My dad had 17 coon hounds and a war surplus Willys Jeep (circa 1940s). It had a canvas top, a windshield, and no doors. I often went with him coon hunting. He would drive his Jeep slowly down back roads with the dogs strapped in the back seat of the Jeep. When the dogs would pick up the fresh scent of a raccoon, they would start howling and jumping around. Dad would stop the Jeep and let the dogs out. They would run off into the woods howling and running like their tails were on fire. Then Dad would wait until the raccoon would tree (climb into a tree) to get away from the dogs.
The hounds would bark, howl, and stay there until Dad came and shot the raccoon. Then he would take the raccoon and the dogs back to the Jeep. Then started the process over as many times as possible within the limited time he had. One of our most memorable adventures started just like every other hunt. He and I went about four miles south of Maple Valley with two dogs in the back of the Jeep. The dogs started howling. Dad stopped and turned them loose. They were still heading east when their howling started to get fainter off into the woods. We started after them. I clearly remember walking a long time. I wasn’t paying attention to the dogs or anything except keeping up with Dad. It was a pleasant fall night, and we went far into the woods. Finally, Dad stopped and said, “Let’s take a break. OK??” I said, “Sure, Dad.” We sat and leaned against a giant oak tree. The next thing I remember was waking up in daylight.
I was resting against my Dad, covered with his coat and very comfortable. He said it was time to go home. He took off his coat and left it next to that oak tree. He said the dogs would get tired of chasing that raccoon and track our scent back to the tree. They would lay down on the coat. He would come back and get them later. I figured it was a part of the plan. Mom was upset about us being out hunting all night when we got home.
I thought a little more about that hunting trip until I got older. When I look back on that night, what stands out is the appearance of normalcy. No hint that we may have been lost. No talk about anything that may have made me, a child, worry. I have tried to keep that strength whenever I get nervous or frightened with my family.
by John Vick, a Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op member. John is a Vietnam combat veteran with two Purple Hearts. He is retired from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and enjoys his time hunting, fishing, and enjoying northern Michigan’s outdoors.