Timber: The Best Of The Litter

Timber was the best of the litter of five Walker hound puppies, bred for hunting coyotes. Like his father, Amos, he could take a cold trail under fresh snow, and he ran hard, saving his rolling bay until he caught sight of the coyote.

Even as the hounds’ men mourned the passing of Amos, who died as a 2-year-old, they looked to the future because of the promise showing in the abilities of the five puppies, Patty, Poncho, Pablo, Jabba, and Timber. Each had a particular talent, and they used them during the hunt according to that specialty.

Walker Hounds: Great Coyote Hunters
Misty, the puppies’ dam, was slow, working out a track with careful snuffs, but that made her a great dog for training the pups. Patty went wild on a track, sprinting and baying crazily, and the men saved her to push a tired coyote.

Poncho and Pablo ran best when used together. Jabba took a track better alone. Jabba could not be called or caught off a track, and they didn’t like to use him near the end of the day, towards dark. He often started the coyote trail, because he was nearly as good as Timber at cold-trailing the tracks leading from the dead-deer baits.

Conrid had owned all the hounds, but after Amos died young, he gave Misty and her five puppies to his sons, Billy, Peter and Bud. He continued coyote hunting, and we often rode together in his beat-up Ford truck, tracking the dogs and the coyote chase, and relaying the information to the hunters.

I’d heard the story of Amos. Jabba was in a kennel in the back of the truck, and Pablo and Poncho were out on the track. Patty, bred to a Canadian hound, was back at the kennel.

Conrid and I were standing next to the truck as he aimed the tracker to find the hounds. The tracker was linked to electronic sensors on the dogs’ collars, and the speed of its beeps let Conrid know where a dog was, and what direction it traveled.

So, I asked Conrid as he aimed the tracker, whatever happened to Timber? A look of immeasurable sadness came over his face. Yet there was something else in his expression, something like awe or reverence… .

The Story Of Timber
It was late afternoon and Conrid’s son, Billy, anticipated that the coyote Timber was chasing would head to a den area, the cliffs of Tumbledown Mountain, a gnarly 4,000-footer topped with a glacial pond. They’d tried for months to get that particular coyote, a large gray one, but he’d always eluded them at the end of the day.

Tumbledown Mountain is topped with a glacial pond, and a steep area called The Chimney drops off one side of the mountain.

Billy drove his snowmobile to the frozen pond, and turned off the engine. He loaded his shotgun, and slipped his boots into snowshoes. As he walked towards the edge of the cliffs, an area called The Chimney where climbers roped up to practice and play all summer, he was surprised to hear Timber’s bay.

He whipped around and spotted Timber for just a few strides before the hound reached the edge of Tumbledown’s cliffs and kept going, running out into space. Moving as quickly as he dared, Billy soon reached the top of The Chimney and looked down, but there was no sign of Timber.

He radioed the other hunters, and everyone met on a dirt road below. They searched into the night, but in the area of rock ledges and spruce trees, could find nothing. That night, it snowed 18 inches.

Conrid and his sons were back at dawn. On snowshoes, they labored to the base of The Chimney. Conrid had the tracker, and it indicated that Timber was somewhere in the unbroken expanse of snow before them.

Searching For Timber
Wordlessly, they used the tracker to get closer. As its beeps became rapid, the men started searching for the dog’s body by sweeping their feet through the snow.

Peter found him, and Billy quickly reached his brother’s side. Timber had been Peter’s dog, and Billy didn’t want him to have to pick up the body. But Peter shrugged Billy aside as he bent down and scooped his arms under Timber’s body.

Crying shamelessly, Peter started to walk away, but Billy grabbed his sleeve and stopped him. The four men stood huddled for long minutes, staring at the body of the coyote that had been underneath Timber.

Read elsewhere in the list of columns for the conclusion of the series on Jabba, the last of the line.

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