At Coon Dog Cemetery, Old Red given classy sendoff

What’s going down? It’s the cremated remains of Lowe’s Red Scott, a champion coon hound called Old Red, being lowered into a grave in the Coon Dog Cemetery in the Freedom Hills, some 25 miles north of Red Bay. Doing the honors according to the plan in the old folk son, “Old Blue,” is Sheriff Paul Barrett from Vicksburg, Miss., as he “ . . . lowers him down with a silver chain . . .” Mississippi TV personality and current member of the Fish and Wildlife Division of the State of Mississippi, Paul Ott, stands by with his guitar ready to sing “Old Blue.” Next to him is Vicksburg attorney Bill Ramsey, who delivered the eulogy, clad in hunter’s boots, pants and cap, with a tuxedo coat and a stole of three or four bandana handkerchiefs. Young man at right is an unidentified pallbearer from Vicksburg. News photo/Archie Lee

A score or so of Vicksburg, Miss., coon hunters joined with a comparative number of local counterparts last Friday at one of the country’s most unique cemeteries for what has to be some of the most unique rites ever celebrated in the fabulous Freedom Hills.

The catalyst was the late Lowe’s Red Scott, or more accurately, perhaps, his demise at age eight years of heartworms on March 11.

If you’ve correctly guessed (or already heard something about it elsewhere) that he was buried in the Key Underwood Memorial Coon Dog Cemetery a week later, you may be curious as to how the remains were kept that long without problems.

Cremation is the answer, and that will give you some idea of the extent to which the Mississippi men went to give Old Red the right kind of sendoff to the Happy Hunting Ground.

After the proper wake had been conducted at Holiday Inn in Florence the night before and printed programs prepared and the grave opened, the pallbearers gathered for introductions and announcements by Thomas Golding of Vicksburg, who had been preparing barbecued spareribs, link sausage and other such delicacies for the mourners all day.

PAUL OTT SINGS as mourners pay their last respects to champion coon hound, Old Red, who was laid to rest last Friday at the Coon Dog Cemetery in Colbert County’s Freedom Hills. Behind the television star stands Vicksburg attorney Bill Ramsey (book in hand). At far right is Old Red’s owner, Bobby Lowe, of Vicksburg. The other mourners are unidentified. News photo/Archie Lee

Vicksburg attorney Bill Ramsey then stepped up to the graveside and delivered the eulogy, saying, in part:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. In his masters swamp are many den trees. If it were not so, I would have told you. He has gone to prepare a place for you and where he shall go, Old Red will go also.

“Anybody that coon hunts has to believe in God. If you have known the music of coon hounds on a trail and heard the excitement in their voices when they strike, and have seen their eagerness and determination when they tree; if you have seen their courage and bravery in a tough fight with an old boar coon; if you have heard their anguished cries and howls; if you have seen the ugly gashes and wounds and witnessed their resolve to never quit, you know there has to be a God to make an animal like that.

A God that would make a coon dog won’t forget him when he is gone. There’s a coon dog heaven and Old Red is there.”

Paul Ott of the Mississippi Game and Fish Division and formerly of network TV (“Green Acres,” for instance) then stepped forward with his guitar and crooned the words of “Old Blue,” a favorite song of hunters for many years.

In keeping with the lyrics of the song, (“I lowered him down with a silver chain”) Warren County Sheriff Paul Barrett (of Vicksburg) did the honors for owner Bobby Lowe and lowered Old Red’s ashes into the grave.

IN A CLOUD OF STEAM from the charcoal grill, one of the celebrants-oops!-mourners at the Coon Dog cemetery last Friday checks on a pile of link sausage for those who attended the funeral of a champion coon dog. News photo/Archie Lee

Key Underwood, who started the whole thing back in 1937 by burying his top dog, Old Troop,” in the spot where the cemetery now is, was called on to make a few remarks.

He told of how this was the most impressive ceremony ever held at the park and how Old Red’s remains had been brought farther than any other’s.

Old Red is the 109th coon dog to be buried in the picturesque Colbert County spot. Red, like all the others, had the credentials to make him eligible for burial in the cemetery. Only documented actual coon dogs may be buried there.

Red had won every competition in which he’d been placed, said his last owner and a previous one, Crawford Mims.

Area residents who haven’t seen this unusual cemetery, said to be the only one like it in the world, should make plans to do so soon, when dogwoods and redbuds are in bloom.It is located off Highway 247 some half dozen miles or so. There is a sign at the intersection at the point where the road was washed out or caved in a few years ago, stopping through traffic for months.