This is a story loosely based on a hunt my father went on when he was young. Comments welcome.
Pronounced "Say dee"
“Ole” Sadie didn’t like it.
“Ole Sadie sure didn’t like it“. “Whatever it was“. Those words still echo in my memory 42 years after I uttered them to my Father and my Grandfather on a chilly fall morning sitting by the small fire I had built to keep myself warm during the night. It had all started on a cool fall evening in late October. I had hurried home from the school bus stop on that Friday evening to do my chores and prepare for the nights coon hunt with my new hound Sadie. She was a Red Tick hound that my Father had given me for my birthday the year before. I had spent the spring and summer training her to run and tree coons and had hunted her a few times with my Grandfathers hounds. She was proving to be quite a dog. I had her as a constant companion every day. Where I went, she went. My father sometimes grumbled at me that I was making a pet out of her and she would not hunt like a good hound would. I didn’t care. We lived on a farm 37 miles from town and the nearest neighbor was 4 miles away. The nearest kid my age was even farther away, so most of the time I was alone. Sadie had become more than a hound. She was becoming my friend. She would pace in her kennel and bawl at me when she heard me coming down the road after school each day from the bus stop. I would stop at her kennel and turn her out before I went inside to do homework. She would wait for me on the porch until I was finished and had changed into my work clothes to do my evening chores. We would bound off the porch each day on the way to the barn and she would bawl a happy bawl and play around the barnyard chasing a chicken or aggravating the old tom turkey. I would scold her every time and she would change direction as if to say I was mistaken but she knew I wasn’t. She would sit and watch me feed the horses and cows and haul water to them. She would sniff around the hog trough as I poured the middlings in. Those hogs could hear that from a mile away and Sadie would back away when they came running up over the hill from wherever they had been down over in the holler. She didn’t like hogs for some reason and would look sideways at them while backing away. I could see her lip curl slightly like she wanted to growl at them. After this was finished we would haul wood in for the fireplace and keep moms wood box full for the cook stove. When finished, off we would go until mom called me for supper and I would return Sadie to her kennel and supper of her own.
This Friday evening I had received permission from my dad to take Sadie over to my Grandfathers farm and hunt for the night. I was 12 years old and had spent many nights out hunting by myself. I always took my grandfathers hounds and he never worried about me. Each time I would come in soon after daylight and would usually have a coon or two. My grandfathers farm was just down the road from ours but it bordered a huge tract of virgin timber that had been bypassed by the big timber companies. Most of it was very steep and rocky and was tough going for a coon hunter but it was full of cherry and persimmon trees and it held many big coon. I had been in this patch of timber many times with my father and grandfather since I was very young but this would be my first by myself in here. I knew most of it well enough to navigate in the dark without a light. I had an uncanny ability to see very well with out light at night. In fact most times I could see better without it. Grandfather called me carrot eyes. He believed my love for raw carrots was the reason I could see so well.
This big tract of timber fell away from a plateau toward the river and was several square miles of hollows and ridges. I knew almost all of it very well and knew where all the hazardous cliffs and river bluffs were. As soon as my chores were finished, my mom had packed me a supper of bacon and biscuits and a couple apples from the cellar and had my good hunting coat freshly washed and ready to go. I took the old single shot Remington 22 down from its pegs above my bed and off Sadie and I went for our first solo hunt. I was so excited at the prospect of shooting Sadie’s own coons out to her. We ran almost all of the two miles down the road to my grandfathers farm. I saw Grandmother looking out the window as we came up the road to the house. Grandpas hounds were bawling away and grandpa came around the side of the barn and hollered for Sadie. I dropped her lead and she ran up to him and wagged her long tail in her joy to see him. He talked to her like a child. He never did this to his dogs but he did Sadie. He called her pretty girl and stroked her chin and she loved it. Grandma called for me to come in and as much as I wanted to get started I went in to see her. The house smelled so good of apple pie freshly baked and beans cooking on the old cook stove. She wanted me to sit down and have some pie before I left. She fixed a nice glass of milk and asked if I wanted some supper to take. I told her mom had fixed me up and I was well stocked. I did as she asked and gobbled the pie down with the glass of fresh milk. “You be careful now and eat the supper mom fixed for you”, she said as I dashed out the back door. Grandpa was still kneeling down talking to Sadie and petting her. “Dad tells me I am ruining her” I said to him as I approached. “He says I am making a big pet out of her” “Well, Grandpa started, every now and then there comes along a dog that is just a little more than a hunter“. “I believe ole Sadie here is such a dog“. “You keep loving her and she will love you back“. “She will hunt for you until she drops“. “ You take care of her and she will fight a bear for you.” “Ok grandpa, I will.”
