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Tales of Cotton

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

I was five or six years old when Dad began to take me hunting. I had a cap gun, but all the rules of safety applied as if it were real. Those rules have carried me through many an outing since those early years on the farm. I can still hear Dad saying, "Keep your finger off the trigger... Have you got your safety on?... Careful son, let's keep each other in sight as we go through these briars."

Our first rabbit dogs were two miniature beagles. One was named Thunder, the other Too Sweet. Lady, a miniature red bone/beagle mix female, soon joined our pack. She sure could hunt rabbits! A neighbor and friend, Darrell Seely, had another mixed-breed dog called Old Rusty, who loved to chase bunnies and other critters.

Rusty was more of a pet than a hunting dog, but we didn't care. Darrell and I spent hours in our dads' woods with our dogs, traps and whatever else two boys could dream up to get into.

As you can tell, Dad put great effort into naming his dogs. However, Darrell just named his dog Rusty because of his color. He did not consider any potential problem even though we had a neighbor farmer named Rusty Sulliens.

This soon proved to become more of a problem than one might imagine. Rusty may not have been a world champion rabbit dog, but he had one trait that is invaluable around the house in "Swamp East" Missouri. Rusty hunted snakes. I believe he could have held his own with a mongoose.

Anyway, Darrell came by one day and Mom overheard part of our conversation. It seems Rusty had been busy with a copperhead and the snake bit him on the cheek. Mom, hearing this, assumed we were talking about our neighbor Rusty, and she came running out of the kitchen.

"What is this about Rusty?," Mom asked. "Well, he was down in the weeds over yonder and got bit on the face," Darrell explained.

"Is he OK?," she asked.

"Oh, I guess he will be all right," Darrell answered. "His face is starting to swell. His tongue is hanging out and one eye is closed. He's just lying up against the smoke house now taking it easy."

Well, Mom started moving to help Rusty. She was about to kick in her afterburners when Darrell was able to explain it was

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