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My Old Hunting Dog

Posted Sunday, September 28, 2008, at 6:03 PM

Old Ky-Rucus started his journey through life as part of a roving band of Gypsies. This was not by choice, but by being carried away from his original home by these Gypsies, who made a practice of never paying for anything that they could procure by other means. Thus Ky-Rucus became a Gypsy when a little Gypsy girl saw him at his home down on the farm, thought he was cute, and someway this cute little puppy became lost inside their canvas covered wagon.

As a puppy, Ky-Rucus made a good pet for the little girl, but after a few months, and many miles down the road, it was decided that Ky-Rucus was more trouble than he was worth. He was being neglected, and was going several days without food.

As this caravan came by our home on Cato Slough, the clan was trying to raise money by any means. They offered to put new soles on our shoes for fifty cents, but since it was summer time, we were not wearing any shoes, and the condition of our shoe soles was not an important matter at that time.

There was one lady, dressed in a black and red, flowing dress, who said that she could see into the future, and offered to read palms and tell our fortunes for a quarter. Since we were having enough trouble dealing with problems of the day, we could see no need of worrying about the future.

One man, with a few feathers stuck in the band of his hat said that his name was Kyrucus, and that he was a famous Indian Medicine Man. He was selling a bottle of tonic, "The Elixir of Life," guaranteed to cure any ailment, including the common cold, migraine headaches, lumbago, arthritis, and fallen arches. Since we had a neighbor, Pappy Knight, who ran off a batch of special recipe every week that would do a pretty good job of curing most of these ailments, or at least it would make you forget that you had any ailment, we could see no need to give our business to a stranger.

Another man claimed to be an expert at honing razors, and said that he would sharpen my father's razor for fifty cents. Dad didn't have fifty cents, so the man said that he would do the job for one old hen. Dad took him up on this deal, but while they were out in the chicken yard catching the hen, part of the clan went through the chicken house and carried off about two dozen eggs. While this was going on, another group was out in the garden picking our tomatoes, cucumbers and beans, while still another part of the clan picked about a bushel of peaches from the best tree in the orchard.

At this point, Dad could see that things were getting out of hand, so he picked up the chopping ax and politely asked them to leave. As they all climbed back on their wagons, one man offered to sell a good "Guard Dog" for $1.00, but since they had already carried off everything that was not tied down, Dad figured that it was too late to buy a guard dog. As the caravan made their hasty retreat down the road, they dumped this dog out of their wagon and left him standing in the dusty road.

I am not sure as to who adopted whom, but anyway this half-starved dog had found a good home, and we named him Ky-Rucus, after the Indian Medicine Man. When I say this dog was half-starved, I am not exaggerating. This dog was so thin that he had to stand twice in the same place to cast a shadow.

With some good food and tender care, Ky-Rucus began to grow and to show some slight sign of intelligence. He was a mixed breed, about one-half long-eared Blue-Barron and one-half short-eared Red-Rover. This mixture had a tendency to make him look somewhat off balance, as his right ear hung down toward the ground, and his left ear stood up in such way that he had to keep his head turned side-ways during a rainstorm.

As Ky-Rucus began to grow up, we tried to teach him a few tricks. We tried to teach him to roll over, and he seemed to enjoy being rolled back and forth, but made no effort to do this himself; that is until we gave up, and after we left him alone, then he would go to mom's flowerbed and have a ball rolling in it.

We tried to teach him to bring the newspaper from the front yard into the house, but he must have been wired up wrong, as he would grab up every paper he found in the house and carry it out to the yard.

There was one thing Ky-Rucus was good at, and that was catching possums. At this time I was about 13 years old, and that winter, with the help of Ky-Rucus, I caught over 50 possums. The next winter I came down with the flu about the time possum season opened, and I was not able to go out and enjoy my favorite sport. I could tell that old Ky-Rucus was restless and was ready to go.

