This story was written by my great grandfather Robert Hamilton 14 years before. I never had the pleasure to meet the man but heard lots of stories about him and no doubt he contributed to my love of hunting and the outdoors. I had to change the dog’s name as it isn’t politically correct any longer but other than that this is his story as it appeared in the October 1964 Pennsylvania Game News. ~Aaron
“OLD TIG’S LAST HUNT “
BY R.N. HAMILTON
One day near the end of last October I stopped in at Jack Snyder’s barber shop. I didn’t particularly need a haircut, but Jack Frost seemed to be busy with his magic paint brush and had bedaubed the countryside with all the brilliant gaudy colors of autumn. Coon hunting time was here once more, and if I knew Jack who is best known to his coon-hunting friends as Carbide had been out after old Mr. Ringtail I’d hear all about it. With a bit of ingenious hinting, I thought, an invitation might be offered to go along on the next coon hunt. That is what I really wanted.
Jack can spin in detail a mighty good yarn about any fishing or hunting trip. Today was no exception. It was a real dilly of a coon story-all about his young dog Julie. It seems that Julie is old Tig’s daughter, and old Tig was the coon dog who made an enviable reputation through central Pennsylvania for many years. “What about old Tig? Where is he?” I asked.
“Tig has had it. He is getting to old. He tries, but he can’t cuff it anymore” Jack replied.
I was sorry to hear tis for Tig was one of the best coon dogs I had ever followed he was half bloodhound half black and tan, with a super-sensitive nose and as a good a bawl-mouth I had ever hoped to hear-real musical.
Before I had left her shop we had plans formulated for a coon hunt the coming Saturday night. We planned to hunt our favorite spot-blue spring hollow. It was a rough place to hunt but we always found coon there. And Jack said “If old Tig is able, we might take him along.”
It rained almost all day Saturday but started to clear up about 4 o’clock and gave promise to be a “crackin” good night for coon hunting. Old Tig appeared to be in good shape and was rarin’ to go. Because we would have to quite hunting at 12 o’clock due to the fact that the Pennsylvania game law prohibits hunting on Sunday, Jack said, “We’ll take him along.”
At 8 o’clock that night we were parked in Fowler’s meadow-at the bottom of Blue Spring Hollow. Ten minutes after we turned the dogs loose, we heard a long, low, whining moan, like the muted rumbling of the gears of a heavily loaded truck on a distance highway. It was old Tig’s trail song. Soon Julie joined in with her shrill soprano. Ah! That was music to quicken the heartbeats of any red-blooded outdoorsman, particularly if he happens to be a night-hunting hound man. But it was of short duration. They soon changed the tune and were barking treed. Julie seemed to be yelling her high soprano “Come and get it”. You can bet we got there as quickly as possible. They had a nice yearling up a small red oak. As Jack shone he light on it “Be sure you make a good shot, and knock it dead. I don’t want my dogs chawed up”
I took carful aim one inch above he coons shining eye and squeezed the trigger. I had my first coon of the season-a nice fat yearling , and just the rig size for baking.
Did you ever eat a prim baked coon? “Don’t know how to bake it?” you say. Well in another article I’ll tell you my favorite recipe for baked coon I think you will enjoy it.
Twenty minutes later we had another chase this time it headed into the swamp with Julie leading all the way, her high soprano making the echoes ring off Bald Eagle Mountain old Tig wasn’t doing too much singing. He was too busy trying to keep chase with Julie. It was lasting a long time but wasn’t going any place. The way they were playing around in the swamp and brambles, I had my doubts about it being a coon. I knew Tig was 100% cooner. But Julie was young and I wasn’t so sure about her. If this was a coon it was acting more like a big swamp rabbit or an old crippled gray fox. I mentioned this to Jack but he said “Nuts. You’ve hunted enough with Tig to know he would never give tongue on anything but a coon.” But Tig wasn’t having much to say. His rumbling moans were few and a long time apart.
Finally Jack said “let’s go and help the dogs chase it out of the swamp.” (Said swamp being 12 to 14 acres in area) I shivered at the thought. I had hunted ducks and woodcock in that swamp many times. I knew how tough it was to get through in daylight with its tangles of greenbrier, swamp alder, wild crab apple, spring runs, pot holes, rocks, etc. I almost chickened out when I thought what it would be like at night with only a three cell flashlight to see where I was going. Jack was better equipped then I. He wore a big miner’s carbide lamp on his head (that is why his friends called him carbide) He said he has both hands free and can see where he is going. He has something there. At least he could go through the swamp better then I.
We must have worried Mr. Coon, for after stumbling around for 10 -15 minutes, Julie barked treed only about 50 yards away from where I was stumbling, and I was glad! I got to the tree before Tig or Carbide. It was pitiful to see old Tig come staggering in. He tried his best to stand up on his hind feet at the tree and bark up with Julie but he just couldn’t do it. The coon was up a medium-sized swamp elm the top of which was a mat of grape vines. We couldn’t see the coon but the dogs said it was up there and that was good enough for us. Jack wiped the mud and water from old Tig with some dried grass and leaves and made a bed for him with his coat. We looked for the coon again but couldn’t see it. Jack stuck his .22 pistol in his belt, handed me his carbide light with instructions to shine the light in the tree above him. Then he went up that elm tree like he was second cousin to a wild cat. “I see it or I think it’s the coon. Get a hold of Julie I’m going to shoot it down”.
