The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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June 18, 2014

It’s hard to beat Original Mountain Cur dogs, kids and sausage gravy

A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.

— Robert Benchley

What do you think is the greatest contribution to mankind from the American Southeast? Is it fried  chicken, bluegrass music or William Faulkner? Maybe you are thinking Low Country boil, Hank Williams or NASCAR?

In the world of dogs, there can only be one answer: The Original Mountain Cur.

The Original Mountain Cur is an American classic and a national treasure. It is a dog born and bred in the rugged hills of Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky and the Carolinas. This dog was tempered in the fire of the eastern frontier and survives to this day as a loyal friend and magnificent hunting dog. You can now find proud Mountain Cur Dog owners all over the United States and many foreign countries.

 The Original Mountain Cur Breeders Association (OMCBA) is the premier group promoting the modern Mountain Cur. This group holds four events and competition hunts each year, winter, summer, spring, and fall. I have been meaning to make it to one of these gatherings for some time, so this past weekend I jumped in the truck and traveled to Jamestown, Tennessee, I was not disappointed!  

The OMCBA clubhouse and property is just down the road from Jamestown. The clubhouse itself is first class, very spacious with long tables to seat and feed dozens of hunters. Add a large kitchen on one end with some wonderful ladies dishing out among other things maybe the best sausage gravy that you have eaten in your life. Already you have the makings for something special.  

 Let’s add to this mix two to three hundred people, half of which brought dogs with them, Mountain Cur Dogs of course. Now just to season this up really well, let’s add some young people — a bunch of kids. If the sight of ten or twelve kids walking their dogs around the grounds does not warm your old heart, you may want to check with that doctor that studied under Mr. Freud.

So to lay it out for you, Friday and Saturday the OMCBA held a competition squirrel hunt, coon hunt, bench show, treeing contest and dash race. There was also a youth squirrel hunt on Saturday. This group knows where the future of their sport and their dogs lies, and they do an excellent job of promoting their youth programs.

As usual, your humble outdoor scribe lacks the space necessary to fully tell the story, but check your American history; this courageous, intelligent dog had a part in it. The settlers that went “over the mountains,” across the Alleghenies and the Appalachians, needed a dog to help them survive in the wilderness. The Mountain Cur dog was there. Smart, tough, loyal, courageous, and absolutely game crazy, this dog was exactly what the frontiersman needed. The Mountain Cur treed and bayed game for food and pelts, guarded the homestead with his life and was as valuable to the settler as a flintlock rifle.

The exact origin of this dog is shrouded in the mists of time. Some say the first settlers to the New World brought mixed “cur” type dogs with them, and these dogs may have crossed with a dog that the Indians already had here in America. The Spanish explorer DeSoto is reported to have brought some brindle-colored, bobtailed dogs with him to America.

Regardless of the early origins, by the middle of the 20th century the Mountain Cur was an established breed of its own. During the 1940s and 50s, many people in the rural south were moving to cities for jobs; less people on the farm and in the mountains meant less people keeping Mountain Cur dogs, their numbers were going down.

 Enter Mr. A. D. “Dewey” Ledbetter, from Tennessee. Mr. Ledbetter was a dedicated Mountain Cur devotee that worked tirelessly to perpetuate the standards of this breed. Along with Carl McConnel, Hugh Stephens, Riley Daniels and others, they formed the OMCBA in 1957. I had the pleasure of getting a Cur Dog history lesson from Mrs. Helen Hoover, A. D. Ledbetter’s daughter, while at Jamestown.  

Interest in the Mountain Cur dog has exploded in recent years, as Carl Smith of Hilham, Tenn. told me. Carl is the Current president of the OMCBA.  Many people want a smart, gamey, easy to handle canine to squirrel and raccoon hunt with, they also make a great family dog. This was evident at the Jamestown gathering as everywhere you looked there was a kid with a dog, in the outdoor world friends and neighbors, it doesn’t get much better than that. If you want to introduce a young person to hunting, squirrel hunting with a dog may be the home run.

If you would like to learn more about the Original Mountain Cur, the OMCBA web site is www.omcba.homestead.com.

I hope to get back to Jamestown for the fall or winter hunt, I may just take my little Mountain Cur, Dotzie, and see how she stacks up with her kinfolk down in Tennessee. One more thing about those nice ladies in the kitchen, I told you about the sausage gravy, but I didn’t mention about some angel food cake that you might find there.

Jamestown, here I come!

— E-mail: larryocase@gmail.com

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