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Treeing hounds and moonlit nights

Roger Barbee

By Roger Barbee - redhill@shentel.net

Our dogs - Nolan the Shenandoah honey hound and Mickey and Callie, the beagles - have gotten serious about treeing the squirrels that come into their acre of yard to raid the bird feeders.

I encourage them and have offered bounty for any caught raider of the bird feeders. It is apparent that the female, Callie, is more serious about this venture. She sits under the hackberry trees, patient as a sphinx, waiting for a raider of seeds to venture forth. Her pack mates are content to wander about the yard, or sleep in a comfortable place, as she does the work. However, as soon as her distinctive call of alarm rolls over their acre, they both arrive quickly to help in the making of noise. Fortunately or not, depending if you are a tree rodent or the feeder of birds, none have been caught as yet, but several have been treed in one of the hackberry trees or adjoining maples. Like all well-bred hunting dogs, Nolan, Mickey, and Callie bay deeply, make a big fuss while looking up at the trees, and jump higher than either Mary Ann or I thought they could. All of this goes on as I keep hoping for some payment for the gluttonous consumption of my sunflower seeds.

So, it was no surprise on a past summer night that we had a difficult time getting the dogs to come in at dusk. They had treed one of the thieving tree rodents and were running from maple to hackberry to maple, all the time barking, baying, jumping and getting more and more excited by their self-imposed frenzy. After much calling and even threatening, the males came in through the dog door, but only after Mary Ann went out with dog treats.

Now all that was left was Callie, the little female who was sitting under one of the trees looking up as far as her small bent neck would allow. Mary Ann went out and tried to catch her by the collar, but each time Mary Ann got near, Callie would bounce away and sit under another tree. Slowly the summer light dimmed, and soon Mary Ann was chasing not only the beagle, but the darkness. Mary Ann came in exasperated, and in my sternest, male voice, I said, "Let her sleep outside. She's a dog." Yet, no sooner had I uttered these empty words, then I was outside in the summer darkness trying to coax the little beagle to come inside.

I cooed, I promised, I cursed, but Callie was intent on the thief in the tree. While sitting under the trees talking softly to her, I saw in the corner of my vision what I thought was a low-flying airplane or some other skyward object, coming over Massanutten Mountain. Startled by the brightness of the unknown light, I turned to look directly at a small, bright spot of reddish-orange appearing to sit on the mountain as it was crossing over it. I called out to Mary Ann. She, frightened that I had fallen out of my wheelchair or maybe something worse, came running to my side. I pointed to the spot of flame on the mountain and said, "Look."

Forgetting the little female huntress, the squirrels, the lost sunflower seeds, the frustration, we watched with wonder as the August moon rose in full splendor over Massanutten Mountain, slowly flooding the valley with sun-like light. Watching that moon rise in the warm, summer night, everything else became insignificant and small as the flame-filled moon took dominion over the mountain, the valley, and us. Even Callie watched with us. Afterward, we three went in to bed, privileged and content to have seen such a miracle of His work.

Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs, and five cats. You may contact him at: redhill@shentel.net


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