“OK I’m ready” I said but I wasn’t. I never really could have been ready for what actually happened. I was stopped over holding Julies collar with my right hand, and ad Jacks carbide light in my left, shining up in the tree for him. I don’t think Jack hit the coon at all, for when he shot that coon came out of the tree like a dive bomber and hit me about the same way. I saw it coming at Julie and me, and I tried to get out of the way, but it hit my left shoulder and knocked me spinning. Jacks carbide light went flying into the night. The coon, Julie and I ended up in a pile in the same puddle of swamp water. It was darker then the inside of a black cats belly on a stormy night. And what a bedlam of sounds. Jack was yelling for me to get the light, the coon was snarling, Julie was growling, and I was “cussin”. Carbide said later that I was doing a pretty good job. The truth was that I had lost my hold on Julie’s collar, and she and the coon were having a tooth-to-fang battle in my lap. I did not know how soon one of them might take a holt of me.
At last, I got untangled from Julie and the coon, and found Jacks light and got it lit, and then we could see what was happening. He coon had left the water hole (was not deep enough to help his cause) and it had its back against a big rock. With four feet, each armed with murderous sharp claws and a set of needle sharp teeth, it fought the dog. A dog might as well try to grab a hold of a buzz saw as tackle a coon in that position. Julie had learned her lesson and was keeping her distance. She jumped around barking and making buffing charges at the coon, but she never got close enough for it to catch her. We could see she had paid a big price for her lesson. She had a big piece torn from her right ear, and her face neck and legs had been ripped in deep gashes with those murderous claws. Jack quickly loaded the gun (a single shot .22 pistol with a tip up barrel) and took shot at the coon. With the crack of the gun it turned over and started to run. I was afraid it was going to get away and I yelled for Jack to shoot again, but before he could reload, the gun out of nowhere stumbled old Tig. He seized the coon by the back of the neck and fell on it pinning the animal to the ground. We could see the muscles of as he worked those powerful bloodhound type jaws of his. Then we heard bones crack and knew it was the end of the trail for the coon. Old Tig tried to stand up to shake the coon and carry it to Jack as he has done so many times before, but his legs were too weak. He couldn’t do it. “All right, old fellow, you keep it while I fix up Julie” Jack said.
We washed the blood and dirt from Julie’s wounds with our handkerchiefs, patched her ear with Band-Aids and greased all of her bites with a salve made from an old Indian recipe (more about it later).
When we had finished doctoring Julie, Jack took the coon from Tig and dressed it. It was about the same size as the first one possibly from the same litter. Jack washed it in the spring and we headed for the car. Old Tig had a pretty good rest and went right along for a while. Then he played out, and we had to stop every ten minutes to rest him so he could go 50 yards or so. The distance he could go kept getting shorter and the rests longer, until finally he could not get up when Jack asked him to “come on” he would only wine and look sad at Jack as if to say “Sorry boss I can’t do it” Jack said “we’ll have to carry him.”
We decided to carry him on my coat. It was much larger then Jack’s. Boy, did we have a time! That’s one trip I’ll not soon not forget. Next morning I was so stiff and sore and every bone and muscle in my old carcass ached for a week. I soon realized the value of the carbide light on Jacks head. He was leading the way and picking the path. We had quite a load consisting of two 10-12 lbs. coons and an 80 lb. dog; we had to stop to rest our arms often.
It was nearly 2 o’clock Sunday morning when we reached the car. I was scratched, skinned, bruised, soaking wet with perspiration and swamp water and darn near “pooped” To top things off, a District Game Protector and two of his deputies were at the car waiting for us. He asked, “don’t you fellows know you’re to be out of the woods by 12 o’clock on Saturday nights” Jack replied “Yes we know all that, but old fellow played out and we had to carry him out of the swamp” Then Jack gave the officer a graphic description of the hunt as only Jack could do. He was doing so well he was half way through I knew we weren’t in trouble.
“Guess you couldn’t leave an old bone digger like him out in the swamp,” The Game protector said. “Besides he might get to chasing deer and that would be more work for me” Jack said “Tig would never bother a deer” The Game Protector laughed and replied that was the least of his troubles, but we sure had fooled him. Jack lighters had been killing deer and only taking choice cuts of meat and leaving the rest for the varmints. When he seen us coming out of the swamp carrying old Tig, he was sure he had the violators with evidence to convict them. I read in the local paper that he caught the culprits a few days later with parts from two deer.
The Salve we used on Julie’s wounds is so good every outdoorsman should know it. I have never seen a description in print and I would feel amiss if I didn’t tell you how to make it as Sammy Littlefox, a Seneca trapper told it to me. Cook a pint of crushed calamus rood (sweet flag) in a pint of bear or coon grease for 30 minutes,Then add a half pint deer or sheep tallow and one half pine pitch from a jack pine ( I used powered resin easier to get and work as well) boil for ten min ten strain through cheese cloth into convenient size containers to carry. I do a lot of wintertime trapping my hands take an awful beating, but this salve keeps them from chapping. I’ve used it for 40 years and wouldn’t be without it.