Mud in your eye! Or, as Cooke learned to say, Na Zdorovie!
Little Richard's Almanac
The troubles of Little Richard, a blue-tick hound, began on a hunting trip with his owner Larry Wilson, an undertaker of Owasso, Oklahoma. Hard on the scent of a skedaddling coon, Little Richard followed the trail up to a narrow cleft of rock six miles east of Owasso. A hunter's hunter, he did not swerve from his duty but flung himself headlong into the limestone slit. Unlike the coon, he did not come out again. He managed instead to wedge himself into a V-shaped crevice. Forward motion thereupon ceased. That, pretty much, was the first day.
Little Richard did what he could do through the night: he answered Larry Wilson's repeated entreaties to come out with muffled howls of despair, and he kicked his forelegs, suspended above the cave floor, in futile exercise. Toward morning, Wilson and a cousin, now convinced they alone could not free the hound, rushed off to Owasso for assistance.
Later on the second day, would-be rescuers began to collect at the mouth of Little Richard's trap. They kicked at the rock and admitted it was hard; they poked their heads into the crevice and admitted it was narrow; some chipped at the stone with picks and admitted it was slow going. One of the number, Albert Leeds of Tulsa, weighing 70 pounds to Little Richard's 60, tried to reach the dog by crawling. But squirm as he might, the 10 pounds made the difference, and he backed out defeated. Little Richard mourned softly, no closer to freedom than before.
On the third day, an Oklahoma gas company crew moved to the scene with pneumatic drills. It is unresolved whether it is better to be trapped in a cave and left to perish quietly or to be trapped in a cave and saved with the clatter of jackhammers ringing in your ears. But Little Richard, wincing with every spurt of the hammer, endured that day, and by nightfall looked up to see the face of Dr. John Collins, the attending veterinarian from Tulsa. Dr. Collins could not reach the dog but he could see enough to tell newspaper and television reporters that Little Richard was losing weight and was thirsty. When the Owasso fire department heard that, it rigged a hose and sprayed water on the walls nearest the dog. Little Richard lapped the moisture off the stone as it trickled by.
He fared poorly over the next two days. Outside all was sunshine and fresh air and free-running coons. But for the hound inside, life had become an around-the-clock ordeal of dark hunger, suffocating limestone dust and the banging and shouting of frustrated men. It was all very well to know that a few feet away reporters from the big city were writing down your name and television crews were standing by to see your face and volunteer workers were lined up for a crack at the rock walls. But it was not a dog's life.
Shortly before dawn on the sixth day the rescue workers shook their heads solemnly and said that the jackhammers would not get through in time. The only hope, they said, was dynamite. Wilson, close to exhaustion, bit off the remains of a fingernail and gave reluctant consent. Little Richard hung down his head while Edgar Palmer, an Owasso explosives expert, was called in to supervise the blasting. Pillows and blankets were forced up close to the dog's head, and after six shots, the last within three feet, the cleft fell open. Once the debris was cleared, Little Richard, his head spinning, half fell, half leaped into Wilson's arms. He had lost 17 pounds and his backbone made a lumpy ridge from shoulders to tail. But the coon dog, just in case any coons were perched in the surrounding trees, made it stiffly—but under his own power—to a waiting ambulance.
Late last week, rested, restored considerably in weight and definitely refreshed in spirit, Little Richard was able to lope off into the coon thickets of northeast Oklahoma with Larry Wilson again. And friends and admirers of Little Richard raised sighs of satisfaction from Maine to California, Alaska and Hawaii.