One of my favorite things to do is to see things that are off the beaten path.
Back in 84 when I lived in Huntsville, Alabama I was in the airport and came across a brochure for the “Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard”in nearby Colbert County . I knew at that moment I had to go.
The back story:
In a small, grassy meadow, deep in the rich, thick wilderness of Freedom Hills, Key Underwood sadly buried his faithful coondog, Troop. They had hunted together for more than 15 years. They had been close friends.
The burial spot was a popular hunting camp where coon hunters from miles around gathered to plot their hunting strategies, tell tall tales, chew tobacco and compare coon hounds. Those comparisons usually began and ended with Troop…he was the best around.
Underwood knew there was no place in the world Troop loved more than that camp. It was only fitting, he decided, that Troop spend eternity there. On that dreary Labor Day of 1937, Underwood said good-bye to his legendary coonhound. He wrapped Troop in a cotton pick sack, buried him three feet down, and marked the grave with a rock from a nearby old chimney. On the rock, with a hammer and a screwdriver he had chiseled out Troop’s name and the date. A special marker was erected in his memory.
Troop, who was half redbone coonhound and half birdsong, was known through out the region as the best. He was “cold nosed,” meaning he could follow cold coon tracks until they grew fresh, and he never left the trail until he had treed the coon.
Out of one hunter’s devotion to his faithfull coonhound was born the “Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard,” which has became a popular tourist attraction and is the only cemetery of its kind in the world.
Other hunters started doing the same when their favorite coon dogs died. Today more than 185 coon dogs from all across the United States are buried in this spot in Northwest Alabama.
When I buried Troop, I had no intention of establishing a coon dog cemetery,” says Underwood. “I merely wanted to do something special for a special coon dog.”
When columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson interviewed Underwood in 1985, he told her that a woman from California wrote him wanting to know why he didn’t allow other kinds of dogs to be buried at the coon dog cemetery.
You must not know much about coon hunters and their dogs, if you think we would contaminate this burial place with poodles and lap dogs,” he responded.
He was as good as the best and better than the rest. I remember reading that on several of the markers. You cant help but be mildly amused at the whole idea but think about it….People will be reading that about “Black Ranger” long after Mike South has been forgotten.
What can I say, if yer ever in Northwest Alabama…check it out.