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A Simple 'Possum Hunt
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 by Frank Shortt
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        Much camaraderie, friendship, and warmth was always manifested as Saturday night rolled around and the gang got together for a ‘possum hunt. This was the time when country boys would gather, call up their hunting dogs, prepare some snacks, and head for the surrounding wooded areas to lie around the campfire and listen to the dogs bark at whatever each hound chose to hunt, and to just plain ‘shoot the bull’.
        There would be Shortts, Pruitts, Osbornes, Davis’, Wades, Stillwells, Grimsleys, or whoever else in upper Buchanan County chose to make up our motley entourage. Each boy brought a new and different insight as to what was happening in our neighborhood. Each participant waited breathlessly until the last one got his story out so that he could top what had been related.
        In our neighborhood we were in tune to the voices of our neighbors. If we heard “Yoo, Hoo!” from one of the hollows below, we knew that someone had a message for us. This is how we would communicate to get together for hunting, movies, or just a gathering in one of the bottom lands. As word got around to each household, we would end up with several communicants.
        As our little party climbed the hillsides and ridges of our neighborhood we would reminisce of past dogs we had known. Our family could speak of Rex, who was the best retrieving dog we ever owned. He would retrieve large pieces of wood, large rocks, and try to bring back whatever we threw ahead of him. If it was too large to get into his mouth, he would drag it back. His greatest feat was to dive down into the ‘old swimmin’ hole’ after rocks that we had marked for the purpose. He always seemed to be able to discern the particular rock we had thrown into the murky waters.
         Then there was ‘Old Pete’ the feisty little snake killer! The children in our family never feared wily copperheads when Pete traveled with us. Pete had a way of taunting the snake until it would strike at him, then he would nimbly leap to the side and swing around, grasping the copperhead behind the head, shaking it until he deemed it had died. He had been bitten a few times in the past and had a healthy hate for snakes of any kind. We used turpentine on Pete’s wound to draw out the poison, help with the swelling, and speed up the healing process.
         Bud Pruitt, who was leader of most of our escapades, could speak highly of all the dogs his family had owned. These dogs were responsible for helping find the only source of protein that the Pruitts had, wild game. Bud’s mom would prepare, or attempt to prepare, any animal that Bud brought home. He brought home ground hogs (woodchucks), opossums, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, and any bird that was large enough to make a meal. One dog in particular that the Pruitts kept for many years was a part-huskie, named Snowball. When I would visit their home I was always deathly afraid of Snowball. He would always run out, growl like a bear, showing his fangs all the while. I would yell like crazy for one of the Pruitts to call him off. One day he came all the way out the driveway, and as he approached I thought, “I am doomed!” He merely jumped up on me, placed his paws on my shoulders, and pushed me to the ground. I was frantic!
He simply licked me, and began playfully pawing me. All the time he just wanted to play.
We became best friends after that.
        Our cousin, Jay Shortt, had the largest passel of raccoon hounds around our neighborhood. When I, or any of my brothers or sisters, were sent to the post office at Shortt Gap, Jay’s hounds would raise a ruckus to high heaven. It got so we were afraid to go up the short cut past Jay’s house, until we learned that his dogs were contained behind a very high, strong fence.
The local store owner, Irby Altizer, was a fox hunter. When anyone would go to his store, which was smack-dab in the center of the worst curve in old route 460, at the head of Buchanan County, we could hear his fox hounds bawling their heads off as anyone approached his store. It is a wonder that Mrs. Altizer would put up with all that howling and uproar all day long. We would not dare go up the hill to the dog pens.
        ‘Possum hunts ended up with several boys from our neighborhood sitting in the woods around a campfire, of usually unseasoned wood, jawing about local happenings, lying through our teeth about our exploits, or bragging about the ‘best dog’ we had ever owned. All in all, Bud Pruitt could provide the best story about the ‘best dog’ as his dogs provided something worthwhile. After we had grown tired of listening to the dogs bay, had eaten all of our snacks, and our eyes burned red from the acrid smoke we would decide to part company and go home. One of the funniest endings to a possum hunt I can recall was the time that Bud Pruitts younger brother, Delmar, after having dozed off from all the drone of bragging, suddenly sat up, rubbed his eyes, and declared, “Today seems like tomorrow!”
        As a new weekend rolled around we had forgotten any hardships we faced on the last hunt. We were ready to once again visit, rehash old stories, and hopefully, find some game this time around!

Possum Huntin’
Saturday nights in the country
Was a time to get together,
With all the neighborhood children
Hoping for non-rainy weather.
 
There’ d be Pruitts, Whiteds, and Shortts
Having an artificial cry,
Just lolling by the smoky fire,
Seeing who’d tell the biggest lie.
Our old hound dogs did the hunting
Running from hollow to hollow
When they treed the wily ‘possum,
We were too lazy to follow.
 
Anyway, what can you do with
A ‘possum once he is caught?
Most folks just will not eat the flesh,
The hide is really good for naught.
So the ‘possum’s only good, for
Training our old lazy hound dogs.
Folks who eat those fat, ugly things,
Must have innards like the bullfrogs.