I looked back over at him as we started off down through the pasture towards the big woods and he was watching me with a smile on his face. “ Be careful son and let that dog hunt.” She will tree many a coon for you.” “ I will Grandpa!” We reached the edge of the big woods where the pasture ended and walked by the place where grandpas old cows would lay up in the summer out of the heat. They had a big wide area worn down to the ground under the big white oak trees at the edge. There was still a little light left as we started in but that light was fading and the cool fall air was nipping at my cheeks. I loved it. God how I loved this time of year and how I loved the thoughts of having my own hound treeing coons and hunting alone in the big woods. It was as if I had reached a milestone towards becoming a man. I felt so big and confident as we started around the ridge above the river bluffs. The leaves had began to fall and the trees were not yet completely bare and I could see the river bottoms way below in the fading light. Sadie was as excited as I had ever seen her and she was whining and straining on the lead for me to let her go. “ Just then Sadie stopped dead and her head shot up as she looked toward the river bottom. Then immediately, I heard a strange noise coming from way off down in the bottom. It was like a howl but it sounded so lonesome and mournful. It didn’t sound like a dog though. It was very strange. The hair on Sadie’s back was standing straight up and she was now growling. I wondered at this as I had never seen her act this way. We stood for a few minutes and the sound never came again. Sadie had returned to sniffing the air and whining and lunging on the lead. I turned her loose and off she went around the ridge to the head of the hollow. . Within thirty minutes I heard her open up about two hundred yards ahead of me and she was on a hot track. I started off towards her and stopped to listen to her beautiful voice every minute or so. My chest was tightening with pride. The “Big” feeling that I had as we started into the woods was now even greater. I had traveled about to the place where she opened up and she was another hundred yards in front of me and she was barking treed. I hurried my pace and found her tearing the bark off of an old chestnut tree that was dead and bare of leaves. I could see a big coon silhouetted against the twilight sky and I took careful aim with my old 22. At the crack of the shell the coon folded up and out he came. It was a big boar coon and Sadie waded in on it but he was already dead. My pride doubled again and Sadie was equally as proud. She pranced around and I swear she knew this was her first solo coon tree and I was in 12 year old boy heaven. I took out the old carbide light, turned the water valve on and lit the light. I hung the coon up with some hay twine and skinned him out. He was heavy furred for this early in the year and was extremely fat. He had been eating the chestnuts and apples that were everywhere. I put the hide in my sack and Sadie was already off looking for another, I sat back against the old chestnut tree and listened. I could hear her footfalls in the dry leaves as she was circling me. Each time she was getting farther away as the circles were getting bigger. I fully expected to hear her open up again but it didn‘t happen. She kept circling me until I could no longer hear the footfalls, It was eerily quiet. I could hear some cows lowing a very long way off in the distance but they soon stopped. It was extremely quiet. I was listening hard to hear Sadie’s footfalls as it was way past time for her to check in but I could hear nothing. A lot of time passed and I was beginning to wonder where she had went when I thought I heard her coming. Very faint footfalls at first then nothing. Another few footfalls then