Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

A Dog named "Lonesome"  



By Dub Ramsel 
click on photo for a enlarged view
(These stories cover a period from early 1950's to the late eighties.
These stories have come from my memory with an occasional
quote from some Williamson County residents.)


The year of 1936 was no different from 1935 as far as I could tell. People were going around with things to barter for groceries as well as dry goods. This was the year I met Elzy Estes. 

Elzy had married my cousin Effie Cleveland. Effie was the oldest kid of my Uncle Carl Cleveland, who lived in Alpine Arizona and had a ranch on Beaver creek, some twenty miles away. 

The ranch that Uncle Carl owned was about eight miles from where I lived on my dad's ranch on Black River. Elzy was probably living, at least, part time on this ranch. He came along on horseback with a half grown hound pup following him. 

At this time, I was holding down the job of horse wrangler and cook and general flunky at Dad's ranch while he rode his trap line. During the winter months he trapped coyotes and bobcats as well as other fur bearing animals. Fur was still in fashion and cash money was paid for it at the four houses in Kansas City and Denver. 

Elzy stayed for a meal and then asked it, I had any need for a dog like the one he had. This dog was a black and tan hound and looked a lot like the dogs Jess Burke hunted lion and bear with. I told him I did not have any money and would not have any until I sold my coyote pelt that I had trapped and skinned from my trap line that was in a different direction from Dad's. You might say, I was "moonlighting" in addition to my job on the ranch. 

Then Elzy said that he would take the pelt in trade for the pup. The skin was on a stretcher and was not quite dried, but that was ok with E1zy. I did not know what Dad would say about adding another mouth to feed, but after all, I was fifteen years old then and was doing mans work and to pull this off gave me a feeling of maturity and a boost to my ego. I felt that I was old enough to do a few things on my own and take the lumps if any came along. 

Now I had a dog and Elzy left, with a fur tied behind his saddle. And, I was right, Dad was not well pleased with my trade, but all he said was fix her a bed on the porch, because she is not sleeping in the house. 

Then came one real cold spell and Dad had not come back that day from his long run into the Apache Indian Reservation. There was a line cabin half way that was kept stocked with food and hay for the horse. Sometimes he would take a mule along to carry his pelts. Anyway, I was left alone and I had to keep both stoves going. 

In the kitchen, we kept a sour dough pot with the starter on the back of the wood stove. It was necessary to make biscuits at least once a day to keep the pot from boiling over from being over fermented. I was in the process of making biscuits, I had them in the oven and an aroma was perforating the room. The pup smelled this aroma and began to whine and scratch on the kitchen door. The old cat was already in the kitchen and was peacefully napping under the stove.
 

I knew it was not allowed, but I felt sorry for the hound pup, so I cracked the door and let her in. She really showed her gratitude by wagging her entire body in glee. By then I had taken the biscuits out of the oven and set the pan back on the top of the water jacket to cool. Then the pup, which I had named "Lonesome" began whining some more. I knew she wanted one of those biscuits. 

At this point a devilish idea came to my mind. Suppose I toss a biscuit under the stove where the old cat was curled up so peacefully. I was not sure what kind of reaction it would cause, but it had to be some excitement. So, I did just that. I tossed the biscuit under the stove and it landed just an inch short of the cat’s nose. 

When the pup saw the biscuit she made a dive for it. This startled the cat and she exploded. Dog hair and cat fur flew along with a cloud of dust that had accumulated under the stove. It seemed that some Slovene housekeeper had been sweeping the dirt under the stove instead of outside. I think some dirt had been clawed out of the cracks in the plank floor. Then the cat gave out with a blood curdling scream and took flight and sailed through the glass window pane and landed outside in about a foot of loose snow. I never saw the cat again that day. 

The cold arctic air rushed in through the busted window pane, which was situated on the north side of the kitchen. I knew I had to do something, but quick. So I rushed into the bedroom and got a pillow and stuffed it in the open space to shut off the cold air. 

Meanwhile the pup devoured the biscuit and was smiling in triumph. She had rid the kitchen of the cat and was as pleased as if she had treed a lion. She had blood on her face along with several claw marks, but was ready for another biscuit. 

I had a clean up job now, since the floor was covered with dust and hair. Everything was rearranged to look more like a battle ground than a neat kitchen. I spent most of the afternoon cleaning and mopping, but when I got through it looked better than it ever had. Since grandpa Cleveland lived there in the twenties. 

The old man was not very happy with it all when he got in that evening. The worst part was that he said that the hound dog would have to find herself another home. I was just beginning to get fond of my new friend I even planned to send for a correspondence course in training hunting dogs. I had done that on horses and it worked very well. Old Professor Berry was selling books on horse training and after some hard studying, started training my colts to do all sorts of tricks.

Before all this planning had a chance to go into action, I was stopped cold in my tracks. Then Jess Burk happened along with his pack of hounds. I do not know how he happened to be in that part of the mountain, because he usually worked the Blue River Country and on into New Mexico.

When he saw the hound pup, he commented that he thought she would make a fine lion hunting dog. Then he asked if I would consider trading her to him, this was what I had hoped he might say. I had a hard time hiding my feelings, but decided to try to drive a hard bargain. Here Lonesome would get some on the job training that every youngster needed, I knew Jess was hunting lions regularly and she would be getting the kind of training she needed. As much as I hated to part with her, it was best for the youngster that was more important than having her under my guidance under the circumstances. 

After waiting as long as I thought was necessary to show that I was not hot to trade, but would if the price was right. So while he was still in the mood, I commented that I sure did like the looks of those Kelly spurs he was wearing, and if he could spare them, I would give him the pup for the spurs. 

To my surprise, and without hesitation, he just took them off and handed them to me. He then asked what I called her. When I said "Lonesome", he said "that fits". He had heard her howl when he rode up. By this time Jess had finished his coffee and snack and was ready to head for home. He still had ten miles to go. 

All he said was come on Lonesome and join the pack. She seemed to know exactly what he said and took off in leaps and bounds following the other hounds. This was the last time I ever saw her.

Several years after I came back from the war, I learned that Lonesome had become the leader of the lion hunting pack. This thrilled me as any parent could be from knowing that their kid had reached high plateaus of achievement.

I was somewhat let down when I read the Jess Burk story in the Blue River Book. Here she is described as a he dog instead of a she dog or gip as Texas dog owners describe their girl dogs. It went on to say that Lonesome was probably sired by one of Jess's male hounds. 

I do hope someone will make note of the corrections that is needed to show the proper gender as well as background. Elzy probably would have known her history before me, but he is also long gone. 

Also, If Elzy had known that he was going into the bear hunting business at that time, he probably would have found ways to hold on to her. I have no doubts that she would have been as good with bear as with lion.


     OTHER STORIES BY DUB