The Day I Almost Shot the Duke
It started out like most any other night coon hunting, back in the fall of 1984. I was hunting with a guy I didnŐt know too well, but we had hunted a time or two and I guess he wanted to impress me with a hunting spot he had found. I knew we didnŐt always agree on certain things like religion and prayer and which brand of cigarettes were best, but I figured maybe he wanted to see how good my dog was, and I thought I would show him. Duke was a sturdy 55 pound blanket-back AKC, UKC, NKC Triple registered hunt-winning Treeing Walker hound, and I knew we wouldnŐt be out there too long before he found a coon sneaking around in the woods.
We drove down in there to the spot he found, neither one of us knowing the first thing about the area. We drove till the woods began and parked the truck. I turned Duke loose and we waited and waited, and I said, letŐs walk the way we saw him go. I thought I heard him strike in with a bark, but a little confused, I scratched my head when the trees ended pretty quick, ending in just slough and grass. I then I thought I could hear him treeing but there were no trees out there. Then we saw the slope down to the slough. There was wild rice growing which had already turned brown and it was all around your eyeballs. The wind was picking up and together that made him harder to hear, sounding farther away, so I said, ŇHeŐs moving fast, letŐs hurry up and see if we can find himÓ.
We went running through this thicket, trying to see which direction we could hear the best, fast. All of a sudden I felt something around my waist, and it kind of flipped me over. I didnŐt know what it was, I couldnŐt see it in the tall gras. Then I could hear him, and I put my ear down towards the ground. I stood up and I could no longer hear him. I leaned down and I could hear him. Between the fall and the wind picking up, my nerves were good and shot, and I wasnŐt thinking straight. What I hit turned out to be what turned out to be about a 10 inch fiberglass pipe for a farm drainage system, although I didnŐt realize that at the moment (because I am not a farmer). Frustrated, I probably cursed real good as I kind of walked around the pipe and could not hear the dog. I went back to it, and I could hear him, but I still didnŐt have a clue what was really happening (or I sure did not want to believe it). so I went over to the man I hunted with and said ŇMaybe we can get a bearing on where he is with the compassÓ. But the compass kept me pointed toward the direction of the pipe. We both stared at the skinny pipe.
ŇNo way.Ó the guy said.
Neither one of us wanted to believe it. Surely a 55 pound coon dog built like a small tank could not possibly fit into that small pipe. But then I had to admit he was down in that pipe, which best I could figure, about a 15 foot drop, about 1 feet to the start of the bank of that slough, so that led me to believe that pipe was in dirt about 5 feet and then went through the ground a little ways then fell out into the water. When I shone my Sunburst spotlight on the area of pipe going into the water, I could see the shadow of dog and coon, upside down, stuck in the pipe, fighting, coon squalling and the dog yelping and struggling for air. And Mister, you donŐt want to get stuck in a pipe with a fighting mad coon.
This went on for what seemed like hours. I never felt so bad for a dog. I knew there was nothing I could do short of a backhoe magically appearing in my path. I have never mistreated an animal, nor would I let one suffer, so I pulled up my gun, cocked back the trigger and laid down pointed it at the pipe.
With real fear in his voice, the guy asked me, ŇWhat are you doing?Ó .
ŇIŐm putting him out of his misery.Ó I replied grimly. Then, for whatever reason, instead of pulling the trigger. I laid down the gun and walked over to the pipe and leaned over, hugged it like you would your sweetie, and I started praying as hard as I could, ŇLord, please let me lift itÓ, and I didnŐt know it, but I wasnŐt trying, just hugging and pulling, with faith and my prayer to God. Then I could see the guy I was hunting with off to the side, jumping up and down like a five-year old kid, and he yelled,
ŇItŐs moving, ItŐs moving! Ň And I prayed harder, and hugged it harder, and I could feel the pipe moving. As I looked down, the ground started cracking, and I kept the bear hug, hoping and praying. I stood all the way up with pipe in my arms before I collapsed. I fell backwards and I could see the pipe was laying up on the top of the bank, right beside me like it was going to sleep. I couldnŐt hear nothing, but the guyŐs light was shining on the pipe. I was so tired, but as I almost passed out, I saw the back end of my dog coming out. As he backed all the way out I grabbed his collar without moving anything but my arm and I held on for dear life. Duke was miraculously virtually unhurt, and ready to go again! Then a minute later the coon came out and looked me square in the eyes, not afraid at all, and trotted off. Then the guy says, ŇTurn your dog loose! Turn your dog loose!Ó and I looked at him and said,
ŇNo. He treed him once and thatŐs enough. LetŐs call it a night and go to the truck.Ó
Both the guy and Duke were disappointed and silent all the way back to the truck. About a block down the road, I stopped the truck and looked him square in the eyes and said, ŇYou can say a lot of things about me, but you canŐt say I donŐt believe in God.Ó
And thatŐs all that was said. I never ran into that man again, but I bet he never forgot that night. I know that I learned 3 very important lessons that day: