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Growing’ Up Country

Old Echo Was A Legendary Squirrel Dog

(Editor’s note: This is the ninth installment in a series written by Baxter Jones about his early years. The stories were written about 15 years ago. Jones passed away last week.) 

Almost all the people I have known have stories about a special dog they have known. Mine starts when I was about 14, and at this time I was riding the school bus and attending Camp Ground School. Mr. Tom Warren was our driver, and we talked every morning about coon hunting, which I knew nothing about. I finally asked to go hunting  with him.

 It was an exciting trip, trying to keep up with the races. The dogs barking sent chills up my back. We were legal and equipped to kill coons. Mr. Tom had his .22, but we weren’t given the opportunity of head lighting. It seemed that we’d almost get to the tree and the coon would take off, leaving a trail for the dogs to come on so this was pretty much the story. Mr. Tom said this was an “old boar coon.”

 I never did know how he knew this. I got several glimpses of the old dude and it was good to have such a story to tell my comrades. “Aw yeah we ran this ‘ol boar coon till about midnight,” I said, punching my chest out “but we’ll get him, me and Mr. Tom.” The weather got nasty and for whatever reason, we didn’t get to go hunting anymore, but the talks were still good.

 Mr. Tom had a box by him and in that box was the prettiest puppy I’d ever seen. His fur was as soft as a mole, and his ears were out growing the rest of him We liked each other immediately. Mr. Tom said, “If you Mom and Dad are okay with him, he is yours .”  

Mr. Tom said he was nine-tenths black and tan and one-tenth bloodhound. Mama and Daddy were not as excited as I was, but they accepted him well. Echo was his name, due to his barking after hearing the mature hounds of Mr. Tom’s on the heels of a coon. I would have let him sleep with me but Mama didn’t like that idea. Of course we bonded quickly and were constant companions.

 I had a Stevens double-barrel .12 gauge. It was a very dependable gun, except that the forearm would come off each time you shot it. This was a nuisance, but it was the only shotgun in the house, and it was borrowed from a friend of my Dad, Mr. Porter White, whom I knew and became friends with. 

Mr. White was section foreman on the Illinois Central Railroad, which ran right in front of our house. He loaned me a single barrel Iver Johnson .28 gauge for a period of time. I had the option of using the .12 gauge or the .28, gauge, so Echo and I were armed and dangerous. I came home from school one afternoon, grabbed the .12 gauge and headed to the beaver pond in Springdale Bottom. Time was of the essence, since this was about a mile distance and I knew that we had to have time to get ready for the wood ducks. Echo was right on my heels. 

This puppy’s walk was comical, as he did a lot of shuffling, but wasn’t getting anywhere. When we finally got to the beaver pond, a big tree had blown over, with the butt end of the tree near the edge of the water. I took my pocket knife and cut some hedge and switches, pushing this into the soft dirt to make a nice hide-away for Echo and me. We were hardly settled when a pair of wood ducks coasted in and landed right in front of us. I aimed at the drake, killed him, but when I tried to get the forearm back on and shoot the hen, I ran out of time and she was gone. A nice drove came in and I busted anther drake. It was getting late so I collected and admired my two beauties. I showed the ducks to Echo but he wasn’t really excited.

As we started out of the swamp, I saw a gray squirrel timbering toward a knoll. I cut down on him, and to my surprise, he fell out of the tree. It looked like he was dead, but he had landed in a pile of brush. I’d forgotten about Echo and was parting brush when I heard this blood curdling cry from  him. I saw the trouble, the squirrel had Echo, rather than the other way around. I felt helpless, not knowing what to do. The squirrel had bitten into Echo’s lip, maybe through the lip. I had to do something, even if it was wrong. I stepped on the squirrel real hard behind his shoulders. This blow was tough on Echo, but he was now loose and the squirrel was about to lose the battle as I stepped on his head with my other boot heel. 

For a minute or so Echo examined the squirrel and perhaps made a promise to be more aggressive. And from this day forward he would crunch  squirrel heads so loud that you could hear them. By the time Echo was around a year old, he was legendary in the squirrel world.  

 Sometimes when you would miss him for two or three days, you’d just assume he had gone on a romantic adventure. 

I remember when I was out on probably my first real date. We had carried these young girls to Oxford and were returning them to their homes in the Yocona Community when  I got Gearrell to stop, asking, “Isn’t that Echo?” 

I yelled as loud as I could, “Echo come here?” and Echo came out of the woods. 

Echo’s squirrel treeing became legendary to many neighborhood friends. I’d even run into hunters in the Springdale and Palestine woods who had heard of him. One day my cousins, Pee Wee Mayo, and his mother, Margie, were hunting along the old Springdale River run with very little success. 

They said that Echo needed a pat on the head, which he got, and he was their guide for the afternoon. At the end of the hunt, they gave Echo a ride home and Pee Wee still talks about that hunt with Echo.

My friend, Joe Lowe, had gotten a job with the Mississippi Highway Department and had bought a 1939 Ford Roaster Convertible. The trunk was not big enough, so Echo rode proudly on the back seat of the convertible, giving a nod to all the ordinary people along the way. This went well until we discovered some kind of white paste all over the back seat. 

We were at a loss as to what it was, but finally figured out that sitting on those leather seat covers was more sexual excitement than Echo could handle. We  overcame this problem by getting a blanket and tucking it into the seat so Echo was insulated from the leather. I thought Joe had been unreasonable, but this car was the only mode of transportation we had.

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