(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Some fond memories of coon hunting” was originally published in the Sept. 12, 2002 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)
Within the passing of a couple of full moons, the time of coon hunting season will be upon us.
|Hounds with treed coon.|
I remember the time when much excitement was in the wind as the golden days of autumn appeared on the horizon. The time of coon hunting and community get-togethers was to take place around the farming communities where I grew up. This was a time for many hours of fun and wandering around the fields and wooded areas in the area.
One didn’t go coon hunting just for the sake of catching that large fat coon that hid in the large trees of the wooded areas. A good coon hunt did more than that. It brought the community together for a time of fun and frolicking and enjoying some of the best food that man has ever flopped a lip on.
The womenfolks of the community seemed to try to out-do their neighbors when they prepared the goodies for the coon hunts and enjoyed the time of rest and relaxation.
Such things as tea cakes, peanut candy, ginger cakes and numerous other goodies were something to look forward to. After all the refreshments were planned and taken care of, then the time was at hand to select the two or three coon dogs that would participate in the coming night’s hunt.
All the hunters wanted their dogs to be a part of the hunt. Nothing suited those coon dog owners better than to have their dogs go along for the hunt so they could sit around the fires and brag on their prize dogs.
Some members of the community would go along for no other reason than to listen to the dog owners brag and tell tall tales about that prize dog that was ordered from a mail order catalog for the massive sum of $20.
The gathering point for the coon hunting party would always be down by the overflowing well near a large creek. As the sun slowly began to drop below the western horizon, activity would begin to pick up there at the overflowing well.
The restless coon dogs would already have begun to bark and bay, knowing what was about to take place. The two or three couples of parents who were to chaperone and watch over the group of teenagers would also be there at an early time. Jobs were assigned to the young boys of the group, such as carrying the lanterns or carrying the refreshments.
Most times, there would be a few fat lightwood splinters carried along just in case none could be found when it was time to start the evening fire. Words of caution were issued to all the youngsters about behaving, because they could be assured that the parents who accompanied them were watching their every move.
By now, the surrounding fields and the wooded areas had grown dark as though a heavy blanket had been thrown over the area. Sometimes a full moon would add to the beauty of the hunt as the moon beams danced there among the heavy timbers.
Orders were given to light the coal oil lanterns as the hunting party departed the clear area around the overflowing well. The proud owners of the coon dogs had already began their calls of encouragement to their prize dogs as they scampered into the woods. Bets had begun to be taken between the dog owners as to which of the coon dogs would be the first to tree that big fat coon.
When the first coon was treed, a contest of climbing the tree and shaking out the coon would always arise among the young boys of the hunting party. This was a way of showing their climbing skills before those pretty young things dressed in those tight-fitting overalls that smiled from the crowd.
Sometimes, the decision as to who would be the first to climb would have to be decided by the adults who chaperoned the young group because all the young boys wanted to participate. The faster the climber, the more the words of encouragement that came from the crowd. And, always, there was that beautiful awaiting smile from that pretty young thing waiting below.
After the dogs had treed two or three times, the coon hunt began to wind down. A place for the evening fire and time for refreshments were sought. Within a short time, a roaring fire lit the night. Trying to keep the chaperons from knowing, select places to sit around the fire was secured so one of those pretty young things might sit close by. The fun time of the coon hunt was about to get underway.
From out of a large sack, a large well-used coffee pot and a large jug of fresh water seemed to appear from nowhere. Before long, the delicious odor of the brewing coffee had settled around the open fire.
When the coffee was ready, tin cups were passed out to those who wanted one. The sack of goodies was then opened and issued out to those present by one or two of the ladies of the chaperoning couples. No one was allowed seconds until all had been served. Then contests would form among the young boys to see who could eat a tea cake or a piece of ginger bread the fastest.
By now, the prized coon dogs had eaten their fill from handouts by the group. They now lay stretched out and asleep at the edge of the gathering, caring less whether a fat coon was treed or now.
As the feasting slowed somewhat, the time was at hand for the highlight of the evening. An old man had arose from the group and was now standing with his back to the fire. From this old man would come some of the most hair-raising stories that the youth gathered there could imagine. There would be stories of the dreaded Civil War. Always, he would tell of his relatives who had participated and suffered in it. He would know these stories first hand; they had been told to him by his father who had been wounded when a young man during the terrible conflict.
Then, the time was at hand for the final stories of the evening. These would be ghost stories that he had heard or experienced since early childhood. The beautiful young things in the tight-fitting overalls had been forgotten about as frightened young boys sat wide-eyed and having thoughts of having to go to bed in a dark bedroom later that night.
The chaperones had no trouble seeking their whereabouts from this time on. They were as close to the chaperones as they could get. The time was approaching midnight; the hunt and the good time was over. These memories would linger for all times to come.
(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born during a late-night thunderstorm on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School in 1946, served in the Korean War, worked as a riverboat deckhand, lived for a time among Apache Indians, moved to Monroe County on June 28, 1964 and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. Some of his earlier columns also appeared under the heading of “Monroe County History: Did You Know?” He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)