Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, March 10, 2024

By Dan Kelley

Boon Companions

Read: Matthew 25:21

One summer in the early 2000s my wife Julia and I toured Civil War battlefields of the Western Theatre. We had started in Chattanooga at the Chickamauga Battlefield and were heading toward Florence, Alabama on US highway 72 to see Brice Cross Roads and Shiloh Battlefields. Just west of Tuscumbia we saw a large green highway sign that read “Key Underwood Memorial Coon Dog Cemetery”. We had to see that. So we turned onto Alabama 247 and went 12 miles to Coon Dog Cemetery Road. 

There among the dusty redtop Freedom Hills was a small green oasis that used to be a hunting camp. We were greeted by a tall stone column of two coon dogs treeing a raccoon. We learned that Key Underwood had loved hunting in these woods with his dog Troop. When Troop had died in 1937, Key had buried him here as a memorial to their 15 years together. He placed an old chimney stone on the grave on which he scratched “Troop was a joy to hunt with”. Other bereaved hunters followed his example, when their beloved dogs died, to bury them and mark their graves.

There were over 300 dogs buried there. To qualify they needed to be AKC recognized breeds; Redbones, Black and Tans, English Blueticks or Redticks, or Treeing Walkers. Or they needed to be Southern hunting hounds; Black Mouth Curs, Plott Hounds, Catahoulas, or Mountain Curs. And they had to have 3 witnesses that had seen them tree a coon singularly. They were not just any dogs but coon dogs. working dogs who were varmint hunters and protectors of crops and livelihoods. No poodles or lapdogs.

Many had marble or limestone headstones that were professionally carved. They listed their AKC or UKC registration and the trophies they won. Some were local champions, some were State Champions, some were National Champions, and a few were World Champions at their craft. Famous Amos was buried there. He was Ralston Purina’s “Dog of the Year” in 1984. 

While the marble headstones show the pride of the owners, the metal markers that had  welded messages or the wooden markers that had wood burned messages showed the love and companionship that was shared by the hunter and his dog.  One of my favorite was a 4 x 4 post with a dog collar and tag nailed to it. It said, “Old Blue, he weren’t the best but he was the best I ever had”.

Key Underwood reminded me of all the companions that had helped me on my spiritual journey; those who had taught me, encouraged me, and worked with me. Not all were champions but all were of a recognizable breed: loving, compassionate, and full of the Holy Spirit. And there were at least three witnesses to their ability to keep sin at bay.

In this Lenten season, as we remember what Our Lord and Savior has already done for us, let us remember those that have helped us on our way learning to follow His example.


Dear Lord of Mercy Divine, Thank for your sacrifice, for sending your Holy Spirit to us, and for the many faithful companions you have placed in our lives to help us return to you. Help us to be good companions to others of your children that we may help them on their journey home. Amen.

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