A Dog Named Snooks

May 22nd, 2009

While age doesn’t always bring wisdom, it brings understanding. However, you might argue that they are one and the same. Things have affected my life that only became apparent as I aged.

I was born and lived part of my childhood in very rural Walker County, Alabama—a piece of country that is truly not close to anywhere. Our place was in a community called Cedrum, which is located between the small town of Carbon Hill and a post office drop called Townly. Most of the area was still waiting for electric power.

Our place was on the old Cedrum road at the old Lost Creek Bridge. Mr. Roosevelt’s WPA had rerouted Cedrum Road and built a new bridge. The old bridge was impassable to motor traffic so we and our one neighbor wound up with a driveway about a mile long with a bad bridge on one end.

My dad in his spare time was an avid hunter. Needless to say, our location was perfect for about any small game you could imagine. His greatest hope was to be able to get a good all-round rabbit and squirrel dog. His favorite breed was the natural-born bob-tailed Red Bone Hound, which was an uncommon breed in our area but getting popular. He finally saved up the forty dollars to buy a dog and drove to Corinth, Mississippi to pick it up. We’re talking 1947 dollars, so the dog wasn’t cheap.

My dad came back from Mississippi with a pretty little girl pup, all ears and feet with just a nub for a tail. We named her Snooks. She was red with a white muzzle and white front feet. Folks came from all around to see that pup. All these people were hunters, and a new dog was almost as special as a new child. These coming-out events for the dog also served a more practical purpose. It made sure that everyone knew the dog by sight and who owned it because dog stealing was common when outsiders were hunting in the area.

Snooks turned out to be a real hunter. She could run a rabbit or tree a squirrel with equal skill. My dad was all smiles, but the dog’s skill also made her a target for dog thieves. Hunters liked to boast about good dogs, so it didn’t take long for word to get around.

My dad was gone a lot so he gave me and my little brother the job of keeping an eye on Snooks. We’d take her for runs along the creek banks. She’d run with us just like she was another kid. It was during one of these little forays that the unthinkable happened. We flushed a rabbit out of a brush pile, and Snooks took off in a dead run after the bunny. My brother and I knew we couldn’t catch up with her, but we also knew that she would most likely drive the rabbit back to us, so we sat down on a log and waited. And waited some more—but no rabbit or Snooks. We headed for the house, hoping the dog would be waiting when we got there. No such luck.

My dad got home after dark on that particular day. My mother told him that Snooks had run off after a rabbit and hadn’t come home. His reaction was very mild, which really surprised me. “She’ll be back,” was all he said. He had supper, listened to Lowell Thomas on the old battery-powered radio, and went to bed.

I got up early the next day hoping to see Snooks in the yard. Never thought about what if she wasn’t. I asked mom if she’d seen the dog, and she said no. She also told me that my dad claimed he could hear the dog barking when he called her name before going to work. She said that after breakfast we’d all walk down by the old bridge and see if we could hear her barking.

It was a beautiful early summer day. The birds were singing, and the sky was blue with little white “cotton ball” clouds just floating lazily across it. The old road wasn’t paved but you could see the shimmer of heat rising from it’s surface. Just one of those great days to be alive.

We heard the dog barking when we were near the old bridge. We’d call and she’d answer, but we couldn’t see her. As she continued barking we started to get a sense of the direction and could follow the sound until I got to a point where she would have normally been standing right in front of me. I found myself standing face to face with an out-cropping of rocks in the bluff overlooking the creek bank. There were several holes where wild animals had managed to get past the rocks and into what was likely a small cave in the bluff. There was no doubt that Snooks was trapped inside the bluff.

My mom wasn’t the type to dally around. She told me to run across the old bridge and bring back Ollie Pike and a sledge hammer. Ollie was our neighbor across the creek. He was a farmer and coal miner, bigger than any man I’d ever seen. He wasn’t home, so I told his wife what had happened to our dog. She sent her two sons back with me along with the hammer and promised to send her husband as soon as he got home.

My mom took the hammer and beat on the rock, trying to enlarge the hole that we figured Snooks had gone into while chasing the rabbit. Try as she may, my mom just wasn’t up to swinging that big old hammer. She finally gave up, telling us to wait there in case Ollie showed up. She wanted to go get something to feed the dog and wash the breakfast dishes. She hadn’t been gone long before Ollie and his wife walked across the old bridge and came down to where we were.

After looking everything over, Ollie went to work with that hammer. He’d hit that rock so hard that sparks flew and the air smelled like brimstone. He grinned and said he wasn’t going to let nothing happen to that dog, but after an hour of hammering, the rock wasn’t backing off a whole lot. Seeing a possible full day to free the dog if it could be freed, Ollie said he’d be back soon as possible but he needed to go pick up some parts for his John Deere tractor. He left me his miner’s light and the hammer. Ollie and his family went back across the bridge to their house.

Later that afternoon I heard him start back hammering the rocks. I told my mom and ran off down to the creek. There was a crowd of people down at the spot where the dog was trapped. All these people had given up their afternoon to come and help rescue the dog. They were members of the church that Ollie and his family attended. My mom and dad arrived shortly thereafter and everybody got busy turning those big rocks into small rocks.

It was well after dark when Snooks finally emerged from what surely would have been her tomb had it not have been for Ollie and the others who came to her rescue. Good people do good things. Even for dogs named Snooks.

(This article was also posted at Old Duggy.)

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2 Responses to “A Dog Named Snooks”

  1. Tom |

    Very nice, Larry. I lived part of my childhood in small rural towns in the south, not quite as remote as Cedrum but with a kind of life that’s pretty close. I remember the hunting dogs and how they were valued and loved by their owners. Often they were literally part of the family, and eveyone knew who had a good dog. I also remember the spirit of community and neighborliness, where one family might have a spat with another from time to time, but when things were hard and help was needed, they were always there.

    Thanks for the article. I really enjoyed it!

  2. Harvey |

    Beautiful article Larry!

    Dogs and kids always bring out the best in good people and you apparently grew up around some very good people.

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