Written by Sierra Bullets Media Relations Manager Carroll Pilant
You would have to have known Bud Beck to appreciate him. He lived in a log cabin southeast of Cassville, MO. Raising a family of I believe 9 kids, all heating and cooking was all done on a wood stove and water was brought in from a cistern. It was years before they even had electric lights. He had a few cattle, hogs and chickens. He trapped, coon hunted, sold coon hounds and dug ginseng to make ends meet. We coon hunted several nights each week but Christmas Eve of 1964 seemed to be a good night for a coon hunt.
All the Beck boys were home for Christmas, one prospective son-in-law, and myself. We gathered up our carbide lamps, Prince Albert cans of carbide, ½ pint whiskey bottles of water for the lights, coon squaller and our 2 cell flashlights, which we used when we were getting ready to shoot the coon out. I had just been though a little problem at home on flashlight batteries. We went thru them pretty quickly and some one had told me to put them in an oven and bake them for an hour and they would recharge. I had loaded my mothers electric oven up with about 30 or 40 D cell batteries and put them in to recharge, when about 15 minutes into it, explosions started in the oven with foul smelling black smoke boiling out. With no one to put the blame on, I had to cut my own limb for the whipping I received, plus spend a couple of hours cleaning the oven with oven cleaner.
Now we were down to which guns to take and we decided that Lyle Beck would take his 22 Colt Woodsman and I would take my Hi Standard Sentinel. Nearly every one brought their coon dog. Wolf Pen Gap was where we decided to go and it’s some of the roughest country you can find in the Ozarks. The 8 or 9 of us hadn’t made it more than a couple hundred yards before the dogs treed a possum. One shot and he was in the bag. Then after an hour or so a coon was treed, we squalled him out of the tree. We gave him a sporting chance, he could have whupped those 6 or 7 dogs and walked away, but he lost. Then a while later another, then another, both of which we shot out. By then it was getting pretty late. Nearly everyone had run out of carbide. The dogs treed way down one of the hollers and their bawls were getting very faint.
Since Lyle and I had the pistols, everyone decided that we should go get the coon and they would build a fire and wait for us. Off we went. The dog’s bawls were almost impossible to hear. We finally found them treed on the side of a very steep hillside. We finally managed to get up the hill to the dogs and by then Lyle’s lamp had went out. The dogs just wheezed when they tried to bark. My carbide light was still working and Lyle was using his 2 cell light. I told him I had spotted the coons eye, he said he had spotted another one. We found 8 sets of eyes total.
The tree leaned at a slight angle and a few yards below the tree was a small ledge. Lyle shot at a set of eyes and an irate coon came sailing out and the whole pack of dogs jumped on it. As the first dog grabbed it, the squalling started and coons started scrambling down the tree. Lyle’s Colt jammed, so as the next coon came out of the tree, he clubbed it with the Colt and as it fell out of the tree, he jumped astraddle of it and went to clubbing it as he slid down the hill. As coons filed down the tree, I was shooting at them and they were falling out and rolling into the melee going on below. I ran out of ammo as the last couple came out of the tree, so I hit one with the revolver and then jumped astraddle of it following Lyle’s lead of trying to beat it to death. I slid atop the coon right into the middle of the pack of dogs, assorted coons, and Lyle, who was clubbing everything in sight yelling, “Die you SOB die!”
Just then his Colt started working and it went off 3 or 4 times. By now, my carbide lantern was out and both of us had lost our flashlights. Things started to slowly calm down. Using matches, we finally found both flashlights. Mine still worked but Lyle’s didn’t. After checking ourselves for bullet holes, we finally came to the conclusion that the only thing that had been shot were coons. After doing a body count, we found we had 7 coons and the only way we could carry them was to skin them. By the time we finished skinning them, you could barely see light from my flashlight. We put the hides in a burlap sack and headed back to where the others were supposed to be.
We walked and walked and could never find sight of the fire and without a light, we started trying to walk home. Daylight broke, we got our bearings, and made it to the road. Stashing the hides in the ditch, we proceeded to walk about 6 miles home. We got to the house and everyone was asleep except Bud, and he was just returning from running his trap line. He had caught, what looked like a kit fox, which is not native to Missouri. What it was doing in Missouri, I have no idea. My mother showed up about then, VERY unhappy because I hadn’t come home that night. Now I have to go cut another limb, but it WAS a night to remember.