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SUNDAY, JULY 15, 2007
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There’s little doubt that Tony Farr of Valhermoso Springs and Long Bottom Cotton will get along. Farr got the blue tick hound at auction Friday at Lacey’s Spring for $25.
Daily photo by Brennen Smith
There’s little doubt that Tony Farr of Valhermoso Springs and Long Bottom Cotton will get along. Farr got the blue tick hound at auction Friday at Lacey’s Spring for $25.

Family, friends and coon dogs
Benefit to assists hunter who lost house to blaze

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com · 340-2438

LACEY’S SPRING — Carl Metcalf drove 220 miles from Powell, Tenn., with a fresh apple cake that his mother, Marjorie, made. He also brought a hunting vest, coat and boots, and handed them to his friend Herbert Fields.

“He’d do it for me,” Metcalf said. “I’ve got to take care of him. People need to put their hearts where they need to be.”

Fields, 67, will regard Friday the 13th at the Tennessee River Coon Hunters Association lodge as heartfelt and anything but superstitious. There were no black cats to cross his path, only baying coon dogs preparing for a treeing contest on the premises and, later, a “buddy hunt” in the wilds of Morgan County.

For him, it was a day of good luck and good fortune. Family, friends and neighbors poured in to convert the yard into a carnival atmosphere, quite unlike June 29, when a lightning bolt ignited a fire and destroyed his home nearby. Fields and his wife, Bobbie, were at the lodge getting ready to play cards when tragedy struck on the hill.

Dozens of people came to launch the weekend’s benefit for the couple, part of a fundraiser to replace their house. It also became something of a family reunion.

Fields’ brother Pete, 86, came from across town with a platter of brownies that his wife, Wanda, whipped up. All of the homemade desserts, like the brownies and Metcalf’s apple cake, were among items for Saturday’s auction, which also included four horses and a mule.

Another Fields brother, Harry, 69, and his wife, Mary, drove 700 miles from Brighton, Mich., to lend support.

Pete Fields brought photos depicting him and some of his brothers at an early age. They were among a dozen children, including 10 boys, who grew up on a Lacey’s Spring farm not far from the lodge. A distant cousin from Hawkins, Texas, mailed the photos.

Herbert Fields’ eyes sparkled as he flipped from one photo to another. One showed him and several brothers with a huge hog walking past in the background, another a 3-year-old Herbert Fields in a miniature Army uniform.

“We had boxes of photos in the house,” he said. “Of course, we lost them all. We lost everything.”

The flames claimed a vast collection of pistols, shotguns and rifles one might expect of a lifelong hunter. Gary Dobbs of Somerville — who, with his brother Steve, cleared the burned debris from Fields’ property a week ago — gave him a .22 automatic Ruger rifle in a carrying case with shells.

“That’s a gift from me and another brother, Michael,” Gary Dobbs said.

Clayton Wheeler of Union Hill, who breeds and raises blue tick hounds, became an auctioneer for the evening and began by making pitches for several bags of dog food. Most put them aside for Fields. The lodge also sold 100 raffle tickets for two more bags. The first name drawn was one of his daughters, Alneida Fields.

“I bought the last six tickets,” she said. “I’ve never won anything. It looks rigged, doesn’t it?”

Pamela Wilhoite of Somerville won the other bag. It, too, went to Herbert Fields. Last week, Wilhoite and her husband, Shane, gave him a 1-year-old blue tick hound.

“You can’t hunt without a good dog,” she said. “Now he has plenty of food.”

Wheeler then brought up a registered year-old blue tick for auction named Long Bottom Cotton, offered by an anonymous donor. Tony Farr of Valhermoso Springs got him for only $25.

Junior Summerford, who moved to Lacey’s Spring a few months ago from New Hope, was pleased to get a 22-volt coon hunting light for $200. He said they normally sell for about $300.

Soon time came for the treeing contest.

Six dog owners paid a $5 entry fee. Avid hunter Josh Summerford of Lacey’s Spring, Junior’s son, looped a rope over a tree limb, tied it to the top of a small cage with a live coon inside, and pulled it up the tree.

The owners turned loose their dogs one at a time. The object is to determine which dog barks the most times within one minute.

Rock, owned by Joe Summerford of Dutton, won with 49 barks. Runner-up was Bubba, owned by Eddie Summerford, also of Dutton, with 30 barks. Third place went to Joy, owned by Ryan Stewart of Woodville, with 18 barks. All three dogs are black and tan hounds.

Stewart, who said Joy was in her first treeing contest, is an example of how deeply hunters care for their dogs. Holding a cell phone, he walked up to a couple of hunters, turned up the volume, played a recording and asked, “Have you heard Peaches bark yet? Not bad, huh? And listen. This is Pebbles.”

A non-hunter standing nearby commented to Stewart that he must have a profound feeling for his dogs.

“I almost love my wife as much as I love my dogs,” he said.

Lora Bates of Rosalie, wife of hunter Chris Bates, overheard the remark.

“I’m going to tell Kellye,” she said.

A Thursday event foretold Fields’ big weekend at the lodge, which is marking its 45th year and where he is a charter member. A man, figuring he might find Fields there, drove up and handed him a check for $2,000.

“He told me that most people don’t put on a porch,” Fields said. “He said, ‘Take this, and if you have enough, put you on a porch.’ ”

Organizers said that proceeds of Friday’s events alone exceeded $1,200, including three donations from hunters of $105, $100 and $50. In addition to the coon hunt, in which 16 hunters signed in their dogs with an entry of $25, and the auction and raffle, the other money came from food and drink sales and a Rook tournament.

The total raised surpassed $10,000 before Saturday’s event, whose results were not immediately available.

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