In response to the invitation in such an ad, a man from maybe a couple of hundred miles away will drive down with his gyp (the standard coon-hunting term for a female dog; bitch is no word to use around ladies), and the two men and the two dogs will go out hunting. If the gyp's owner likes what he sees, his hound will show up at the house of the stud's owner, in a crate, the next time she is in heat.
Some good coon hounds get to be worth a lot of money. For example, Danny Boy, a treeing Walker owned by J.P. Tyree of Lewisburg, Tenn., which in 1971 became the first dog ever to win both the American Coon Hunters Association and the United Kennel Club world hunts in one year. Tyree says he has turned down an offer of $10,000 for him.
The ACHA world hunt (which has been held recently in such places as Oblong, Ill. and Van Wert, Ohio) attracts some 300 entries, lasts for five nights and rewards the first-place dog's owner with what may be the most imposing trophy in sports: a seven-foot structure, four tiers of bronze and walnut supported by 10 columns of the same materials, topped off by a bronze globe from which sprouts a bronze tree on which a bronze dog is treeing a bronze coon.
Other competition hunts are more modest in scale. The duration is only one or two nights, maybe 50 or 60 dogs are entered and the trophies are no more than waist-high. A local coon-hunting association places an ad in American Cooner: "Nite Hunt and Bench Show," on some forthcoming Saturday or Friday and Saturday. Everyone invited, dinner on the grounds, plenty of trophies, drinking forbidden.
The assembly point is some community meetinghouse. In Spanish Fort, Texas, at the very end of a dirt road on the Oklahoma border due north of Nocona, it is a renovated 97-year-old building owned by Virgil Hutson, the Spanish Fort Coon Hunters Association president, who uses it as a clubhouse and a store for the sale of coon-hunting sundries: "Dog Bloom VM250, The Supreme Conditioner"; "Cooneye Shiner Light Fits Cap Bill or Belt"; "Coon Drag Stick"; "Carhartt Insulated Coveralls"; "Brown Canvas Hats, Jones Style with Coon Face on Front"; "Bandy Tri-Wormer."
The host club's wives open the kitchen for a two-day hunt on Friday morning and keep it open—serving chili, eggs, sausage, steaks and French fries without ceasing—straight through into Sunday afternoon. Pickup trucks, station wagons and campers carrying caged dogs start arriving Friday morning.
The crowd of hunters and dog traders and onlookers grows into the afternoon. Included are contractors, janitors, roustabouts, carpenters, college students, farmers, high school kids with peace symbols on their clothes, millworkers, car dealers and what have you. One or two hunters may be black. The arrivals are likely to represent three or four states, and one or two may have come from 400 miles away.
There is some idle introductory joshing, but most of the talk concerns which breed of dog is the best. Say the location is Dierks, Ark., the piney-woods headquarters of the Saline River club. T.K. Chilcoat is liable to come over to where past president Dale Thomas is talking to someone and say, "Only thing Dale'll lie to you about is a spotted dog." (That is, a treeing Walker.) "Then, too," Chilcoat goes on, "that is about all he'll talk to you about."
This does not discourage Thomas: "A black and tan is loose-eared. A Walker's ears're growed onto his head better."
"I don't know whether Walkers tree coon better or not," adds another Walker man. "I know they do it more often."