Bob Mitchell: Local events of years past

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fall was once the signal for many events to be scheduled in this area. The coming of cooler weather enhanced a couple of them because there were dogs involved and in most instances, the ticks and chiggers were in fewer numbers.


One of these was the Barry County Coon Hunter's Association gathering for a couple of days at the Earl Sparkman place down Flat Creek from Cassville. Entrance to the hunt area required a quick right turn off YY Highway and past Earl's barn and through his gate that was always open to accommodate the hunters and spectators alike.

While most of the actual hunt was during the nighttime hours, there could also be a spectator interest event during daylight hours, that being the bench show where each dog's performance in stance and command was judged. There could be a "drag hunt" during the day that usually had a raccoon stationed on a log in Flat Creek with the dogs taking their turns at trying to unseat him. All the events of this type that was witnessed by me had the coon at his best and holding his own against most dogs.

The raccoon seemed to be more in his element in the water than was the dog.

Rotary stand

For some reason, the Cassville Rotary Club seemed to favor this event and annually operated a food service stand at this hunt. Food service was at morning, noon and evening, with most of the sessions handled by George Joslin and/or Dr. Gail Purvis. Both seemed to like the idea of showing off their culinary abilities.

Cooking equipment that provided service during Rotary's rodeo was utilized here, but the stand was a makeshift affair that was put together by the coon hunters themselves. Seating was provided on a few cut logs, some bales of hay and then there was the ground that accommodated folks if there was a big crowd.

The least popular of the shifts was that morning drive down Flat Creek, sometimes the road being engulfed in a fairly dense fog and the hour of the day didn't contribute to many volunteers.

Fox hunter's event

The Barry County Fox Hunters Association moved further south to the Jim Fogg place for most of their events. The location was just south of the old Cassville Sand Greens Golf Course. Fogg took pleasure, even in his later years, in hosting the event.

Format of this event basically followed that of other outdoor hunts with dogs involved. They would run at night with a large bonfire on the grounds, which accommodated hunter and spectator alike.

To the novice, it was interesting to listen to the hunters, who were tuned to their dogs on trail, and how they could identify the position their animal held in the pack in running the fox.

Best story on foxing

One of the best stories that circulated out of this event started around the fire when a hunter, whose dog was named Blue, was credited by the hunter as being in lead of the pack during the early stages of the round. He bragged at many points that Ole Blue was in the lead. Eventually, he sought some wagers about Ole Blue winning this cast hounds.

After a number of these assertions, he finally let out a claim, "There's Ole Blue in the lead to stay." That's when he felt a nuzzle at the back of his leg and turning he found Ole Blue sitting by his backside.

By the best recollection, a lead was attached to Blue's collar and he went to the pickup kennel and departed the scene.

Groups not functioning

These two old-time sporting events went by the wayside with the growing population of Barry County.

One of the first to disappear was the coon hunters, who enjoyed their sport along the rivers of the area. Trips to the White, Kings and James Rivers proved fruitful for the hunters to turn their dogs loose, build a fire on the country road, and then judge which dog was in the lead. In some instances, the hunt was for real as long as pelts brought sufficient cash to be worthwhile for the hunter who followed his dogs.

Table Rock Lake's growth, with property owners not being interested in hounds running through at night with their loud voices, eliminated turning dogs loose in that area, where coons had been prevalent.

Some hunts might still be in existence in areas of the county where property access is possible.

Fox hunt area

For a few years, the Williamsons of Shell Knob set aside a piece of fenced-off property, which provided Fox Hunting. There was a charge to run a hunter's dog. Even the fox hunting popularity soon ran out on this venture.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.

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