bark and wail, which dog was in the lead.
By Barney Shepherd
Recently, I got to thinking about my Father’s old dog and how that old hound would just lie there in the sun, stretched out down there below the wood shed in a pile of straw with his head between his front legs and his ears flopped out over his paws.
He was an ugly dog. Ugly as homemade sin! This knotty pile of dog flesh was my Father’s prize, blue ribbon fox hound!
My Dad, being an excellent judge of dog flesh, especially fox hounds, had taken him as the pick of the litter and had named him “Old Lead” when he was just a pup.
He claimed that this pup would grow up to be the best dad burn fox hound to ever chase a fox. My Father was right!
I may have been cut out to be a fox hunter but I guess I was sewn up wrong. Staying up all night long listening to a pack of hounds chase a fox was definitely not my cup of tea. I guess this is the reason that I considered Old Lead to be a worthless piece of property.
As far as my Father was concerned, fox hunting was music to his ears. In a pack of six or eight hounds, he could tell by their bark and wail, which dog was in the lead and the exact position of the remaining pack.
Old Lead was always out front! My Father dearly loved the sport and he dearly loved that old hound. Mama claimed he thought more of that old dog than he did of her. He was an avid fox hunter, that’s for sure!
‘RL’ slipped a crisp new fifty dollar bill out his billfold and slapped it down on the top rail of that snake rail fence, right in front of my Father’s face and said “That is my final offer!”
Now RL was the Honorable R. L. Doughton, a member of the U. S. Congress and a real good friend of my Father. RL wanted that old hound dog so bad he could taste it!
That was the first fifty dollar bill I ever laid eyes on and a pile of money back there in 1936 when grown men were begging to work for ten cents per hour.
Well sir, my Father picked up the fifty dollar bill, rubbed it and pulled it through his fingers several times.
He smiled while handing the money back to RL and said “You really make it hard for a man, but that dog is not for sale!”
Well, it happened about ten days later. Old Lead, somehow or other, took up with a pack of dogs over the mountain a ways, in a community called the Ripshin.
That pack of dogs, including Old Lead, attacked a flock of sheep, killing several and wounding many more. It was an accepted fact, at that time and in that place, that once a dog had gotten a taste of sheep blood he would always go back for more.
Old Lead came sauntering home the next morning all covered with the blood from those sheep. His tail was dragging between his hind legs as if he knew he had done wrong.
My Father didn’t say a word. He went into the house and came back with his twelve gauge shotgun. He took aim at the side of that old dog’s bloody head and blew both eyes right out of his scull.
The fresh warm blood of the dog mingled with the cold and clotted blood of the sheep as the old hound died. His tongue was lying sideways out of his mouth and was cushioned on a wad of blood stained wool. I cried!
My Father knelt down and cradled that old dead dog, ever so gently, in his arms. He carried him out to the orchard and lowered him into a grave we had dug beneath a Rusty Coat apple tree.
Still speechless and with his eyes filled with tears he slowly covered his friend and replaced the grass sod over him.
“Dad, was that old dog worth fifty dollars?” I asked as we walked toward the house.
“More than that son, much more than that.” He replied as he wiped his eyes with his bloodstained shirt sleeve. “Come on and go with me. We have to see about paying Reeves Osborne for the sheep he lost.”
A man must do what he must do.
And old dogs too, must do what they do to.
We can’t undo the things we do
But God will pardon you and old dogs too,
Beneath an apple tree!
This piece of writing was first published in Meghdutam.com (between 1999 to 2002).
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