Marion County

From October 1992 until June 1999, I had a raccoon’s dickbone in a canister on a nightstand near my bed. I’d be genteel and call it a “baculum,” its proper name, but it’s such a goofy word. 

How did I come across this item, you ask? Why did I keep it near my bed for nigh on seven years? Funny story, that.

I’d been asleep for maybe three hours when, around 2:45 a.m., my friend – we’re going to call him “Purdue” – woke me up. He was pretty excited. A friend of his had called and asked if he wanted to drive 90-minutes to what I’m going to call Sequatchie, TN. Because I’m pretty sure we ended up in Sequatchie, TN. 

Less than two-minutes later, we were walking toward his legendary vehicle (more on that later) with armfuls or guns and a handle of Wild Turkey 101, both of us sporting untied duck boots. The drive down was needlessly fun, the music was perfect, there was much singing and laughing and – don’t tell our mothers – a little bit of the 101. Just a little. 

Our friend, whose name I won’t mention as he went on to become a member of a rather important political organization, was right where he said he’d be – two gorgeous Redbone Hounds (see: Where the Red Fern Grows). Purdue was all smiles. They talked a little bit and got right to it. 

The guys who knew what they were doing stayed behind the dogs at an aggressive pace, though I could tell the dogs were well ahead of them. I held back with the ammo bag and Wild Turkey – at my own clip, through rough ass up-and-down, thick-brushed, Tennessee holler. My complete lack of athleticism or knowledge of hunting of any kind made this a good job for me. 

Within minutes, the dogs went wild, you could hear them caterwauling. I’d call it a bark or a howl or a bay – but these boys sounded like two old ladies screaming. By the time I caught up, the fellas had their guns pointed at something. Technically, our host did, Purdue held a flashlight and was hollering for me to dig another out and join in the fun. 

I couldn’t see what the hell we were aiming at but I sure couldn’t wait for the dogs to shut the hell up. He squeezed, bang, snapping branches could be heard, then came a thud. The dogs lost their minds, our host whistled and they were silent. Off the dogs went. They’d caught another scent. I guess that’s how it works, I had no idea. 

The dead raccoon was pretty sizable. I asked what they would do with it, stuff it, eat it? Purdue smiled wide and said, “you’ll see!” ‘Oh my,’ I thought. I hoped this wasn’t some sort of initiation. 

The fellas took off again, it was just me, a bag of ammo, a bottle of Turkey and a dead raccoon. I decided I’d stay where I was. The terrain was bad enough without lugging a dead raccoon through it. It was nice and peaceful there, near a spring or brook I could barely hear. I looked up at treetops and stars, bright enough they lit up the forest floor. It must have been about 5:15 a.m., I estimated. 

Off in the distance, I heard the barking increase and another bang from the .22.

Moments later, I heard them calling for me and we exchanged shouts until we found ourselves together on a path of sorts. Just three guys carrying a couple of dead raccoons, laughing and pulling from a bottle of bourbon at 5:30 a.m. on a Wednesday. That old chestnut. 

Pardue had shot the most recently deceased animal and I posed the question again, “What now?” This time our host said, “you’ll see.” 

We walked, we piled in a truck, we drove. The sun wasn’t necessarily on its way up but it wasn’t not up either. You could make out shapes now but everything was still a dark or light blue. 

Twisting through mountain roads, we arrived at a trailer home hanging off the side of a cliff – and I mean barely. The entire front of the trailer was tarps held up and down with boulders. However, someone, perhaps the owner, had reattached the door to the tarp, it was exquisite. 

Our host reached the door and – instead of knocking – yelled, “Name-I-Can’t-Repeat!” through the tarp. Seconds later, an ancient voice hollered “C’mon, then if yuh comin’!”  

It was an African-American man of approximately 120-years of age, sitting in front of a late 1970s console television with no back to it, somehow playing Mike Tyson’s PunchOut in black and white. At 6 a.m. on a Wednesday. He, himself, also enjoying a beverage and chain-smoking Doral menthols. 

Words were exchanged, introductions made, “Nice to meet you,” that type of thing. Then he got to it, he started cleaning the raccoons right there in the carpet. Newspapers captured some of the blood but not all. From the looks of things, the cleaning ladies wouldn’t be coming this week and several other animals had been disconnected in this exact spot. So, you know, no big deal to Name-I-Can’t-Repeat – who evidently runs a 24-hour racoon-cleaning service. 

Name-I-Can’t-Repeat, kept a whole raccoon to himself and the meat from the other. Our host got a pelt, if that’s what they’re called when it’s just a garbage panda, and Purdue got the satisfaction of shooting something. Everyone was happy. I was fascinated, confused but happy. 

Then our host said something to Name-I-Can’t-Repeat and a blood-covered raccoon dickbone was handed to me in folded newspaper. I was over the moon. It was good luck, it helped with fertility and virility, which was good news to me as I wasn’t the most testosterone-ridden young man. Then Name-I-Can’t-Repeat gibberished a voodoo-type prayer at me. 

Our host translated, the bone would bring me luck and that it was a powerful aphrodisiac, which perked my ears. 

We said our goodbyes and drove home. Afterall, we had a full day of classes to skip. 

I cleaned the bone and kept it on a desk to make me smile every time I looked at it, remembering a pretty wild and one-of-a-kind trip with one of my favorite people. By the end of 1992, I hadn’t aphrodisiacked anybody, but after I moved the memento to my nightstand in a canister, things picked up.   

About Purdue’s car…

What we were dealing with was a 1988 Volkswagen Fox, the color was up for grabs. Sometimes, in my memory it’s blue. It had big, ugly black bumpers that Purdue over-utilized – and it often had working lights. When the crisp, football weather arrived, green smoke could be seen emanating from the front vents. Passengers were constantly assured that this was harmless. 

Purdue was confident and charismatic, a viking among men, so what was there to question about his knowledge of automobiles and chemistry? 

The rearview mirror always (ALWAYS) had at least one duck call dangling from the center. In the cubby hole just ahead of the shifter was a turkey call. Purdue enjoyed startling people on campus with these devices and always took the time to give me a lesson concerning their use. Under the passenger seat could be found shoes, in case he decided to wear them. 

The back seat was a who’s who of the week’s events. Maybe it was a case of 12 gauge rounds. Perhaps it was a steering column from a Caterpillar backhoe. Maybe it was a pressed suit and a bag of human hair. You never knew. I preferred to sit up front. Sitting in the backseat was a young man’s game and I didn’t have time for such nonsense. 

The pièce de résistance, under the front seat – you could always (ALWAYS) find two things: a dead squirrel (I sh-t you not), and a loaded .45 revolver. The Fox was zero-maintenance before zero-maintenance was popular but she got us from point A to points B, C, D-Z for at least three straight years of exploring the various back roads of Williamson, Davidson, Wilson and Rutherford counties instead of attending class.