Cherokee, AL: A most unusual burial ground for the four-legged
When a good hunting dog dies in Alabama, it's a serious matter.
In September 1937, Key Underwood of Colbert Country lost his 15-year-old coon dog Troop—not just a hound, but a partner in hunt and in life. Underwood felt he had to do something to honor his memory. So the Coon Dog Cemetery was born, and since Troop's burial nearly 200 of these scent hounds have been laid to rest here, at the world's only coon dog cemetery.
The graves run the gamut from hand-carved wooden markers to elaborately-engraved mausoleum-style marble slabs. Sometimes, the late dog is represented, carved in stone; collars, faded from the elements, are looped around crosses.
The names alone are worth a solemn stroll: Patches, Preacher, Beanblossom Bommer. Old Tip, Straight-Talkin' Tex. Hardtime Wrangler, High Pocket, Bear Creek Sue. Blueflash is buried next to Blueflash Jr., naturally.
You'll find no Yorkiepoos or Chiweenies in this flat spot: The graveyard is for coon dogs only, just like the sign at the entrance says. Underwood's response to a query as to why no other breeds are allowed is reiterated on the cemetery website: "You must not know much about coon hunters and their dogs if you think we would contaminate this burial place with poodles and lap dogs."
The best example of how deep this relationship runs is the Coon Dog Eulogy, which we'll excerpt here: "…a God that would make a coon dog won't forget him when he is gone. There is a coon dog heaven and Ole Red is there… he can hunt again when the sun goes down and the tree frogs holler."
Stop by anytime, or brave the crowds on Labor Day weekend when the Tennessee Valley Coon Hunter's Association hosts a festival at the cemetery, complete with pallbearers and a liar's contest.