nothing. I listened hard and I thought I could hear her breathing . Then a few more and nothing. Was she hurt? I was becoming concerned. I thought I could hear her breathing but she was still far away out on the ridge. I gathered myself to my feet and started in her direction when I heard her open up. “What“? I exclaimed aloud. She was way down in the river bottom and was on another hot track. I listened for a few minutes and could no longer hear the breathing I thought was Sadie. I was now puzzled. “Oh Well” I said out loud and off I went over the steep side of the mountain and down to the bottoms. The side of the mountain was very steep. I would slide as much as I would walk and I always kept a tree in front of me to catch me in case I couldn’t stop. I weaved my way in and out of the bluffs that riddled the side of the mountain until I came to the bottom and heard Sadie barking treed. She was now very close and after a couple hundred yards I found her. She was treed in a big sycamore tree next to a small creek. I had to light up the carbide light again as I couldn’t make out any coon up in the branches. I lit the light and trained it on the limbs way above me and soon found a set of eyes playing peek a boo with me. I held the light in my left hand and took aim with my old 22 again and “crack”, here came a coon. Again the coon was already dead but I let Sadie have a good taste. I took the coon off a few yards to find a bush to hang it in to skin and Sadie was still treeing and raising a fit. I shined the limbs again and found another set of eyes. At the crack of the rifle the second coon came tumbling out. This one was just winged and Sadie had a fight on her hands. The coon was growling that awful growl that they have and Sadie was growling mean “Red Tick” right back, snarling and gnashing her teeth. She finally got a good hold on the coon’s back and violently shook it. I heard the coons back break and it was over. If Sadie seemed proud before she was really proud now. She sat down and watched me skin the two coons and didn’t offer to continue the hunt. She was content to watch me. I finished the skinning and I could hear a small trickle of water in the creek so I went over and washed all the coon blood from my hands. I went back to find Sadie still laying there watching me. It was as if she was finished for the night and wanted to just sit and enjoy out first night accomplishments. I talked to her just like I would a person. I felt silly sometimes as I would realize I was talking to her out loud as if she was a human but she was my friend. “Hunt ‘em up Sadie” “Go get us another one girl“. I said. She just looked at me and turned her head slightly sideways like she was trying to understand me. She didn’t seem to want to hunt anymore. I was curious about this but my thoughts soon turned to where I had actually came to and how far down in the bottoms we were. I hadn’t been this far down except for one time when Dad and grandpa’s hounds had run a big Bobcat off the top. I loaded the two other coon hides in my sack and started off towards the ridge where I had came from. I knew it would take me a long time to climb out so I wasn’t concerned about hunting anymore tonight. A look at my watch told me it was already 2:30 am. We started the climb up the steep mountainside and was about half way up when I decided it was time for some supper. Sadie had climbed up right behind me. She would never let me get more than a couple feet away from her. I started sideways over to a rock bluff and saw underneath it was a big area where the rock overhung enough to keep a large area very dry. In one corner of the overhang there was a large amount of tree limbs and brush that seemed to have been piled up. I broke up an armload of this wood and built a fire up to knock a little of the chill out of the air.
