What a painting and what a story. It was 35 years ago on October 10, 1977 when I drove down old Highway 25 made a right turn where the Noxubee River crosses back of this side, and I turned west. Here I discovered the most beautiful autumn scene I have every laid eyes on or seen! I had arrived at the Talkum-Warrior Coon Hunting Club to spend the next few hours sketching and painting to my heart's content. I unpacked all of my art supplies, bowed my head and asked God to help me express my feeling and to use my talent of painting on my canvas and show to others His beauty all around me.
I thought about the cute little raccoon that we simply here in Mississippi call a coon. I have always thought a coon was absolutely darling with a personality plus.
I'm painting the most beautiful world around me, and a coon hunting club in the far right hand side of my canvas in the background. I wanted to possibly find a few of the old members of this club so I made a few telephone calls to attempt to find them. I first called Jim Craig, and he suggested that I call Wayne Hemphill. Wayne told me the club was still in existence, but he was no longer an active member. He told me to call Wick Malone who was still an active member. I called Wick and had a nice conversation with him. Wick said he had two winning coon dogs, Rock and Speed. He said it was a competitive sport they engaged in after the sun went down at night. He told me to call his best coon hunting friend, Earnest Griggs.
I dialed Earnest’s number: “Hello, Mr. Griggs, I am Carole McReynolds Davis, and I know you because after I graduated from Starkville High School in 1960, I decided to teach art classes to children over at the youth center right across from Overstreet School in that big old white house. Your sweet daughter, Suzanne, was one of my art students that summer. Your wonderful wife, Jean, would climb up those tall steps upstairs and bring Suzanne to my art class. It was the first and last art class I ever taught. I decided I enjoyed creating my own work rather than teaching art. I know Suzanne grew up, married Joe Buckner from Starkville and together they reared five wonderful children and now live in Brandon.”
He said, “Hello to you, Carole, and yes, I know you. I loved being a founding member of the Talkum-Warrior Coon Hunting Club. Two times I won second Place Championship for my dog named Cypress Creek Scott. I had another dog named Lucy and I was winning for five years straight. Our open coon hunting season was from Oct. 15 until Feb. 28 because we had to stop since turkey hunting season would begin then. Our club meetings were one night a month. We sometimes ate the coon meat which tastes like goat meat. We would even sell a coon for $5 apiece. Coons are really smart, clean mammals. They clean their food in creeks and they eat nuts and crawfish they find in shallow water in the creeks too. They eat minnows and they will not eat road kill like possums do. They have musk glands underneath their front legs and this is the odor that the coon dogs smell to trail the coon.”
“Carole, remember Mr. Jerry Clower, who was a MSU graduate and a famous comedian too? MSU wanted to honor Jerry in a very special way so they got me to get an old tree and place it in the ground in Davis Wade Stadium around the track of the field itself. We put the coon up in the tree in a cage and turned loose the coon dogs. Off they went round and round the football field. It was so much fun and they barked, barked and barked. Their bark is like music to a coon hunter's ears. I was president of the American Coon Hunter's Association as well as president and founder of our Talkum-Warrior Coon Hunting Club. At MSU I managed the Mississippi Artificial Breeding Association for cattle. I was with the Mid South Animal Breeding Select Sire Group for 36 1/2 years. I am a native of Brentwood, Tenn. This is half way between Nashville and Franklin. I lived for years right next to the famous Bull Barn on Highway 82 on the MSU campus property, and my old house is still standing there. Jean and I have two grown boys and two grown girls, Kenny, David, Suzanne and Holly. We have 13 grand children and nine great-grand children.”
“I had so much fun coon hunting, and we were hosts for other coon hunters for competition from nearby Mississippi and national hunts as well from lots of other states. Wick Malone and I were very close friends and hunted together all the time.”
I suddenly realized that these band of coon hunters had fabulous times together, and what experiences they must have had as the memories they so deeply treasured was still in their voices and their stories they told me. Their stories made my painting suddenly live again on my canvas as if I had just painted it today.
My painting that I first sketched, painted, and completed 35 years ago now has a brand new extra special meaning to me in 2012. Let's read my painting this time left to right but starting at the bottom of the painting instead of the top of this painting.
I suddenly stopped dead in my own tracks my car filled with all my art supplies because what inspired me to paint this landscape was the millions of Black-Eyed Susan flowers which were profusely blooming as if they were saying to me, “Carole be happy on this early morning.” There was a sign that read, “TALKUM WARRIOR COON HUNTING CLUB.” This is on the bottom written in paint on the right hand side of my canvas. This was my own identification of where I painted that day so many years ago. The word, Talking was spelled talkum! I thought it was strange at that time, but now it is the perfect spelling of this fabulous club house and the members who loved it so much. What a fun club to belong to and with such great guys as best friends. Look at the old twisting post and find the barb wire at the top of this old post with two very rusty, bent nails at the top. Look at the shades and colors of browns, grays and blues on the post itself. Find the bottom barb wire that must connect to another unseen post. Look at the details of the several closer Black-Eyed Susans as they are leaning at the top of the post. See the greens of light and bright lime green, dark greens and emerald greens too. Look at the weeds in the foreground; a clump of huge bronze and gold sage and golden yellow.
Go forward with your eyes to the left and the Black-Eyed Susan flowers that seem to just be flowing like our mighty Mississippi River up the stream and down the stream which makes this whole painting seem like a river of yellow weaving and twisting all over my canvas. There nestled among the grass, flowers lives a lime green tree sitting pretty as you please right by the famous beloved Talkum-Warrior Coon Hunting Club. See the clubhouse and just imagine all the stories and hear the laughter of these gentlemen inside outside and hear those coon dogs barking everywhere in the cool night air. I just bet there were true and not-so-true coon hound stories too. I only wish those old dogs like Rock, Speed Cypress Creek Scott and Lucy could bark and tell us their own dog stories about their beloved masters.
Begin to look at the top left hand side and see the dark mixed with browns and orange leaves and the almost navy blue sky of night beginning to appear. There is still a white cloud breaking into the darker skyline. A touch of purple, pink and a golden tree in the far background right over the club itself and see and find the chimney and just imagine smoke rising from it. Are they cooking coon meat? I think this is an absolutely beautiful autumn scene right here down the road from my own home. Now stop and look at the whole painting. It is just lovely!
I would like to say a great big thank you to Jim Craig, Wayne Hemphill, Wick Malone and Earnest Griggs. Each gentleman led me to the next one, and to each one of you: What fine, true, Southern gentlemen all of you sincerely and truly are!
Carole McReynolds Davis is a local artist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .