The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

White Steamer Junior

By Kathleen S. Gordon © 1986

Issue: June, 1986

Back in 1932, when I was a little girl, my father ordered a black and white fox hound from a dog breeder in Rushville, Missouri. This animal was twenty-five inches high and bore the proud name of White Steamer Junior, and he came, with a pedigree as long as his name. A large amount of money necessary to pay for the creature and his first fox hunt in West Virginia was looked forward to with a great deal of anticipation. The hunters and their dogs were carried to the scene in a truck. Being a girl, I was never privileged to attend but I have been told enough to know that the dogs are turned loose to try to "strike up" a fox. The hunters sit around a big fire and listen to their dogs run. Owners can identify their dogs by the sounds they make while they are in the chase. White Steamer was turned loose with all the other dogs and was not heard from again.

The men in our neighborhood were coal miners and worked during the week but Saturday nights were theirs to be enjoyed. It was my job to get up at daylight on Sunday morning after a fox chase and tie up Daddy's dogs. White Steamer did not appear but it was not unusual for the dogs to drift in one by one. Sometimes a dog might chase a fox all day so we weren't worried until twilight.

By Sunday night at bedtime when our prize was still missing, Daddy told me and my brother, Tommy, to stay at home from school the next day and go look for him.

Mining towns are scattered every mile or two along the railroad like beads on a string so we planned to walk up the track. Since this valuable creature was supposed to be horn trained, we planned to take the Texas steer horn to use to call him. Blowing the horn was an art we both had mastered.

Daddy gave us some money to spend at one of the company stores to buy something for lunch. Most of our purchases were made with script issued by the company my father worked for. Each company had their own script and we expected to be in the next town by noon and we didn't have any of their script.

We walked all day, blowing the horn at frequent intervals but there was no answering bark. As, evening approached, we realized that our mission had failed and as the shadows lengthened, we made our weary way back home.

We searched many days but White Steamer Junior was never seen again in our vicinity. We were told later that dogs trained to chase in flat country will not run in the mountains. We talked about him and mourned his loss for many years and he will never be forgotten.