The Chase – Raccoons At Night
I used to babysit for a family that lived up the street on the corner. I was around eleven, or twelve. Johnny, the dad, would often take me hunting. He had dogs.
Hunting, and fishing, was a way of life in my neck of the woods. It was depended on as a food source by many. You could fish, or hunt deer, hogs, ducks, squirrels, and raccoons. Johnny’s dogs would hunt whatever you were after.
Once, Johnny was hunting deer near Vicksburg, Mississippi, just across the Mississippi River from the northeast corner of Louisiana. His two hounds were on a deer, and trying to shake his pursuers, it jumped into the river. The dogs jumped in after it. They swam toward the Louisiana side.
The river is more than a half mile wide, and turbulent. That was the last he saw of them. He figured that they had drowned.
Two weeks later, he got a call from a man near Shreveport, in northwestern Louisiana, nearly two hundred miles away from the hunt, saying, “I’ve got your dogs. They’re pretty scraggly looking, but okay.”
Johnny’s name and number was on their tags. He made the drive up there to pick them up. It’s two-hundred-mile drive north from home in Lake Charles, in southwestern Louisiana.
Later, I came to find that he also had a fighting dog, or two. They would come home really beat up, taking days to recover. If they did.
Raccoons were considered pests. They got into gardens, and chicken coops, and were known to carry rabies. They were adept in trees, on foot, and in water, and could cover a lot of distance. Despite their size, they could drown dogs and deliver nasty bites.
We hunted raccoons at night. We’d get to where we wanted to hunt, let the dogs out, load our .22 rifles, and wait for their baying to begin. Then, the chase was on!
We ran through thick woods, with rattlers, and briars that would tear clothes and skin, and through spider webs cast between trees by spiders with bodies the size of half-dollars.
Same thing with sloshing through lowland swamps. There were water moccasins and gators, and submerged and rotted tree stumps and cypress knees that I feared tripping over and falling on.
“Are we nuts?” I would shout out! I wouldn’t do such a thing in broad daylight, yet, on a chase, there we were, doing it anyway. Flashlights were of little use. It’s better to let your eyes adjust to the dark.
We’d get all scratched up and bruised, tired, hurting and laughing at the same time. “Is this fun, or what!?” Johnny would say. Such was the nature of The Chase.
On one occasion, the dogs outdistanced us and we lost the sound of them. We had to backtrack to the truck and we drove the back roads for a couple of hours before we heard them again.
Either the coon would give us the slip, or the dogs would finally tree it, howling like crazy. We’d catch up, sight the coon with our lights, leash the dogs, and bring the hunt to an end.
For a young kid, it was high adventure. I‘ve had a fondness for hounds ever since. Especially the Catahoula Leopard dog.