Friday, February 20, 2009

A Plea for Hardwood Bottomland

Normally, I wouldn't consider pasting a press release here, but I have to make an exception for Russell Graves' new project. A couple years ago, Russell and I worked together on an article about proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir. Regular readers of this blog know how I feel about allowing water hustlers to destroy East Texas's remaining hardwood bottomland so that clueless suburbanites can water their Bermuda grass lawns.

So please check this out and lend your support:

New Multimedia Project Highlights the Decline of the Bois D'Arc Creek Watershed
February 19, 2009
For Immediate Release
Fannin County, Texas - On the eve of the construction of the Lower Bois d'Arc reservoir, professional photographer and filmmaker Russell Graves and his partner/brother William Graves embark on an ambitious new film/multimedia project documenting the history and loss of the Bois d'Arc Creek hardwood bottomlands. The not-yet-titled film is currently in pre-production with filming slated to begin in March and wrapping up in early June.
"Our family first moved to Fannin County in 1979," says WIlliam. "We lived in a small farmhouse south of Bonham along Bois d'Arc Creek and I spent lots of time trapping and exploring the creek while we lived there." Soon thereafter the family moved north of Dodd City near the Hilger Community just a short distance from the creek and the family continued cultivating their outdoor lifestyle through ranching, logging, hunting, and fishing. William, who is a retired 21-year US Army veteran, settled less than a half a mile from his parent's home.
"In many ways, my whole outdoor heritage and ethic was shaped by the things I learned roaming the bottomlands along the creek," says Russell, who for the past 16 years, has lived in Childress, Texas. "My brother, my dad, and I spent countless hours exploring our patch of the woods and in reality, the lessons I learned really helped me launch a successful writing and photography career."
When complete, the film will explore themes of habitat loss, the history of the creek, and the water needs of a burgeoning North Texas population - all told from a personal, first person perspective.
"I hope when this film is complete people will appreciate, for perpetuities sake, the importance of the creek to the cultural and natural heritage of Fannin County," says Russell.
To see a prelude to the film, check out
For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Russell Graves at or 806.280.8007

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


A.L. "Leak" Bevil to Campbell & Lynn Loughmiller in Big Thicket Legacy:
“What we call a cur dog was just a general mixture of dogs. They had dogs of all kinds and descriptions, took the best ones and interbred them, developed the cur dog, and the strain breeds true, the best dog in the world.”

* * *

This is Cate's daddy, Coker's Dorcheat Tiger, with his boss, Greg Coker, after winning the treeing competition in the 2006 UKC Black Gold Challenge, in Dover, Arkansas. (As you can see here, and probably already suspected, tree dog competitions aren't real tweedy.) Tiger is a Mountain Cur, mostly of the Kemmer bloodline.

This is a purloined photo of Smoky, Luisa's new cur puppy. (Luisa, I didn't think you'd mind.) We've all been fussing over Smoky for the past several days. If you haven't yet read his story and registered your unqualified approval and support, please do so at once or else your status as a sure-enough dog nut may be called into question.

Luisa made an executive decision: "He is a Mountain Cur. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it."

Given Smoky's appearance, I'm inclined to agree. And this:

"Smoky has one of those barks that's more of a single, sustained roar."

Well, yeah. Sounds about right.

At least one commenter suggested that there may be some Plott Hound in his lineage. Could be. There may also be a some Treeing Tennessee Brindle. I could go on.

No matter. I'm sure he's a cur. I've seen a few.

In 1957, when Riley Daniels, of Georgia, Woody Huntsman, of Kentucky, Dewey Ledbetter, of Tennessee, and Carl McConnell, of Virginia, founded the organization that would become the Original Mountain Cur Breeders Association, they were less concerned with establishing a breed than with preserving a once common general type of herding and hunting dog that nearly disappeared after World War II as mountain people began leaving their subsistence way of life for steady wages in cities and towns.

Take a look at some of the old photos on the OMCBA website and you'll see that the old-time mountain curs varied greatly in appearance, and, I suspect, working style. No doubt, the old-timers were pretty open-minded about style, so long as the semi-wild cattle and swine got bunched, penned, and marked and the 'coons and squirrels ended up in the pot.

And I seriously doubt that the old boys would have hesitated to bring in hound or shepherd blood if they thought it would produce a better cur-dog. Today, we tend to think of the mountain cur as a specific breed or type. The old-timers were simply breeding curs for working conditions in the Southern Appalachian mountains. Had you asked a mountaineer what kind of dogs he ran, he would not have said, "mountain curs." He'd have answered "cur-dogs."

The National Kennel Club recognizes the cur's varied lineage. While it lists specific cur types such as the Mountain Cur, Leopard Cur, and Yellow Blackmouth Cur, the NKC also has a category for the general working cur of recently mixed heritage. While breeders of treeing curs must keep accurate records, the NKC standard specifies a height of 18 to 28 inches and a weight of "over 30 pounds." Eye color? "Green, blue, or brown." Coat color? "Any color variation is acceptable." Tails? "Any length."

What, then, does the standard absolutely require? "The Treeing Cur must show strong treeing ability in the hunting area(s) of squirrel, coon, boar, bear or cat. Their hunting ability must prove them to be more than just an average dog. "

One of the best hunting dogs I've ever known was a treeing cur owned by my buddy Donny Lynch. Molly was a quarter treeing Walker and three-quarters mountain cur - a typical treeing cur mix. She looked just like a big mountain cur. In fact she looked a lot like Luisa's Smoky. And she was a little more open on the track than your average mountain cur, and deadly on squirrels and 'coons. Whenever she'd bark or give a little yelp on a cold trail, Donny would smile and say, "There's that Walker dog showing through."

So, Luisa, is Smoky a mountain cur? I suspect so. I'm almost certain he's a cur-dog in the broad sense. Take him up to your cabin, and then he'll be a cur-in-the-mountains.

That's all the old-timers ever wanted.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sound Advice

From a certain cowboy and dog man who knows how to get cattle out of the brush:

"You'd better watch a man that don't like dogs. There's something broke in him."

Some Lazy Blogging

I apologize for the light blogging. I'm working on a long feature article about the history, current status, and future of the East Texas forests, and a shorter travel piece for Texas Highways.

For you fellow dog maniacs out there, I just uploaded my latest two Texas Wildlife working dog columns to my website. You can check them out here.