Good old Blue. Ma said he was called that ‘cause every blue-tick hound was called that, ‘less you already had one, then you might name it somethin’ else. Even so, she’d known more’n one hound man to keep an Old Blue and a Young Blue on the place at the same time.
But Pa, he would remember how he went over to Homer Moody’s to pick him a pup and seven or eight of them come tumblin’ out from under the front porch there, where Lady had birthed her litter. And there was just this one, had a certain look in his eye, even at six weeks old. Didn’t go scramblin’ about with the other pups. Just came and stared up at Pa like he was already his dog. Pa said he knew that kind of dog only came along once in a blue moon, and that was how he got his name. It weren’t no more than coincidence he happened to be a blue-tick hound.
Me and Pa, those last few years, we spent many an autumn night takin’ our dogs out on a coon run. Pa always said there was nothin’ like the music of hound voices carryin’ through the crisp air, and echoin’ through the woods on a cold night. After Blue started runnin’ with the pack, after he had a little experience, it got so Pa would follow the whole run on just Blue’s voice. He would talk to that dog, just whisperin’, just like Blue was sittin’ at his feet. Pa knew those woods inside and out, and he’d tell Blue to cast back, or circle ‘round or head up a certain ridge, and doggone if just a minute later that dog’s voice wouldn’t change and Pa would say, “He’s got him now.”
It was like that the last time we went out. I’d got so I could pretty much follow the pack, though I never could read Blue’s mind the way Pa did. I remember I was standin’, starin’ up through the leafless trees at a full moon, but that was just somewhere to rest my eyes. I was listenin’ to the music of the hounds on a good trail up the ridge. Blue’s voice was bell clear, and I guessed he was doing everything just right, ‘cause Pa wasn’t even whisperin’ to him.
Then, just when it sounded like they had that coon about treed, Blue’s voice changed. Not the rest of the dogs. They just went on with the coon. But Blue let out a howl like I never heard before and never want to hear again. It was just as sad and miserable a sound as a dog can make. For just a flash, I thought maybe he’d been hurt, but then I heard a soft thud and turned to find Pa layin’ on the ground.
A heart attack, Doc Brannon told us later. I guess if Pa could choose – and Ma held that maybe he did, in some kinda way – he would have picked just that way to go: listenin’ to the voices of those dogs he loved and even, nobody’ll ever tell me different, sayin’ good-bye to old Blue.