When I was 10 years old my great uncle gave me a little mixed hound puppy. The mama of this pup was a fine black and tan hound, while the daddy was just a mixed up fiest named Ol’ Rattler. Uncle L.D. said the only reason he kept Rattler around was to guard against rattlesnakes. Those type of snakes and others were bad around his farm which was located deep in the Uwharrie Mountains.
You see this black fiest-looking dog just showed up one day at Uncle L.D.’s house looking poorly. “Kinda felt sorry for the dog because he was just a stack of bones and hadn’t seen a good meal in a Coon’s age,” he said. He fed the dog and asked everyone in the neighborhood if’n that was their dog. Of course no one claimed him and it looked like Uncle L.D. was stuck with him even though he had a pen full of nice hounds.
Well, time went on and the mutt started to put on weight and his black hair started to shine like new money. Won’t long he started following Uncle L.D. everywhere he went on the farm and he was turning out to be a good guard dog, don’t you know. The dog would follow Uncle L.D. on the tractor and when my aunt rang the dinner bell he would lie under the tractor till Uncle L.D. returned and then go to the house to get his dinner.
Uncle L.D. just called the mutt “dog” until one evening he went out of the back screen door to draw up some cool water out of the well and heard the dog baying right under the back porch steps. Uncle L.D. went back into the house, got his gun, and slipped out the front door and came around to the back steps. There under the steps was a large rattlesnake about five foot long just a rattling away while the dog kept him at bay. Of course that shotgun made short work of that snake while the dog ran at the sound of the gun. Uncle L.D. finally got his hands on “dog” and petted him up good and from then on his name was Ol’ Rattler and he was known as the best snake dog in the Uwharries even though he was a little gun shy.
You know I hoped my little pup would turn out like his daddy and so I gave him the name of “Little Rattler.” As time went by I could see some of the fine traits developing in Little Rattler. In just a few months he started following me everywhere and even if we got separated he would trail me right up. Why he could sniff out a frog or grasshopper in a heartbeat. I started taking him fishing with me and he would smell every fish I caught. Won’t long he could sniff out a bream bed in the middle of the lake. The way I could tell he knew there was a bream bed; he would go to the water’s edge and start whining and dipping his front paws in the water. Took me a while to figure it out but every time he put his paw in the water was how many feet the bream bed was out in the water. Folks, it won’t long everybody in the community wanted to go fishing with us!!
The next year my Dad built us a riverboat and we would leave Little Rattler home when we fished in the river. Mom said the dog would howl and whine the whole time we were gone and that we needed to take him fishing in the boat.
The next Saturday, Dad and I decided to fish in Capel’s Mill pond and he said we could take Little Rattler. As we loaded the boat in the truck, Little Rattler jumped in the boat and laid down, ready to go.
Soon we were at the mill pond and Little Rattler jumped out and took himself a good swim then proceeded to shake himself off all over us. We loaded all our gear while Little Rattler plopped himself right on the boat’s front seat. As we left the bank he let out a few good barks as if to say, “Let’s go fishing, boys.”
The water in the pond was low because the dam was leaking, so we started paddling up the main run which was Mountain Creek. The creek wound around a large hill that Daddy called Cave Hill. He said there was a small cave located about half way up the hill and that old people said the Indians had a burial ground around the cave. He also said that a lot of people had seen some strange things come off that hill and most old people avoided it.
Well, we were enjoying paddling our boat under the large canopy of trees that lined the creek bank when all of a sudden Little Rattler got a whiff of something and sailed off into the creek. As he got to the bank, I tried to call him back but no luck. Rattler made his way straight up the hill while Dad and I anchored the boat. It wasn’t long we heard Rattler barking and he seemed to be baying something. I wanted to go to him but Dad said that I might get snake bitten in all that brush.
We listened for a while then all at once we heard Little Rattler barking, running something down the hill toward us. When he got in sight it looked as if he was jumping back and forth through a hoop rolling down the hill. At first it looked like a tire but as it got closer dad said, “I ain’t never in my life seen it before but it’s a Hoop snake and that dog is jumping through it to make it go faster.”
Faster and faster they got and be John Brown if’in that old snake didn’t rolled right through that creek and up the other side, never to be seen again.
Folks I had witnessed something most people never see or never will see thanks to my little dog.
Little Rattler had proven to me that he took after his daddy and was the best snake dog a little boy could ever own!