My father’s family grew up on Long Run out in Texas, just a few miles from Springfield on the old Perryville Road.
“Mr. Henry” Best, the head teacher at the Texas school house, lived between the Cocanoughers and Johnnie Key, who still worked his team of mules when I was a kid in the early sixties.
The Best family had old ties with the Denny Goode clan, and Denny’s raccoon hunting tradition fascinated this young man, transplanted to the Kenton County suburbs.
I had recently turned eighteen and it was a very cold January night when we were hunting down on the Beech and my $2.99 department store boots sprang a leak.
My feet were so cold that I didn’t notice it until I got home and discovered my sock was stiff from being frozen.
No one went to the doctor in those days for just a couple of sore toes.
On another dark night I was the unlucky guy out in front who stepped much too close to a skunk.
For some reason, Denny and the other fellow kept their distance for the remainder of that hunt.
The following summer I brought a friend down for his first racoon hunt with Denny and we started on the back of the McMurtry place.
In no time, the dogs were “out of earshot” and we piled into the truck and headed for the Jimtown road to try and find them.
An older gentleman was along that evening and he claimed early on that he had a bad case of heartburn.
Every once in awhile he would produce his bottle of “Haley’s MO” and take a swig.
We made our way through a tall cornfield toward the direction of the barking dogs and on a hot dry summer night, the blades of corn could slice like a razor and blend in with your salty sweat, rendering a nasty sensation.
The dogs had surrounded this twenty five foot ash tree and old Bob was pulling on his Haley’s bottle once again.
For several minutes our flashlights pierced the dark sky but no raccoon could be found.
Much to our surprise, Bob wiped his mouth from another drink and announced he was going up the tree!
He climbed about two-thirds the way up, then Denny became concerned for his safety and said, “Come on down, let’s get these dogs on another trail”.
Bob replied, “Nope, I’m gonna climb to the top, bend her over and just walk out”.
At that moment, my friend from home said, “I think he’s got something else in that bottle other than Haley’s”.
The two of us returned to the truck by another route (avoiding the cornfield) and we had a thunderous laugh about the whole scenario.
Things are not always as they appear on the surface.
As a hunter whose accomplishments were published in statewide magazines, Denny took his coon hunting very seriously and I never saw him with anything but a jug of water on a warm night.
For a generation, Denny Goode would hunt most of the night and milk his herd of dairy cows at daylight, then go to bed and repeat it the next day.
He was a good natured guy with the attributes of a gentleman in every sense of the word.
Even though I always thanked him for the hunt, I doubt that he realized the magnitude of his contribution as a positive role model for me and the entire community.
Forty years ago, I knew I was in the presence of some of the finest people on the planet.
I imagine his wife Norma, sons Jeff and Hal and the other siblings are probably pretty close to their family roots these days.
Denny told me a story about a hunt one night when he was young along with my grandfather, “Mr. Henry”.
A group of two or three of their neighbors went out on a particularly dark night and traversed the hills and hollows between Long Run and the Goode farm.
They had covered several miles and it was getting very late when my grandfather asked the other two if they knew where they were.
They looked at one another puzzled, then Denny, and explained that they had no idea – because they must have gotten turned around somewhere.
Denny politely informed them that my grandfather had circled them back to the field where they had put up hay the previous afternoon a few hours ago…on their own farm!
I love those old stories from the past.
Perhaps it is a faint reminder of our proud pioneer heritage that somehow connects the generations.
Over time, Denny trusted this nineteen year old kid with his prize hounds worth many thousands of dollars, on nights when he didn’t want to go along himself.
And just as he said, I would find the dogs by my coat the next morning when they wanted to hunt a little longer than I did.
I didn’t have fifty cents to my name in those days and I was always extremely thankful to see their safe return.
A little trust and common ground can bridge the differences in age, race, religion and most any barrier for that matter.
Denny had a lasting influence on me and many others I suspect.
His extension of confidence and generosity helped me build an understanding of my hidden potential and establish a solid foundation of core values.
We will forever be in his debt and challenged to repeat this fine human example.