The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Alvy Boyd's Hunting Tales

By Ivalien Hylton Belcher © 1988

Issue: January-February, 1988

Alvy Boyd and some of his fox hounds.Alvy Boyd and some of his fox hounds.Here in the Blue Ridge hunting of all kinds; fox, possum, rabbit, and groundhog has been done from the good old days on up to the present time. On a snowy, cold December day, I spent an evening listening to some hunting tales told to me by Alvy Boyd.

Alvy: "Well, I guess you might say I started hunting as a very young boy with my Pa. The first hunting dog I remember was old Prince, who was mostly a possum dog, but was also just about any other kind of dog and did run a fox. One day me and Pa heard old Prince hit a fox over on Howard Ridge, and we had to walk quite a way to get in on the chase."

"Now no one would ever believe that I was mean, but I was sometimes. One time Pa was taking a switch to me and old Prince started growling at him and that stopped Pa. I'm sure I needed a switching."

"One time when my brother Luther and I were little boys we heard old Prince just a barking up a storm, and we went to see what he had treed. We knew a groundhog had been digging a hole nearby and that's where old Prince was. Luther said, 'It's just a rabbit in there. Put your hand in Alvy and pull him out.' Well, I tried and that rabbit turned out to be a mad groundhog and he ripped my finger wide open with his sharp teeth."

"My uncle had the mate to old Prince and that was old Penny. Prince and Penny ran together all the time. Early one morning they jumped a fox with Penny trailing. They went back over to what is called the 'Turnip Patch'. Luther and I had a case of the flu and couldn't go. Pa called a neighbor man to go see what became of the dogs. When Pa called back the neighbor said, 'They went toward the Buffalo (Buffalo Mountain).'"

"One time I checked my rabbit gum and found a rabbit in it. I was afraid the rabbit would get away so I rushed home and got old Prince and tied him to a bush. Then I opened my rabbit gum and the rabbit ran out and away with old Prince tied to a bush and just looking on. When I realized what a silly thing I had done, I cried. That rabbit would have brought 15¢ at the store. Why, I could have drank three cokes for 15¢ in those days. Yep! I cried when my 15¢ went running over the hill."

"Back in my young days we had to walk a long way to keep up with and hear our dogs when they were trailing a fox. One night we went hunting and took a neighbor boy with us. This boy wasn't used to hunting. On this night we went over to the Brammer Spur. Usually this feller was a big talker but that night he wouldn't say a thing. Somebody asked him what was wrong that he wasn't talking. He replied, 'I'm saving my breath for walking.' Guess he had the right idea because we walked ten miles or more. Sometimes we had to walk a long way to get in on a good chase."

"Sometimes we would build a fire and roast wieners and listen to the dogs trailing. When they came close, we would 'sik' them on and holler as loud as we could. The fox is smart and we never caught one. They usually find a den and stay there until it is safe to come out."

"One time brother Luther and I had two red dogs. Some fellows came by and wanted some dogs. We asked them twenty-five dollars. That was a terrible price to ask, so they left. About dark these fellows were coming around Mabry's Mill and saw a fox. They came back and wanted us to bring the dogs quick. We went and the dogs picked up the trail quick and ran the fire out of that fox for about three hours near the place called 'Cox's Ivy'. After the dogs treed the fox those fellows hollered, 'They caught it! They caught it!' Those two dogs had run the best they ever had and the two fellows came across with the $25.00 with no questions asked."

"One time I got lost in the fog while hunting. No telling where I would have went because I was headed in the wrong direction from home. My uncle Dan came along and found me. No kind of bad weather; fog, rain or snow ever stops a hunter. Sometimes I stayed out all day in snow a foot or more deep with just shoes on. I doubt if I could stand that now."

"My wife, Katherine, has been hunting with me. When we got married I had a dog named Reed and she had a Guernsey cow named Goldline. That wasn't much to start out with was it? I think Katherine sold Goldline to your (Ivalien's) Granny Dollie so she could buy a milk cow. We had to have some milk."

Ivalien: "Oh yes! I remember Goldline very well. She grew up to be some cow and lived to be very old. I used to watch Granny Dollie milk Goldline lots of times. There was something special about that cow. I declare I have seen her smile."

Alvy: "Katherine used to go to my rabbit gums with me. One day we saw a rabbit in a haystack. I had a slingshot but Katherine didn't think I could hit a rabbit, but I popped him anyway. Boy! Then she thought I was something."

"Fox hunting is a lot different these days. Now they have a Fox Pen in the Slate [Mountain], somewhere around 100 acres. If you take a dog you pay a fee. Most times there are twenty people with dogs there. The foxes are never killed. Like I said before the fox is smart."

"The Fox Pen is kept in a natural state. There is a fence around it, but the fox is free to roam around. They are fed well and aren't penned up in close quarters. I guess there are about 30 foxes there, mostly red, and a few silver ones. There's a building where we can stay warm, make coffee, fry eggs, and stay all night listening to the dogs. They have strict rules of conduct also, which is good. I go over sometimes. These days, I doubt if I could walk ten miles to hear a chase."

Ivalien: Yep! There's music in the air when those dogs pick up a trail here in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

One of these nights I'm going with Alvy Boyd fox hunting, when the weather gets warmer. Uncle Alvy is a special gentleman. Had you guessed he is my uncle?