The Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard - Tuscumbia, Alabama
The Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard is a cemetery located in rural Colbert County, Alabama. Underwood established the cemetery on September 4, 1937, by burying his coon dog, Troop, at the site. Today, there are nearly 200 dogs buried there, all of whom meet the cemetery criteria: "The owner must claim their pet is an authentic coon dog; A witness must declare the deceased is a coon dog; A member of the local coon hunters’ organization must be allowed to view the coonhound and declare it as such." Each Labor Day, the cemetery hosts a celebration.
The graveyard is located at the end of a very long and windy road that meanders through scraggly forests and past decrepit barns. One would probably drive right past the graveyard as it set well off the road. However, because it was festival day, the parking lot and road were full with a few dozen cars. Without the physical graveyard and signs noting the “one of a kind” attraction, one might think they were attending a church picnic. There were several bluegrass and gospel bands that performed throughout the day under a tent and a barbecue lunch was served for a hefty $9 a plate. Each act was separated with lengthy jokes usually related to church denominations or how ugly someone else’s wife was.
The graveyard sat off to the left of the tent, and each grave was marked with artificial flowers. As people arrived, they usually strolled through the rows of graves, noting some of the old coon dogs that they knew through friends or relatives. Oddly enough, there were no coon dogs at the event, and there was no way of telling who might have been a coon hunter.
I spoke to some of the local “old timers” who had dogs buried in the graveyard and learned that modern coon hunting does not involve killing the coon. As one man put it, “It’s just about getting out in the woods with your dog.” This man had five dogs buried in the graveyard and currently owned another seven. I asked if he would bury his next seven in the graveyard, and he looked at me with surprise. With a very stern face, he explained that only a very special dog is worthy to buried in the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard. Maybe one out of those seven dogs will be prove to be dear enough.