It took days before I got the whole story, given to me in pieces as if the whole of it was still, even years later, too much to stand all at once. That’s the way grief is, when it’s great — you can only let in a piece of it at a time.
I got the story on various days while riding around the snow-covered dirt roads of Maine with my friend Conrid, who was known as the best hound man in the area. He’d pull off somewhere, aiming the antenna-style tracker in the general direction of a mountain ridge, checking on the location of a dog or dogs.
The tracker was linked to sensors on the dogs’ collars, and its regular beeps speeded up when a dog was near. Based on the location and direction of travel of the dogs, Conrid used walkie-talkies to direct hunters to spots where they might intercept the coyote.
Amos: A Malnourished Pup
It was during the times that he aimed the tracker that Conrid would tell me pieces of the story; it was as if the tracker connected him to those long-ago times, and those long-ago dogs. Conrid got his first hound when he answered an ad for Walker puppies.
Double rainbow on Webb Lake in Weld, Maine. Mt. Blue is the peak on the right. The hounds often took coyote trails in that area.
He and his wife picked their way around the debris behind the seller’s house to see the three puppies, two of them already dead. The man had sold their mother, leaving the puppies on their own too early.
Conrid took the surviving puppy home, named it Amos, and fed it every three hours for several weeks. Before Amos was a year old, stories about him were known throughout hound circles in the state; like the time he took a coyote trail under a foot of snow, or the time when he had, at 9 months old, caught and killed a coyote by himself.
Some of the hound men groused about Amos’ style of trailing. He never bayed on a trail until he could see the coyote, which made it harder for the hunters to figure out exactly where the pursuit was happening, and get in position to shoot the coyote.
But they could find no other reason to complain.
A Great Tracker
Amos could work out coyote trails that were a day old, and Amos could pick his way through a herd of yarded deer, staying on the coyote track. The strange thing was that the deer, which huddled in herds during the time of deep snows, didn’t run from the hounds, seeming to know the difference between the tame and wild dogs.
Conrid bred Amos to his best female, a solid trailer named Misty. One day he found Amos dead in his doghouse. His veterinarian performed an autopsy, and said that Amos’ kidneys had failed, and that it could sometimes happen when a once-malnourished dog reached his full growth.
Conrid gave Misty and her five puppies, Patty, Poncho, Pablo, Jabba, and Timber, to his sons. He’d still hunt coyotes, he said, but he never wanted to own or train another dog.
Learning alongside Misty, each of the puppies became a good capable hound, honest, deer-proof trailers all of them. Put on a promising track with Misty, each of them learned to follow along behind her, adding their high-pitched puppy voices to her rolling bay.
But Timber was different. Like Amos, Timber never bayed until he saw the coyote. All of the men hunting with the hounds realized it, Conrid told me one day while aiming the tracker, but none of them said anything about it.
(Read elsewhere in the author’s column listing about Timber)