I built the fire up close to the pile of brush so my wood supply was just an arms length away. The dry leaves underneath the overhang were great for starting the fire and I soon had a good one. I raked up a big pile of the leaves and made a soft bed to sit in and lay back against the rocks. The whole time Sadie would not leave or move very far away from me. She was acting strange. I pulled up the sack and brought out the biscuits and bacon for Sadie and me. She lay down in the leaves next to me and it was then that I really noticed how strange her behavior was. Her lip was curled like when she would see the hogs coming. Deep down in her chest I could hear a low growl. She was shaking. She would smell the air and would again curl her lip and growl. I though maybe she was smelling Granpa’s hogs as I could smell something myself that smelled like them. We sat back and feasted on bacon and biscuits. I shared it with Sadie and she ate a little but she still did not act right. I was half way though my first apple when I began to feel the effects of a sleepless night the night before in anticipation of the hunt. That and the tough climb up out of the bottoms had me tired. My eyes were getting heavy with sleepiness and the warm fire and Sadie’s warmth pressing against me felt good. The soft bed of leaves under us and the cool night air was a good combination. I shuffled the sack over to make a pillow and the weight of the coon hides again made me feel a sense of pride. I lay down and Sadie snuggled right in next to me. I was drifting off to sleep thinking about the nights hunt and the days events leading up to it. The last hour in school seemed to take an eternity. I was slowly going to sleep when I felt the rumble building in Sadie’s chest. She was growling again. I talked softly to her. “Pigs ain’t so bad Sadie girl”. “They made the good bacon we just had to eat“. Again I felt a little silly for talking to her out loud like that arguing my case for hogs. Again she growled as if to tell me I was wrong. Then I heard them again. The footfalls like I had heard up on the ridge that I thought was Sadie. They were coming from above us. Just like before there would be a few footfalls then nothing. It was unlike a dog. Really more like a person. They stopped again just about long enough for me to think I was hearing things. Then I would feel that rumble in Sadie‘s Chest and hear them again. They were getting louder and I could hear the breathing in between . I was now wide awake and wondering what was making the sounds. I had never heard breathing like this and the footfalls were not like an animal. They were like a man. Was it a man out of breath? I continued to wonder as the footfalls came to the edge of the rock overhang above me and a pile of leaves came over the edge as if something had slid and stopped just short of coming over. Sadie raised up at this and her growls became even more intense. I was beginning to worry when I called out “Who is there“? “Who is it“? No answer, Just the heavy breathing. I reached over Sadie and she started to grab my arm until she seen that I was dragging more wood for the fire. I placed several more dry branches on and it caught up and immediately brightened up the area. I kept looking up at the edge of the cliff and leaves were still falling from above as if being kicked over the edge. Sadie was making sounds like I had never heard her make. Between the deep growls she was making a whining sound and she was shaking so bad the leaves of the bed were rattling under her. I was becoming frightened and did not know what to do. I did not know why I was afraid, I had hunted in these hills many nights with my father and grandfather and had never once felt afraid. The little 22 Remington was beside me and I checked it to make sure I had a shell chambered and brought it up to rest on my knees. What seemed like hours but was probably only 10 minutes or so went by and the breathing still sounded labored and the footfalls began again. Whatever it was, was walking side ways along the edge of the cliff. It continued on to the right of me and I realized that it was coming to get around the edge and drop down on the level I was at. My mind raced, I began to shake like Sadie who had again increased her intensity and the look in her eyes scared me. It was a look of fear mixed with anger. I dragged more wood in and placed it on the fire that was now blazing. The footfalls continued and now were coming down the side of the mountain. I caught a glimpse of movement and raised my rifle in that direction. “Who are you and what do you want!” I yelled. “I’m armed and I am not playing games!” I half expected to hear my dad or grandpas voice but nothing came. Just the breathing sounds. The figure made it’s way down the hill just far enough out of sight that I could not make out what it was. All I could see was movement every so often and the brighter the fire became the less I could see beyond the light. I tried to shield my eyes to get a look but it did not work. The firelight had partially blinded me from my good night vision. I sat and watched as whatever it was came around directly in front of us just downhill and out of the edge of the fire light. Sadie had continued her growling but was now laying down in a cowering position. I tried to get her up and she shook all the more when I touched her. “ Whoever you are you better talk to me!” “You are scaring me and my dog and I am going to shoot you if you don’t identify yourself!” Still nothing but that heavy breathing. I fired my rifle in the direction of the breathing but at an angle high enough that I felt would not hit this jerk. I thought it was some mean old boys named Thompson, messing with me. Nothing but the breathing sounds. I pulled five more rounds out of my coat pocket and sent 4 of them in the same direction. Still nothing but heavy breathing. I watched and watched but could not see anything. The fire was burning down and Sadie had slowed in her growls but the breathing sounds were the same. Labored and heavy. I pulled another branch over on the fire and the leaves on it blazed up and in this new brighter light I made out the form of a small man. I could see eyes shining but not like a coon or a deer. Like a man. I could not believe what I was seeing. He was covered in Hair and as the light intensified I could see and hear him back away until he was just out of the light of the fire. Again the fire would burn down and I would hear him inch forward a little at a time. Then I would add another piece of wood and the light would drive it back again. I spoke to Sadie again.. “We have to keep this fire going because that is what is holding him off.” “I’ll take care of you girl“. She was still growling deep and shaking. The entire time she only growled. She did not offer to bark of even move just a deep growl and a pitiful whine. I talked to this thing every so often. I would ask question after question but no answer. The fear in me had subsided somewhat but I was still concerned about what this thing wanted of me and I was not going to go down without giving it a fight. The next few hours were spent stoking the fire and listening to the breathing. I had almost exhausted the pile of wood and was beginning to wonder what I was going to do. Surely it would be daylight soon as I could see the sky begin to lighten.
