Buster belonged to the Beecher Blizzard family who lived next door to us in Camden. Buster stayed at our house most of the time.
In the late 1930s my dad was laid off from the coalmines he had worked in since he was 15 years old. My dad and mom had been raised on a large farm in Wise County, Va. A friend of my dad’s had a 100-acre farm on Cane Branch that he let my dad rent for $100 a year.
Buster went to the farm with us and would never go back to the Blizzards’ again. He loved the country living.
My brothers and I loved all the land we had on the farm, but us boys knew nothing about farm life. I was going to school at Burdine, and my parents told me what my chores would be as the eldest son.
I was to help take care of my younger brothers, help working the ground to feed our family through the long winter to come, milk the cows, slop the hogs and chop the firewood for our fireplace and wood-burning cook stove.
It was very hard for us guys to get used to coal oil lamps, battery-operated radio, and no indoor plumbing.
We had hundreds of berry bushes and grapevines growing wild on our farm. Folks came from Jenkins, Burdine and Dunham to pick them. My dad charged them 10 cents a bucket.
Our dog Buster would go into the hills with these pickers, where he would snake hunt. I’ve never seen a dog that loved to catch snakes and shake them so hard it would snap their heads off. But over the years the snakebites he received took their toll on him.
The last couple of years of his life he could only crawl, and when my brothers and I went hunting he would cry to go with us and sometimes we would carry him with us.
Our dad wanted to put him down for his own good, but us boys would not let him. We had a place for him under our floor where he stayed, and one morning I went to feed him and found Buster had died in the night.
It broke my heart and I cried for weeks. He was my first dog, and I missed him so much.
My brothers and I built a box for him and laid Buster in it. We dug a deep hole and buried him on the farm he loved so much. My dad got us a hound dog right before I went into the military, but I would not let myself get close to it.
During my assignments to many states and countries when my kids had pups they raised, it took me a long time to get close to them.