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This Week's Feature
Alabama's Coon Dog Cemetery
Seventy-seven years ago this place was just a gently sloping rise in the Freedom Hills, prolific with hardwoods—elm, oak, ash—and pine trees too, but with enough open space left over to walk between them, even with a dog. The rise fell like a slide into a holler, thickly wooded and dark, though at certain times of the day when the sun cut through the treetops there was a winking glint off a moonshiner’s still. Beyond that nothing but green, an ocean of forest, and all the critters you’d expect to find there: barred owls, kestrels, fox squirrels, deer. Raccoons.
Seventy-seven years ago, in 1937, Key Underwood buried his dog, a coonhound, here, because this is a place they loved to hunt. The dog’s name was Troop, and he carved that name into a chunk of sandstone from the chimney of an old cabin with a screwdriver and a hammer, and below that the essential information, the only indisputable facts of existence: the day he was born and the day he died.
This is what was happening in September 1937 on a mountaintop in Cherokee, Alabama.
Since then, more than three hundred dogs have been buried here. And not just any dogs: They are, each and every one of them, coonhounds. Redbone, black and tan, English bluetick, English redtick, Plott, Treeing Walker, and various combinations of the above. It’s a place that’s known as—well, what else could it be known as?—the Coon Dog Cemetery (officially the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Cemetery), and there is no place like it anywhere in the world.