My wife, Jane, claims she doesn’t have a recipe for coon. I didn’t see her look, but she seemed quite certain. It’s hard to believe that dozens of southern style cookbooks made the same glaring omission. But I wasn’t worried. I was pretty sure that I knew where to get one.
Ed Mixon married Lorene Lewis on June 27, 1959, at Harmony Baptist Church. Lorene was the daughter of Elmo and Dorothy Lewis. She grew up on their family farm about five miles south of Unadilla. Ed and Lorene spent most weekends with her parents during the early part of their marriage. Her Uncle Teasley, “Unc” to her, lived just a few steps down the road with his family.
Unc stopped by one Friday night and said, “Ed, I’ve got Ol’ Monkey in the truck. You want to go coon hunting?” Ol’ Monkey was Unc’s favorite coon hound. He had an instinct for hunting that’s found only among the best trackers. Unc, Ed, and Ol’ Monkey became a regular threesome on Friday nights. Sometimes they were joined by Lorene’s daddy, Elmo, or her younger brother, Tony.
Unc would put Ol’ Monkey out and they would listen for his bark. His bark let them know when he was following a trail, and when he treed something. He would often run far ahead of them, deep into the pitch-black woods. They’d catch up with Ol’ Monkey, then search the branches with flashlights for the coon’s shining eyes. Unc would invite him to dinner with his single shot 12 gauge.
A good outing might yield two or three coons, but they had one night of exceptional hunting in Mr. Son Register’s cornfield. Coons were everywhere. Unc shot enough for several meals, but hardly dented the population. Ed says there couldn’t have been much corn left in that field to harvest.
Possums were also on Unc’s menu. In the fall, Ed and Unc would shine their flashlights up the persimmon trees and lure the critters down. When a possum hit the ground, Unc would grab him by the tail and drop him in the croker sack that Ed would be holding. Ed would shake the possum on down in the bag, and quickly twist the top to keep him from climbing out. One night the bottom tore open and the possum landed right on top of Ed’s feet. That’s when Ed learned to dance. Unc caught the possum again, tied the bag at both ends, and took him on home.
Ed and Lorene were late one Friday night getting to her parent’s home. Ed still had on his dress clothes from work. He was not expecting to go hunting, but Unc showed up with Ol’ Monkey and Ed couldn’t resist.
Not long into the hunt, Unc heard Ol’ Monkey barking. He had a different bark for coons, possums, bobcats, and foxes. Unc said, “He’s got a possum treed in a hollow.” Ed, in his dress clothes, crawled through a wash to get under some briers. Ol’ Monkey stuck his head in the hollow tree and the possum nailed him. Unc cut a limb and trimmed the side branches to short stubs, making what he called a twister. He sat on the ground and braced both feet on the tree. He twisted the possum’s hair around those stubs, pulled him from the hollow, then sacked him for the trip home.
Ed and Unc coon hunted nearly every Friday night until Ol’ Monkey got run over by a car. That ended the family tradition, a tradition they had kept alive longer than most folks in South Georgia.
I visited Ed not long ago. A good friend of his, Mrs. Pearl Rouse, gave me her well-tested recipe for coon. She said to boil it in water with apple cider vinegar until it’s tender, then bake it in a loaf pan with barbeque sauce and a little salt. Cook some sweet potatoes with it, and cover everything in sauce when you serve it. The same recipe works for possum except you need to drain the grease off.
Miss Pearl fed a large family gathering one time before telling them what she had served. Some had been adamant in the past that they would never eat coon. She laughs now and says they can’t say that anymore. Miss Pearl says there weren’t enough scraps left over to feed a stray cat.
Ed turned 82 this year. His coon hunting days are far behind him, but he still enjoys recalling those long-ago Friday nights with Unc and Ol’ Monkey. Ed’s memories of those hunts have a flavor that’s tender and sweet. I don’t much want coon for supper tonight or for dinner tomorrow, but I’m glad that I got the recipe. I probably don’t need it, but somehow it just seems worth keeping.