A very Good morning to you! I hope you were able to get out and enjoy the wonderful weather that we had over the weekend. I was able to get out Sunday and enjoy a beautiful day boating with friends on Lake Guntersville.
A few months back I had the pleasure of going over to Tuscumbia, AL for a client shoot and had some extra time own my hands so I decided to go visit one of the famous landmarks that Tuscumbia has to offer, a cemetery dedicated to hunting dogs, the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard. The cemetery is dedicated solely to coonhounds and is located in on Alabama Hwy 247 and Coondog Cemetery road.
The cemetery was founded in 1937 when then Mr. Key Underwood “sadly buried his faithful” coon dog Troop who he had owned and hunted with for 15 years. The area he buried Troop on was a very popular hunting camp where it is said that hunters from miles around would “gather to plot their hunting strategies, tell tall tales, chew tobacco and compare coon hounds.” Troop was legendary for his raccoon tracking skills and it was out of a love and devotion that Underwood buried him and left a rock headstone with the dogs name and date chiseled into the stone. It was not Mr. Underwood’s intent to make this a cemetery but the thought took hold and other hunters started doing the same and now more than 185 coon dogs are buried here. To be buried in the cemetery, a dog must meet three criteria: The owner must claim their dog is an authentic coon dog, a witness must declare the deceased is a coon dog and a member of the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard, Inc. must be allowed to view the coonhound and declare it as such.
The late O’Neal Bolton, former caretaker of the Coon Dog Graveyard described the qualifications, “We have stipulations on this thing; a dog can’t run no deer, possum — nothing like that. He’s got to be a straight coon dog, and he’s got to be full hound. Couldn’t be a mixed up breed dog, a house dog.”
The cemetery is a very colorful attraction with the headstones that list true coon dog names with their very glowing epitaphs. Dogs such as Ranger, Preacher, Smokey, Bomma and Patches can be found throughout the cemetery along side one very legendary coon dog, “Famous Amos, Ralston Purina’s Dog of the Year in 1984.
I was introduced to “coonhounds” at a very young age by one of my dearest uncles, Bill Walker who was an avid hunter and raised coonhounds. For a tough southerner he had a true affection for his dogs with a soft spot in his heart. He loved to hear the dogs bark and yelp as they got on the scent and trail of a raccoon. As I would help him feed the dogs he would tell me many tales of their escapades, some of which he had surely embellished with “hunters lore”. Enjoy!