All Good Dogs, the Coon Dog Cemetery
There’s a dog cemetery in the hills of northern Alabama, less than 10 miles from the Mississippi state line.
More specifically, it’s a coon dog cemetery and it’s said there’s as many as 200 family members buried there. I believe that’s true.
If you’ve ever had a dog, or cat, or gerbil, you love almost as if they’re your own child, you get it. If you’ve never experienced that then you might not understand, and that’s too bad.
It’s been five years since my Bailey-dog died, the day after Mother’s Day. I knew over the weekend the time had come. I still miss her.
Darling Daughter and I picked her out from the shelter, half lab and half husky, it was that husky part that always got her into so much trouble, and gave her to my wife Connie as a Christmas present. Connie died a year-and-a-half later.
Darling Daughter went off to college a year after that and though we saw each other often, most of the time it was just the Bailey-dog and me. She was my constant companion for both the good and the bad, no small amount of the bad being of her own making.
Friends will remember countless stories of her escaping and me trying to track her down. She tore siding off the house, destroyed door knobs and when she wasn’t digging holes under, and chewing holes through, chain link fences, she was climbing over them.
I once returned from a trip and, picking her up at the vet's office where I boarded her, the person at the desk, with wide eyes, asked me if I knew she could climb chain link fences. After locking up for the night, they'd come in the next morning to discover the Bailey-dog out wandering around the kennels. She'd climbed over the six-feet tall fence. (Yes, I did tell them that when I dropped her off but the person I told either didn't believe me or simply forgot to make note of it.)
She was my little girl.
I’d been in Huntsville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama. To get to Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard from there you take Alabama State Highway 247 to Coon Dog Cemetery Road, really, that’s what it’s called.
Coon Dog Cemetery Road is blacktop. The center striping has long been worn off, it’s barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass and it has more curves than a rattlesnake poised to attack. Follow that for five miles and Coon Dog Graveyard is on your left.
I’d expected this to be a quick stop at a roadside attraction where I’d take a few photos and be on my way. Just another fun story to tell.
Instead, no doubt partly because of memories of the Bailey-dog, I found myself drawn to the place, wandering around, reading markers and reflecting on the thoughts of those who laid them to rest.
They come from all over. Most are from Alabama and Mississippi but many more devoted owners make the pilgrimage from states outside the south.
The markers, of all shapes and sizes, are constructed of stone, metal and wood. Some as nice or maybe even nicer than the one sitting on my future resting place. Many have succumbed to 85 years of time and are crumbling into the ground.
Bragg – The best east of the Mississippi River – Owned by Bill McCorkle – Rt. 6, Florence, ALA
Ashes of 3 good coon hounds – Blue – Smokey – Bozo – Owned by the Beckners – Washington, MI
Black Ranger – Born Oct. 18, 1962 – Died Feb. 21, 1976 – He was good as the best and better than the rest – Owner Fulton Matthews
1976 – 1989 – Track – He wasn’t the best but he was the best I ever had – Vearl Devaney
Key Underwood buried Troop here in 1937. That was the beginning of Key Underwood Dog Memorial Graveyard. The area around it had been a hunting camp where coon hunters gathered before, and after, heading out on a hunt.
Troop had been a constant companion and, some would say, the best coon hunting dog around. He’d lived 15 years and Underwood just wanted to do the right thing by him, burying him in a spot near where they’d spent so much time together.
He wrapped him in a cotton sack, buried him three feet into the ground and placed beside it an old chimney stone on which he used a hammer and screwdriver to chisel out Troop’s name, a cross, and his life dates, 4-1-22, 9-1-37.
He had no intention of starting a graveyard but soon other hunters from the area began burying their dogs there. Before you knew it, it had become a coon dog cemetery.
It’s even officially recognized as an historic cemetery by the State of Alabama.
And it’s still an active cemetery. A volunteer board continues to watch over things. The cemetery is well maintained. Every grave, even those where barely a marker exists today, had a flower placed upon it when I was there.
You can bury your coon dogs there but you need proper approval. Just like any cemetery you can’t just go start digging up holes. The phone number for information is 256-412-5970.
There’s even a Labor Day celebration every year with bluegrass music, barbecue and raffles, with money going to upkeep of the cemetery. I read a note somewhere saying a couple thousand people come in to join in the fun.
The cemetery also played a part in the movie Sweet Home Alabama starring Reese Witherspoon. But, you know, this is Hollywood and things are a bit different in real life. They've moved the cemetery to southern Alabama and there are no large buildings in the background to be had at the real deal.
One final note if you go; once you get out to the cemetery there ain’t gonna be no GPS service, so make sure you know which way you want to go when you head back out.
But, it’s worth the trip. If you’ve ever loved a dog, cat or gerbil, you’ll understand.
**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address, alansheaven.com, or a link back to this page.