by J. Knife
Sport saved Cottonjoe's life and probably mine too
The Story of Old Sport Or… The Devil Coon of Frozen Muddy Hole
By Jack Hamilton
I lost one of Cotton Joe’s pups on the ill-fated Coon Island expedition,
stolen he was actually, a two year old Walker hound,
beautiful markings, a really smart hound pup.
I ran an ad in the Cedar Creek area paper.
A man called answering the ad and said:
“I have your dog”
I drove way out in the country to his trailer, there were dogs all over the place.
He called up some old dog and I said “ that is not even a hound"!
After driving all the way back down to the lake I was in a bad mood.
I called the dog up to me,
got down on one knee and looked the dog in the eye.
He was shot with fleas and ticks,
wormy, skinny and dirty,
but when I spoke to him he looked me in the eye and I saw character.
I gave the bum $10. So he would not be out anything calling me,
took the dog, which answered to Sport, my missing hounds name,
tied him in the back of my pickup truck and went home.
This began one of the most memorable relationships I would ever know.
I grew to love old Sport and treated him like one of my Walker hounds.
He was a good dog, no trouble at all, came when called, never shit the house,
hunted and lived with me and the other dogs for several years,
fit right in,
till one night in the winter of 86-87-88 we were going coon hunting.
I had torn my back muscles in the lawn sprinkler business
and most of the money I made during these five years before I started roofing
was from hides, trapping and hound hunting.
So as usual after a late dinner I picked up the old .22
and the hounds all started barking, I strapped on the light, canteen, got my coon squawler, tea and a potato and we took off,
walking down to the creek and points east.
That night Cotton Joe, his sister Sue May, Katy May,
Sport, Scout, Bonnie Belle and Carrie Belle made up the pack.
We walked down to the creek, crossed on the old crossing log
and headed up the creek towards the north.
We had hunted along,
it has been so long ago I don’t remember much except we hadn’t killed anything till we got to a particular place. It consisted of a wide place in the creek,
a wide deep hole.
The water was muddy with a foot of ice around it and deep.
This area was all wooded with lots of big trees.
Joedog started barking up one of the big trees and we were trying to see something with our lights when I thought I saw fur!
I told Gary I was going to shoot and stood on a log and popped one up there.
The coon bailed out and started running.
I had seen the top of his head in a crotch but I did not hit him.
Joedog caught the coon running up a steep slope and they ended up in the water.
I had never seen a coon who was so good at this.
He climbed right up on Joe’s back where Joe couldn’t bite him.
This coon knew what he was doing, he was expertly trying to drown my dog. Clamped on with teeth and claws to Joe’s neck,
Joe had to swim, now the coon now did not.
Brilliant! this coon was smart,
Joe couldn’t bite him and was helpless
the coon was chewing on Joe’s neck and at 14-15 pounds
…he would drown Joe!
He was sitting on Joe’s neck scooting forwards…
Joe’s strength would eventually fail him and the coon would drown him.
There was no time to swim to the bank,
it was a real fight.
I saw them go under, fading out of sight Joedog, coon and all
struggling under the muddy ice water.
I started to untie my boots and was taking them off,
Gary looked over and said Jack!
You can’t go in there!
There’s a foot of ice around that hole it’s freezing!
And it’s way over your head!
I don’t remember if I said anything but I was scared too.
Just then as I was bending over picking up my old .22
something caught my eye and I looked up and saw old Sportdog
jumping off that top bank like in a photo,
the picture is frozen in my mind and will always be there.
He hit where we were and ran out to the edge of that bank jumped
and dropped off out of sight, was gone a second then ran out from under the mid level that we were on and jumped into the water looking like old Yeller on a good day.
He swam out to where Joe and the coon went under and dove under the water!
He had not seen the fight and I don’t know how he knew where they were.
It was beautiful! Noble, heroic, I’ll never forget it.
I loved old Sportdog that night.
Sport swam down out of sight, he was black, white and tan too.
I saw him disappear under the water and the waves died away,
he was gone too!
I was on my way down the bank when Gary yelled
and I could see black and white… Sport!
Rising up from that muddy water with that coon.
Sport had him!
They broke surface and started fighting then I could see Joe way down deep.
Joe was swimming,
I could see movement,
but he was rising much slower than Sport,
Joe had blown out too much air,
Cotton Joedog was swimming to the surface fast but he was rising too slow.
He broke surface coughing and blowing water out of his nose.
Joe started swimming away from Sport and the coon 10 strokes, 12 strokes, coughing and sneezing and getting all the water out.
Then he made a 180 degree turn and swam back into the fight.
I raised Joe from a puppy and I could read Joe’s mind by the look in his eyes
”I’m going to kill that coon!”
his eyes said, and I knew Joe was alright.
Well Joe pulled the coon off sport, and just in time…
Sport pulled the coon off Joe,
Joe pulled him off Sport,
Sport pulled him off Joe, and each time they got a little closer to this gravel bar. When they got to shallow water they pulled him out and stretched him between them. I popped the coon with my .22 and Joe and Sport they killed this coon twice. Yes I killed him once dogs twice…
That’s three times but who counts.
We climbed down to the water, praised the dogs
retrieved the coon and went on with the hunt.
This coon was so torn up the fur buyer wouldn’t even buy him.
Old Sportdog lived with me for the rest of his life.
One night I looked over at him lying on the floor and took my whole dinner,
plate and all, leaned over and set it in front of old Sport dog.
I loved old Sport,
a ten dollar dog,
he saved Joe’s life and probably mine too!
he was my friend.
J. Winters von Knife
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