THERE'RE lots of customs in the South that, say, to your average Yankee virtually defy explaining. Eating grits is one. (Explicating grits I've found is for me, a Southerner, impossible.) Another's Carnivore pickupus. I see my job here being to make a necessarily brief but hopefully successful effort to shed light on this uniquely Southern phenomenon. Genus Carnivore pickupus is divided into four species: tall, short, broad or narrow. All members of the genus live for the midnight baying of hounds hot on a coon's scent wafting across an open field under a full November moon.
But first let's talk a bit about how these men (yes, they're all men; not one woman's ever been heard of among them) come to coon-hunting. Let's talk about how coon-hunting allows them to become what they really are: litt'erateurs manqu'es.
It's been pretty well scientifically demonstrated that these lost literati are born, not made.
Because they come into the world of the South, they are compatible with up to as many as 16 or 17 varieties of Blue Tick hound, can ascertain the booming moan of a ``Sarge'' versus a ``Geraldine'' more'n a mile away, can easily tell when a hound's glad just to be out romping through somebody else's property in the middle of the night or when it's seriously onto something, can tell when the lead hound's really taking charge or's just goofing off waiting for the quiet ride back home to a late night snack.
It's these sorts of things that separate coon hunters from chaff.
Just about the time a coon hunter realizes he knows most of what's to know about coon dogs, he starts practicing how to drive a three-quarter-ton pickup truck through the dead of night without turning on the headlights.
He hones the art of parking barely off a country road, as near as possible to a peace-and-quiet-loving, early-to-bed family's house so that when the hounds are set loose they make all the noise it's possible for up to a dozen or more coon hounds to make when they pick up the trail they've been brought for.