What did he say his name was? Did I hear you right?
Growing up everyone along the banks of that Ole Red River had a nickname. It wasn’t something one chose, but a title you were known as. There were so many it was hard to keep up with them all. And they weren’t just for young folks, old timers had them too.
There was Shorty who stood for Cleo, Blackie who stood for Harold, Smut who was really Cecil. How was a young feller supposed to keep up with all this?! Bear was Wendell, Cotton who was Glenneth… my gosh it was endless. Even my dad whose real name was Ernest was called Wash…where did they come up with that? And as a youngin’, was I supposed to call these men by their nickname? These men who stood as tall as giants to me.
They rode horses like Champ, Socks, Ole Red, Rocket and Ole Blackie. They were barbers like Red and Jelly who gave most us kids our first town-bought haircut. And you better sit still while they did or you might get ear notched. Then after a haircut you could go next door and play a little snooker or dominos at Sugar Kane’s. Us kids thought the two went together well.
I was even given the name Rawhide. I wasn’t sure of why the time but later an Old timer told me it was because I was sure tough as rawhide.
That feller at the wagon with me is known as Mike but to most folks in our circle he is Coondog. My brother Dale, a.k.a. Turkey Red, gave him that name.
Now me and Coon have built a lot of fires together and seen a lot of miles in the rear view mirror. Coon was a partner when I first started cooking on the wagon. A true friend and feller you could always count on. He is a good man to ride the River with. He is as reliable as the nose on a championship Coon Dog and with him by your side you’d never go down a cold trail.
A nickname in my country was more than just what you were called, but it was who you were. And if you lived up to your nickname…well, you were lucky enough.
So if you are ever down in my neck of the woods and you here somebody say something about a Bear and a Coondog with Cotton, remember they’re not talking about some animals in a field somewhere. It’s probably just a recollection of good times with some really good fellers.