Night Time Folklore Alive & Well

In our everyday lives things are changing, always have and always will. Today’s cultural trends are producing an abundance of electronic diversions, an increase of single parent homes, and an overflow of extra-curricular activities. These tendencies make it increasingly difficult for kids and parents to connect to our long heritage of outdoor traditions However, under January’s annual wolf moon near Southwest City MO, all those effects did not exist during the Young Outdoorsmen United Coon Hunt bash sponsored with Cornerstone Bank and McDonald County Telephone Company. Cell phones were kept in pockets, no worries about missing sporting events or television shows were mentioned, and everyone attending became family to one another. What did take place was a brotherhood of sharing a tradition that has sustained over centuries of full moons. Young Outdoorsmen United commemorated this enduring Ozark tradition by inviting youth of all ages, to participate in barking battles, a ham & bean dinner, and coon hunting. Dozens of guides and coon dogs, all coordinated by nationally recognized Team Elk-O-Zar (Lanagan MO) eagerly involved over100 kids and parents in old-fashioned fun and exciting entertainment. It is estimated 30% of the youth had not experienced coon hunting before the event. “The barking battle was so much fun. The dog I got to use was Sally, she was strong and I could barley hold on to her” beamed 10 year old Zack Stewart. “She sure could bark a lot and was loud”. The barking battle consisted of judges counting the number of barks a dog made when it entered a 15ft painted circle on the ground with a treed coon. The assigned youth’s dog was timed for 60 seconds individually. As other kids held their assigned dogs just outside the circle, they were barking up a storm waiting to be next in the game and created a scene only Norman Rockwell could have captured. A caldron of ham and beans the size of one you might find in the fairytale of Jack & the Beanstalk had been cooking most of the day on an open fire and was ready to serve at dusk. After all the youth had their turns in the barking battle legendary camp cook Mindy O’Brien dished out the steaming bean dinner she prepared along with her famed dutch-oven cornbread. The line formed instantly and deep as word spread that “grub was on”. After the sun had set, as a prelude to the coon hunt, cowboy JD Jordan from Waldron Colorado addressed the kids, parents and volunteers from atop a stepladder with his Bible. He briefly shared his faith in the Lord and gave testimony how he sees God’s handy-work in all things outdoors. He was warmly appreciated with an energetic “Amen” in unison from everyone. The wolf moon was amazingly illustrious, and presented the young hunters with enough light to cast shadows of themselves trekking after their barking “adopted” coon dogs, reminisant of the character Billy in the book Where The Red Fern Grows. Each group of guides and hunters tracked coons in several locations, each identifying and listening to their own specific hounds. As the collective hunts were unfolding in the woods , back at the gathering center a blazing warm bonfire kept several volunteers, parents and those too young to participate comfortable from the clear night time air. Just as hundreds of years earlier, and generations before that, stories emerged of fabled dogs, expert hunters, and chases that nearly defy the odds of being true. The yarns of narrative tales and anecdotes circled the glowing campfire from person to person before drifting upwards and disappearing with the smoke into the crisp night air. When the hunting parties started returning, they all arrived with beaming smiles, energized laughter, and eager to display their accomplishments as every cast treed coons, and prompted 9 year old Jette Akins to say “It’s fun, there was lots of barking and excitement. Can we go back out again tonight?” Once again, everyone gathered in the heated barn and those who were hungry got a second helping from the giant kettle. Adventurous stories of the night’s events, and lots of laughter echoed among the crowd. Something that was not heard nor observed was the tuneful ringing of cell phones or the discern of electronic games. It became obvious the night was filled with impressionable memories for the young to be passed along to the next generation, just as the folklore of barking coon dogs has done over hundreds of years.