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Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Mummified Coon Dog of Waycross, Georgia

The summer after my senior year in high school, I was employed by a group of tobacco buyers to drive them from tobacco market to tobacco market, beginning the first three weeks in Georgia and slowly working our way up to South Carolina, and finally back up to North Carolina.  While in Georgia, we stationed ourselves in the small town of Waycross..  Waycross is an interesting town.  It was first settled around 1820 and was known back then as "Old Nine" or "Number Nine" and then Pendleton. It was renamed Tebeauvilee in 1857, and finally incorporated as "Way Cross" on March 3, 1935.  According to several sources, “During the 1950s the city had a tourist gimmick. The local police would stop motorists with out-of-state license plates and escort them to downtown Waycross. There they would be met by the Welcome World Committee and given overnight lodging, dinner and a trip to the Okefenokee Swamp. The tradition faded away after the interstates opened through Georgia.”  I am sure that an unscheduled, unexpected, and unplanned overnight trip to Waycross, Georgia, and then a trip to the Okefenokee Swamp the next morning was every out-of-towners dream.  Thank God for interstate highways.

For a small town, though, Waycross has several major claims to fame.  Actor and star of Bonanza, Pernell Roberts (the dark haired, oldest son of Pa), called Waycross his hometown, as did Burt Reynolds and Billy “Billy Beer” Carter, the brother of former President Jimmy Carter.  Barbeque Bob, a Country singer (surprise) recorded a song about Waycross called the “Waycross Georgia Blues”.  He must have been forced to spend the night there then take a trip to the swamp.

More interesting to me is that Waycross is the hometown of Sonora Webster Carver.  Never heard of her?  Well, she apparently was the first woman horse diver in the whole United States.  Horse diving was once more popular than it is today, but it consists mainly of walking a horse up a ramp to a 20 foot tower, getting on the horse’s back and riding him off the tower into a pond below. 

But, most interesting than everything else is “Stuckie” the mummified coon hound dog that is on display in the Southern Forest World Museum in Waycross.  Stuckie was a four-year old coon dog who was out hunting in the 1960’s.  He ran off to chase and tree a coon the way he was trained to do.  One thing you look for in a coon dog is determination; a coon dog that will never give up the hunt is worth his weight in gold.  And Stuckie was full of determination.  Or maybe he was just not a very smart coon dog.  Anyway, the coon Stuckie was chasing ran into a hollow chestnut tree and Stuckie followed him.  The coon ran up the hollow and ran out a hole toward the middle of the tree.  Stuckie followed but as the tree narrowed, Stuckie became wedged into the tree (hence, his name). He struggled with all his might but could not get out; and there he died.  Resins from the core of the tree helped preserve his body.  In the 1980’s the tree that Stuckie was in was cut down by loggers and placed on a log truck.  At some point, someone looked inside and saw Stuckie, who by now was a mummy.  Now, you don’t see a mummified coon hound dog stuck in a tree every day.  The loggers thought other people might think this was worth seeing, too, and they donated the log and Stuckie to the museum.  And there he sits, still in his tree, baring his teeth to all the visitors and tourists; Stuckie, the mummified coon hound dog. 

Beats the swamp hands down.

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