Coon Dog Cemetery

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You know that point on every awesome road trip, when you decide to squeeze in just one more sight and the whole thing gets bogged down? Well that point was Muscle Shoals, Alabama for us. After the Tupelo, Oxford and the Delta…it was pushing our luck to try and swing through the OTHER Southern music landmark on the way home. But I’d heard about Muscle Shoals on NPR’s American Roots and just had to try. Turns out there’s an Alabama Music Hall of Fame there but it’s a squat, uninviting building off the highway with too many retirement home tour buses in its parking lot. The famous “Fame” Recording Studio (a Cher album cover, anyone?) was equally disappointing, penned in by fast food and pawn shops. We couldn’t even find a downtown Muscle Shoals to celebrate – just endless loops of roads that look a lot like Highway 21 entering Beaufort.

What saved Muscle Shoals was actually about a half hour into the mountains – the world’s only coon dog cemetery. There’s evidence of hunting dogs all along the winding road – the kind of evidence that makes you glad you’re not a coon dog. Think trailers with cages outside in the snow and that’s the type of reverence shown coon dogs when they’re alive. But when a good hunting dog dies in Alabama, its owner gets downright sentimental. I figured on simple, homemade crosses, maybe the odd gravestone marking faithful Fido.

But at the Coon Dog Cemetery, there are tombstones and even statues penned in by barbed wire so no one steals the cement raccoons chased by the everlasting enshrined dogs. The names alone are worth a leisurely stroll through the wooded cemetery – Troop was apparently the first but not the last.

These are not dogs, or dog owners, to be messed with. On the long mountain road back, we passed a no trespassing sign. It read “Nothing I’ve got is worth you getting shot for.” I just know there were coon dogs out back.

One thought on “Coon Dog Cemetery

    Dennis Adams said:
    January 30, 2011 at 10:41 PM

    Southern men do tend to mistreat or maltreat their working dogs, but usually do repent of it once the hound is dead. And an animal that has worked so hard in life deserves a fitting final resting place. The contemptuous expressions, “work like a dog,” “die like a dog in a ditch,” all come back to haunt a man post mortem of the animal. Now, I happen to be stricken by two perspectives: my paternal Mississippi tradition of revering a deceased dog and my mother’s sad childhood memory of a pet piglet too quickly hauled off to market. So I tend to pamper my almost 15 year-old beagle to the point where I have developed a true empathy for him. And why not? Humans are far too cocksure of their Mesopotamian dominion over other mammals, to the clear extent of abuse and environmental ruin. When 17th-century theologians began to worry about the all-too-close affinities between humans amd mammals, lo and behold there came René Descartes with his treatise on how animals were nothing but living machines — their reactions to injury and beatings were no more worthy of compassion than the ringing of clockwork. One prominent clergyman even amused himself by tormenting his pet dog and marveling at the simulated pain. This point of view spread fast and was the cause of much unhesitating cruelty to animals. But I can read in my beagle’s eyes much communication and emotion, wordless but complex. So, whenever I drive by the Pet Haven Cemetery on Highway 21 (not far from Columbia), I feel more than a twinge of what those coon hound guys feel whenever they bring one of their pack to rest.

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