Coon Dog Cemetery, Cherokee, AL Part 1

Coon Dog Cemetery, Cherokee, AL:  Click to enlarge.

Coon Dog Cemetery, Cherokee, AL: Click to enlarge.

For ten years I saved a 50-word magazine article describing a coon dog cemetery in Cherokee, AL.  Now that I was driving the Trace, I could finally see it.  The cemetery happened to be 35 minutes away from the Trace, and so in the scheme of things I could not have been much luckier.  That assumes one knows the way.  Once you exit the interstate in Cherokee, the roads are poorly marked and intersect at odd angles.

After driving through a neighborhood of ranch style homes, I headed down a rural two-lane road flanked by tall grass and tall trees on both sides.  Seeing a cemetery coming up on the left, I parked in a turnout across the road to see if that was it.  This was the town’s human cemetery, so I crossed back to the truck.  I heard a rumbling around a curve in the road, and soon a large bearded man pulled up in his ATV.  “Whatta ya know well?” he asked in a friendly tone.  His ATV emanated a strong smell of two-cycle engine exhaust, and a large, black, aging dog rode unrestrained in the back.  The man wore a white short-sleeve T-shirt under full-length denim overalls.  The man’s frame was so large that his Timex Ironman watch could not encircle his wrist without digging into his skin and creating a prominent scab.  I told him I was looking for the coon dog cemetery, and he confirmed it was down the road.  His name was Junior Williams, owner of a ranch and massage parlor nearby.

Junior was an infantry soldier in the Vietnam War and made an agreement with God that if he survived the war intact, he would go back home to Cherokee and spend the rest of his life there.  He got through the war in one piece and kept his end of the bargain.  Junior related a recent dispute involving the coon dog cemetery.  Each year the local military veterans hold a picnic at the cemetery and play Taps at the event’s close.  For the most recent event a town council official threatened to retaliate if Taps were played.  Her reasoning was that playing taps for dogs diminished her son’s military service.  The son was killed in action.  Junior explained that they played Taps to celebrate the freedom in our country, not to honor the dogs.  The official was persuaded and the picnic went off as planned.

Junior told me about his run-ins with trespassers.  Two “Yankees” from Illinois parked their sedan off the road to hide their presence.  They were there to pick ginseng and other herbs.  Junior confronted them.  “Have you seen the movie Deliverance?  When they saw me, I think they heard the banjos in their heads.”  The Yankees nervously assured Junior that they would never come back and left in a hurry.

We laughed and Junior became pensive for a moment.  “I got a son that’s a Yankee,” he said in a soft, sad voice as if he were confiding a serious problem.  “I don’t know, you might be a Yankee, too,” he said.  Unaffected, I told him I wasn’t sure how Colorado was categorized.  Cheering up, he told me Colorado was never on one side or the other of the Mason-Dixon Line so I was in the clear.  Roughly a year before, Junior fired a warning shot close over the head of his aforementioned son when the man drove onto his ranch without prior notice.  Despite Junior’s assurance that his son was welcome as long as he called ahead, the man has not returned for a visit.  Junior has had several problems with poachers and other trespassers over the years with little action from the police.  In frustration Junior told the sheriff that the next time Junior reports a trespasser, the sheriff should send the coroner instead of a deputy.  “What I have is mine.  I paid for it,” he said.  “I worked for a company for 37 years – one company.”

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About Jerry
Working in Corporate America for many years, I wanted to break free of the office walls for a bit and explore the world. Having put the pieces in place, I am first exploring the USA by road. Colleagues and friends expressed interest in my travels, giving rise to Office Escape. It is my honor to share my adventures.

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