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Field Notes "Remembering Barney" - By: C.C. McCotter - Feb. 2004

There is an old axiom "To soothe the woes of life, every man deserves one
good woman and one good dog". I am fortunate, to fill that necessity, that
good woman has been with me nearly half a century; but, since it would not
be appropriate to talk about her in a sporting magazine, we will concentrate
on the second part of that old axiom.

The local coroner in Lebanon County Pennsylvania had a reputation for
breeding excellent "bench leg" beagles, primarily for field trials. My very
limited budget at the time did not allow me the luxury of field trials, all that I
wanted was a good dog for the rabbits and pheasants abundant in south
central Pennsylvania at the time. My wife and I went to the coroner's kennel
to look over the newly arrived litter of six or eight pups. It was love at first
sight when a handsome tri-colored male tried to get to us through the fence.
After careful consideration of an appropriate moniker for a hunting beagle,
we decided to register the pup as "Bring-home-the bacon-Barney". As it was
not allowed to keep a dog outside in the area where we lived, Barney became
a house pet. That suited Barney and our house full of children just fine - they
became the best of friends. Son Dan was especially fond of Barney. We
praised Dan for all of a sudden eating all of his vegetables until we found that
he and Barney had formed a partnership when the veggies "accidentally" hit
the floor. Above all, he was my dog - he could recognize the sound of my
car's engine blocks before I turned into the drive, and let out a howl. I was
concerned that all of this domestic exposure would ruin him for hunting, an
assumption soon to be proven false.

Barney could trail a rabbit at six months of age, although his bay was more
of a falsetto rather than the deep baritone he later developed. When the
season opened, he was nine months old and joining my uncle Roy's beagles in
Lancaster county, sharing his load on our annual pheasant/rabbit hunts. "Dog
tired", muddy and full of briers, he would curl on my hunting coat on the floor
of the car for a well deserved nap on our trip home. Somehow, by the next
day, he had removed the briers and groomed to his shiny tri-colored self.
A trip to Perry county Pennsylvania with my friend Skip took Barney into
new territory where deer were as prevalent as the rabbits he was intended
to hunt, a real challenge for Barney - he soon learned not to chase those
industrial-sized rabbits. On that trip, I scolded him for not staying out in
front when Skip said, "look, he's on point". That didn't seem right, a beagle is
not supposed to point. We turned back and sure enough flushed and killed a
large rooster. That happened several times in Barney's career and we soon
realized he was not lying. On another trip with Skip and Barney to an area
overgrown with briers, old Barney worked his heart out and finally got up a
rabbit at which Skip emptied three rounds from his pump and I my double. I'll
never forget the look on that dog as he stopped dead, gave us both a hard
look and refused to again pick up the trail.

True, he had a mind of his own. When I had enough for the day, the only time
Barney would false trail was to avoid getting into the car and go home. I
recall having shot an unusually large cock bird with large spurs. I stuck him in
my game pocket and when we returned to the car went to take the bird out,
only to have it fly from my hands to the top of a tall pine. Slowly the bird lost
strength and slid down the tree to where Barney was waiting. Barney put his
front paws on the rooster and in his expressive way told me to make sure
the darn things were dead.

One of my favorite memories of Barney happened one opening day of small
game season, when I, along with the plant manager of the company I worked
for and a company veterinarian was to hunt the countryside near Myerstown,
PA. The newly hired vet had an English setter that he had flaunted as a top
dog out of the Purina Kennels. We were to hunt with the English and Barney.
What happened in the car while waiting for the plant manager told something
of the "English". While my beagle had to ride in the trunk, the "English" got to
ride in the back where the vet's Browning "Sweet Sixteen" lay on the seat.
Nature called for the setter and a deposit was made right on the receiver of
the Browning. We hunted hard that day, with Barney getting up several birds
and bringing around rabbits. He worked extremely hard while the "English"
dutifully walked aside of his owner. When we returned to the car and were
taking game out of our coats, Barney walked up to the setter, lifted his leg
and gave the appropriate "salute" all over the side of the Purina Kennel
dandy.

Yes, I was allowed "one good dog", and while someday may have another,
none will compare with "Bring-home-the-bacon-Barney".


 
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