I figured that I would soon be able hit the trail, so I started making up boards to stretch the possum hides on. About sundown one evening I set one of these boards out on the back porch, and I could see old Ky-Rucus looking it over. The next morning when I came out, there was a possum lying by the board. I skinned the possum, and the hide was a perfect fit for the board I had made the day before. That evening I made another board, a little larger, and set it on the porch. The next morning there was another possum there, the exact size of the board.

I kept making boards, a little larger each day, and Ky-Rucus kept bringing in possums to fit each board. As the boards got bigger, it would take Ky-Rucus longer to find the right sized possum. Sometimes he would be gone two to three days at a time, and finally it all came to a sad ending. One evening I was a little late getting my stretching board ready, and in the meantime Mom had set her ironing board out on the back porch. This ironing board was made in the same shape as my stretching boards, so Ky-Rucus sized up this board and took off, and that was the last time for us to ever see Ky-Rucus.

I always figured that since he could not find a possum big enough to fit that ironing board, he was too proud to come home without one.

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Another great story, Mr. Corbin. I'd love to hear more about the adventures of Young Paul and Ky-Ruckus.

-- Posted by Ducky on Tue, Oct 7, 2008, at 12:44 PM

I've read Mr. Corbin's works in the NSC for years, FJ, and he's shared various stories, fiction and nonfiction with us. He writes a lot about his dogs.

By the way, that National Geographic site is terrific! Ten pages of recent information on Neanderthals! Who knew that their tendancy to eat their enemies would later help scientists recover DNA from the remains?

Curiously gross and fascinating!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Oct 4, 2008, at 2:50 PM

Paul, it is off topic, but there is a terrific feature article in the current National Geographic titled "Last of the Neanderthals." It includes information about the archeological digs in Europe. Interesting that Neanderthal DNA matches us 99.5%. You can read the entire article on National Geographic's website at, http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/1...

-- Posted by FJGuy on Thu, Oct 2, 2008, at 3:05 PM

Terrific story Paul! I'm not sure what GL means that you blended fact with fiction. On another blog she mentioned that she had a dog with the "documented" intelligence of a five-year-old child, so if Ky-Rucus was bright enough to learn to stick his left-ear up like in the picture he certainly was smart enough to have special possum hunting prowess!

-- Posted by FJGuy on Thu, Oct 2, 2008, at 2:43 PM

This dog looks a bit like the one that was dumped out here this weekend...

Do you think Ky-Rucus was a pit bull???

-- Posted by goat lady on Mon, Sep 29, 2008, at 5:27 PM

I love this story! You've done a good job of blending fact with fiction, so we get to share a funny story and also learn about life back in the Bollinger County swamps during the late 1920's and early 1930's! (Is that about right?)

Not many people alive today can 1) remember as well, 2) put it to paper, and 3) liven it up with exaggeration and humor!

Paul Corbin, you are a MASTER storyteller!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Sep 28, 2008, at 9:06 PM

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Bunyan Tales
Paul Corbin
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Paul Corbin is a 100-year-old historian, humorist, and amateur archaeologist from Advance, Mo. He grew up in the Greenbrier area west of Advance, where he attended Stepp School on the banks of Cato Slough and the Castor River, important waterways throughout his life. In an age when many area residents did not go to high school, the young Corbin made the decision to walk the five miles to Zalma, graduating in 1933. Throughout his life, he was an enterprising businessman, selling Watkins products from house to house throughout a large area - and later opening a variety store in Advance. He and his wife Geneva traveled throughout the United States, even following the route that the Lewis and Clark expedition traveled. His knowledge of Native American culture is extensive, and he has donated a sizeable collection of his artifacts to the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center and the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History in Marble Hill. Throughout the years, he has submitted articles to TBY, the North Stoddard Countian, the Ozark Mountaineer, and several other Missouri publications. He has also written two books - "Reflections in Missouri Mud," and "Fragments of my Feeble Mind." The first one is out of print.
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