One of the classic books on hunting dogs in the United States in the early part of last century was Oliver Hartley’s Hunting Dogs (1909). The book is geared toward the Eastern and Midwestern states, and although he rambles a bit in places, there are some quite eloquent pieces of prose in parts of the book.
Take his discussion on why men should go coonhunting:
There are many reasons why the ‘coon hunt is fast becoming one of the most popular of the manly sports. The ‘coon is found in many sections of the United States. Other game is becoming very scarce. The wealthy business man, the man of affairs who is tied to his desk six days out of the week, can own a ‘coon hound and in the stilly hours of the night, after the day’s turmoil of business, can enjoy a few hours of the most strenuous sport now left to us and witness a battle royal between his faithful hound and the monarch of the forest, the wily ‘coon. Nothing that I can contemplate is more exhilarating or more soothing to the nerves than the excitement of the ‘coon hunt. From the first long drawn note when the trail is struck until the hound’s victorious cry at the tree, it is one round of excitement and anticipation. What or whose hound is leading? What direction will Mr. Coon take? What dog will be first to tree? And then the fight! It is simply great! And then showing the hide to the boys who didn’t go, and telling them about it for days to come.
The ‘coon hunt calls for manhood. Tender weaklings cannot endure the exertions necessary to enjoy this sport. It is too strenuous for the lazy man or the effeminate man to enjoy. They shudder at the thoughts of donning a pair of heavy hip boots and tramping thru swamps and slashes, crossing creeks and barbed wire fences, thru briars and thickets, maybe for several miles, and the probability of getting lost and having to stay all night. But to the man with nerve and backbone this is one of the enjoyable features. It affords great fun to get a tenderfoot to go out for the first time and initiate him into the “‘coon hunters’ club.” The tenderfoot will use every cuss word ever invented and will coin new ones when the supply of old ones becomes worn out and ineffective. He will cuss the briars, cuss the ditches, cuss the creek, cuss the fences, cuss the swamps, cuss the slashes, cuss the man who persuaded him to go, and finally cuss himself for going. But when the excitement of the chase is on and when the fight commences he becomes reconciled; and if good luck is had he is very likely to be the next man to propose another “‘coon hunt.”
A half dozen hunts will make an enthusiastic ‘coon hunter of any able bodied man — and I might suggest that a half a thousand ‘coon hunts will make an able bodied man out of any man. It will throw off the waste matter and dead tissues of the body, cause deep breathing, arouse torpid and sluggish livers, promote digestion, and is a general panacea for all human ailments of both mind and body.
So it is rigorous sport that pits man and dogs against the “monarch of the forest,” which will be the only place in all of Western literature where a raccoon is given this title!
And it will cure you of just about all that ails you!