The Coonhunter

by Mike Peters

They say that hindsight is always 20/20.      I know that's true.  Some eight months after his death, I wish now that I would have taped the telephone conversations I had with my Uncle Lloyd Peters.

In one of those wonderful conversations, Uncle Lloyd informed me that he was told, as a child, that our family was related to Daniel Boone.  Research tells us that it is through my Stover line that this connection is found.  My paternal grandmother was Sadie Alice Stover.  Her direct ancestors, Jacob Stover and Sallie McGhee, settled in the Clear Creek area of Coal River,  which is in present day Raleigh County. Further back in our Stover line,  another Jacob married Sarah Boone, who was Daniel Boone's aunt.



Bobby Joe Casto and Delores (Coleman) Casto

While my link to Daniel Boone is paternal.  A resemblance to the frontiersman is found in a member of my mother's family.

Bobby Joe Casto married my mother's only sibling, Delores Coleman, in 1964.   He had attended Stonewall Jackson High School in Charleston.  He had served in the Army in Germany and had received an honorable discharge. I remember visiting his parents when they lived, coincidentally, in Kentuck, Jackson County, WV.  To get there, you exit east off of Interstate 77.

In the game of horse shoes, some call Uncle Bob a ringer.  My mother's first cousin, Marvin Coleman, once told me that no one wanted to pitch shoes with him after the initial time, because he always won.  I can vouch for that.  When you thought you had him beat, he'd top your ringers, knock down your leaners, whatever was needed to win. I never saw him lose.  He doesn't play much anymore.  Ran out of opponents, I guess.

Bobby Joe Casto is a walking road atlas of WV.  When you need to know directions to anywhere in the state, you just ask Uncle Bob.  And he has probably hunted most of the state for squirrel, rabbit, deer.  But his passion is raccoon.

I used to accompany Uncle Bob on many of his nightly hunts for coon. One day in particular comes to mind. I was about 11 or 12.  We drove for a piece and hunted an area called Goose Creek.  Don't remember now what county it's in.  I do remember that we walked and walked and walked.  We rested and walked some more.  Then we walked again.  We didn't tree anything that night and I was so happy when we got back to the truck, exhausted.  I slept part of the way home.  We got there around 6 am.  I remember being rousted out of bed by Grandma sometime before noon.  I was still sleepy, later in the day, when I said, "Uncle Bobby, I only have one pair of legs and I am not gonna wear 'em out on Goose Creek."  I hunted with him after that, but never again on Goose Creek.

I remember hunting with Bob and a few other gentlemen a short time after getting a 410 shotgun for Christmas.  Late in the hunt, the dogs treed a squirrel. Bob talked to the other guys and they all agreed.  It was to be the kid's squirrel.  They told me to stand on one side of the tree.  One of Boone Boggess' boys, "Tab," walked around the tree making noise and the squirrel appeared on the side where I had the shotgun aimed.  I don't know who was prouder, Uncle Bob or his nephew, when I walked into the barnyard with a big gray squirrel, the only kill of the day.  Somebody stole that shotgun a couple of years later.

Uncle Bob never hunts fox! If his dogs do, it is back to the dog box located in the truck or atop the 4 wheeler.  They ride the bench for the remainder of  the hunt.  The fox is the enemy of the coonhunter!  The dog is scolded and later retrained.  Never mistreated!  Never beaten!  (Two things that Uncle Bob will not tolerate are men that mistreat dogs or men that drink when hunting.)  If the dog continues to run fox, the dog may become trade day material. Few of his dogs ever ran fox. But, of those few that did, most of them only did it the one time.

Uncle Bob was one of the founders and charter members of the Jackson County Coon Hunters Association.  He also raises coon dogs.  He used to hunt Black 'n Tans in his younger days.  But now the only dogs for him are Walkers, the ones that look like oversized beagles.  Male or female.  It doesn't matter, just as long as they run and tree coon. He must know what he's doing. Many trophies and plaques adorn the walls of his Jackson County home. There are paintings and pictures of Grand Nite Champions.

Uncle Bobby doesn't have a coon skip cap.  That would be wasteful!  The coon hides are used to train the Walker pups.  He isn't a frontier legend.  There was never a TV show about him. But he feels like a caged animal when he is in the city for any length of time. He loves and respects the outdoors.  He is most at home when training dogs, when hunting and tracking wild game and when laughing about a nephew, who walked all night 30 years ago, up and down a holler called Goose Creek.

Thanks for listening and as my Grandma Coleman used to say, "Ya'll Come!"


Mike Peters


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