A coon hunting friend of mine posted this on facebook. I really enjoyed the story and thought y'all would too. It's a bit long, but worth the read.
Lessons from an 11 year old.
by Charles Pudil
-So no kidding there I was, walking through the projects in Phenix City, Alabama. It was 1994 and I don’t remember exactly why I was walking, but I was. I got out of the Army on a scholarship to attend college ROTC. I was poor as dirt, worked part time construction during the school year and got by with little. I lived in a little two story quadruplex apartment in a rough part of town. Out my back window I could see Riverview, the poorest projects in our area, out the front window was the poor white neighborhood.
-While walking, a boy around eleven years old was with other kids playing football and he looked at me and said “hey, ain’t you the Hound Dog Man?” I was little surprised he called me Hound Dog Man. The black folks in Riverview all called me Fishman. I caught so much crappie and catfish back then that I used to give them away in the projects. When folks saw my little black Chevy truck they would holler out “hey Fishman” to see if I had any that day. My father-in-law was in a deer club that ran hounds and I had gotten me up a small pack of treeing and running walkers and had them tied to stakes with plastic 55 gallon drums for houses in my backyard. I said to the kid “not sure if I am the hound dog man, but I do have some hounds”. He then asked if he could come see them. I said he could, so he and the other boys followed me to the house. The fellow that inquired about the hounds was named Earvin, and he just had a big interest in dogs. He particularly liked a big red headed Walker dog I had named Buford. Me and the boys threw the football around for a bit, and then I had to leave. A couple days later I was out back taking care of the hounds when Earvin and a few boys showed up again. He started coming down regularly with other kids. I had a litter of half running and treeing walker pups and they started disappearing. I just let them run free in the back yard. I figured folks might be stealing them, but didn’t care as I wanted to get rid of them. Earvin started going out, stealing them back and returning them to me. One day my wife and I came home, and I saw Earvin take off through a little strip of woods. I walked out back and discovered that he had taken a five gallon bucket and shovel and was cleaning up after the hounds. He had been sneaking over and doing that for a while.
-As time went on only Earvin would show up and help with the dogs. I met his mom and got permission to let him fish with me. Earvin was always respectful, well mannered, and he had a heck of a good work ethic. Along with fishing, I started teaching him marksmanship and firearms handling. He shot well and handled weapons well. He had a bond with my dogs, and a strong desire to hunt. We became good friends and he also got to know my wife and my in-laws.
-One can never tell what another person thinks, but when Earvin and I went out and about, we did sometimes get a look of suspicion from both white and black folks. It was just not that common to see a 25 year old white man and 11 year old black kid together. Both Earvin and I lived in a poor area, and we shared common interests. I did have a realization that he was living in a home without a father in a neighbored with much crime, drugs, violence, and negative influences. I tried to compliment his mom’s rearing and promoted to Earvin the importance of school, honesty, hard work, being drug free, and alcohol free lifestyle.
-As deer hunting season neared I found a single barrel 20 gauge for $30 at a flea market and got it for Earvin. I was at my Father-in-law’s house and informed him that Earvin was going to hunt with us. He had an odd look on his face and said “you can’t take that boy down to the hunting club”. I asked why. He said “you are from Michigan, and this is Alabama. Things are different down here. We have separate hunting clubs. The black men have clubs where they hunt rabbit beagles and we have deer clubs. At the end of the season we hunt each other’s clubs and even drink some whiskey with each other, but we don’t join each other’s clubs”. His explanation was not sufficient to me, and I told him that Earvin would hunt with me, and that we would be fine.
-Opening day arrived, and my father-in-law, Earvin, and I rolled into the Watermelon Creek Hunting club in Pittsview, Alabama with my pack of hounds in the truck. Earvin jumped out like he had grown up there and started walking around checking out all the other hounds. As much as he liked hounds, he was also a connoisseur of lifted four wheel drive trucks and there were plenty to admire. The sun was not even fully up, and I could not help but notice a few strange looks from some of the men at the camp towards Earvin. I thought on what my father-in-law had said, and it occurred to me that someone might say something out of the way to Earvin, and I didn’t want him to get his feelings hurt. I thought it best for me to pull Earvin to the side and have a quick talk with him and let him know to let me handle it if anyone said anything inappropriate to him. I called him over to me and asked what he thought. He was grinning like a possum and talked about how many big lifted trucks and all the hounds. I told him we needed to have a quick talk. Earvin looked at me with a serious expression. I said “look around down here real quick”. He did. I said “do you notice anything different about you and everyone else?” Earvin looked around and said “no”. I said look again. He looked around and with a serious tone said “Ahhhhh, it looks like everyone else here has a 12 gauge and I am the only one with a 20 gauge”. I had to bite my tongue not to laugh. I told him he was right, and to be sure and let me know if anyone gave him any grief about his 20 gauge, and let me handle it. A few of the men at the hunting club asked me about Earvin and I told them he lived down the road from me and helps care for my dogs and loves to hunt and fish. Nothing else was said.
-Within a few weeks of hunting, I could go down to the camp, Earvin would jump on the back of someone else’s truck and go be on a stand by himself. I might not see him for hours. I remember getting a call on the CB from a guy we called Skip. Skip let me know that he and some others had run to the White Spot grocery and were getting lunch and that Earvin was with them. When they got back he would not let me pay for Earvin’s lunch. Earvin had earned his respect and he was accepted by the other hunters. He handled a firearm well, handled the hounds, and was not bashful at helping get chains on trucks to get them unstuck from the red clay mud, or doing other tasks with us. I made it my goal to be as color blind as Earvin and decided it was more important as to what gauge you carried than what color your skin was.
-At the end of that deer season Earvin came down to my house and said we need to talk. I asked about what, and he said “hunting”. It was not Earvin’s nature to ever ask for anything, and he was always thankful for anything he had, but I figured he was going to try to convince me that he need to hunt with a 12 gauge. I said “what’s up?” He said “Charlie, we should get a coon dog and start coon hunting”. I knew nothing of coon hunting and have no idea where he got that notion. I asked why we should coon hunt and Earvin explained that if we had a coon dog, we could then hunt year round and not just during deer season. That one statement led us to a whole new chapter of our friendship, and would see the two of us traveling all over the southern united stated in search of coon hounds. It led to my wanting redbones and Earvin wanting black and tans. Earvin is pushing 40 now, is married, has kids, and works two jobs. We don’t get to hunt and fish near as much as we did in the early years, but we still talk weekly and are still good friends. I learned a good bit from an eleven year old from the projects and I thank God for letting us meet the way we did.