I'm sure he didn't really know what to think of me. I was a twelve year-old boy out there in the woods in coveralls, likely looking far more bored than I really was. It was cold and pitch black outside, not to mention way past my bedtime. The dogs were running something down, or at least that was what I was told. Mine was more keen on running in the complete opposite direction as the rest.
But there I sat on the tailgate of my grandfather's truck. He and my dad, along with my cousins, would talk about hunting. They were more into it than I could ever hope to be. This was the extent of my exposure to hunting growing up. Still, my grandfather did me a favor for later in life by taking me out on these trips. At the time, I'm really not sure what I thought of it either.
We would walk through a lot of knocked down cornfields and thick wooded paths. The owner of the land wasn't really thinking that much about ease of travel when he gave my grandfather permission to hunt on it. We'd follow the dogs if they treed something, but only if it was fairly easy to get to. Most of our excursions into the woods were to find the dogs so we could go home.
I never shot at anything on those trips. Rarely did anyone else, either. I came to learn this ritual of listening to the dogs howl and run was more of it than actually hunting the raccoon. Perhaps deer and squirrel hunters are are more likely in it for the meat or trophy. Coon hunting was, at least as I knew it, was more about those late nights on back country roads with just the moon to find your way.
I still have a faint scar on the top on my leg above the knee. It was earned holding onto the leash of a very excited Black and Tan eager to get out of the truck. His claws sliced cleanly through my jeans and into my leg. It stung, but only bled a bit. I didn't even thin to look at it again until I got home and tossed those jeans. It still serves as a reminder of moonlit nights in West Tennessee, and that a dog's paw can do serious damage.
I still have an odd urge from time to time to go sit out there (somewhere) on a cool night. As I've grown older, I really believe that was all my grandfather was really looking for -- an excuse to be away from it all and to see his grandsons (and coonhounds) enjoy themselves.