Suddenly a hand grabbed my shoulder and shook me. I screamed and started attacking whatever had grabbed me. “Hold it boy, hold it! It was grandpa. He was shaking me and looked at me puzzled. It was daylight and had been for sometime now. The fire was burned down considerable and Sadie was standing at the edge of the overhang looking down into the bottoms. I had fallen asleep. I was so relieved to see Grandpa and Dad. They were puzzled as to why I did not come home this morning like I was supposed to. They came looking for me and saw the smoke from the top of the ridge. They could hear Sadie whining and growling. They heard something run off as they approached the overhang but never saw what it was. “Probably a bobcat or something.” Dad said. “What I saw and what kept me hemmed up here most of the night was no Bobcat Dad“. “It was some kind of a hairy man“ I said. At this my Dad and grandpa looked at each other and a puzzled look broke out on their faces. “ I tried to get it to talk to me but it wouldn’t speak”. “ Just breathed really heavy”. “I even shot over it’s head five times but he didn’t move or speak.”. “Only when the fire died down it would come closer then back up when I stoked it up again” I continued. “I don’t know what or who it was“. “I thought it might be one of those mean Thompson boys playing tricks on me but it wasn’t them”. “ Well it don’t seem to have hurt you any“. “Just scared you a little bit”, grandpa said. “Well Ole Sadie didn’t like it. Whatever it was“. “She sure didn’t like it” I said. Grandpa looked at Sadie and smiled. He grabbed the sack with the coon hides in it and said, ”Look here Bill", grampa said. "This boys got a sack full of coon and a good story to boot”. “Had a good hunt didn’t you boy”? “I did until that thing came around” I whispered. “Well, dad began,” I think ole skitter man just wanted to see what was going on”. I looked at dad when he said this. He was looking back at me smiling as if to say "I believe you son because I know who it was". “Dad that couldn’t have been you or grandpa or anyone else I know” I blurted. “ I know son, it wasn’t me or grandpa or anyone else you know”. “I use to hunt these woods myself when I was a boy”. I have a few stories of my own”. I know it wasn’t me or grandpa or anyone else you know” dad explained. “Well” I said” “Sadie sure didn’t’ like it, whatever it was”. I glanced over at where the wood pile had been and there where it had been stacked was a large hole running back underneath the cliff. It looked old and unused and I wondered if that is what the old man was coming to. I wondered if that was his hole and he wanted in it and didn’t like me burning up his wood. I thank God I had ole Sadie with me. She was me friend. She was terrified of whatever that was looking at us from just beyond the firelight but she never left my side. Dad never again said anything to me about ruining my dog. He even began treating her like grandpa did. I believe he thought that something bad might have happened to me that night if that dog had not been there with me and refused to leave me. Just three years later she tangled with a bear and we had to put her down. I took the gun away from dad and told him It was my job and I seen the tears in his eyes. Only time I ever seen him cry over a dog. But that’s another story.
Edited by Flyman41 (03/17/15 08:03 PM)
Edit Reason: spelling and grammar
I wont be wronged. I won't be insulted. And I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same. J W