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Sid Underwood's Story
Old Dan and Little Ann, the two Redbone Coonhounds from the 1961 novel, Where The Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls, have been credited with getting a number of people interested in coon hunting and coonhounds in general. Dan and Ann, however, were not the only pair of Redbones running wild in the dreams of people living in the 1960’s.
Enter Mike and Red, two Redbone males owned by a Texas coon hunter that captured a young man’s attention and made him instantly realize that he should be a coon hunter. That young man was Sid Underwood, who has now been immersed in the thrill of coon hunting for over 50 years. While Redbones stirred up his passion for coon hunting, Sid’s breed of choice is the Treeing Walker Coonhound and nothing proves that fact better than his 47 years of membership in the Treeing Walker Breeders & Fanciers Association.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Sid is a native of southwestern Dallas County. For the past 29 years he has lived in Somervell County Texas, about an hour and a half away from Dallas. Divorced, four grown children, three daughters and one son, and a former stepdaughter, who he also thinks the world of, along with six grandchildren, make up his family. “My school days began in Florence Hill, the small, unincorporated farming community in southwestern Dallas County where I grew up. Grand Prairie through the years expanded and now encompasses Florence Hill. From the fourth grade through college I attended school in Arlington and have a B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Arlington. Since 1985 I have worked at the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant near Glen Rose, serving in community relations, public information and property management. Besides the power plant, Glen Rose and Somervell County are famous for the dinosaur tracks discovered in the Paluxy River bed during the last century.”
During his time in Somervell County, and in between coon hunting and working, Sid found the time to pen a 242-page book called Depression Desperado, The Chronicle of Raymond Hamilton. Hamilton was one of the 1930s West Dallas outlaws and the most well-known confederate of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. The book was published in 1995 and is available for purchase online, or if you’re lucky enough to get in contact with Sid, you can purchase a dated and signed copy of the book directly from him.
The year Sid discovered coon hunting was in 1962 while attending a birthday celebration for a great uncle in Lampasas, Texas. His great uncle owned a ranch and on the list of party festivities was going coon hunting on the ranch. The local hunter who took them out was a man by the name of Snooks Gann and he had two male Redbones, Mike and Red. Instantly Sid was drawn to coon hunting and knew he wanted to become a coon hunter, but he knew of no one around his home area that hunted. “Later that year, one summer evening, I heard the unmistakable sound of hounds running along Fish Creek which was about a half mile south of my home. I begged my mother to drive me down to the creek so perhaps I could meet whoever was hunting. Before too long we saw lights heading back to the hunters’ vehicle parked by the creek bridge.” The lights and hounds belonged to two men, Bill Smith and Maurice Montgomery. At the time, they resided in Grand Prairie and were hunting registered McDonald Black and Tans and grade Walkers.
Mr. Smith and Maurice gave Sid the start in coon hunting that he needed and in doing so they formed a friendship that lasted many years until they passed away. They were pleasure hunters, but Sid can still recall the day that they took him to the 1964 Texas State Hunt then held at Fort Parker State Park near Mexia.
Sid’s mother was a school teacher who taught sixth grade in Arlington and one day in 1965 one of her students, Judy Higgins, mentioned that her daddy was a coon hunter. Naturally, Sid’s mother told young Judy of her coon hunter son and it wasn’t long before Sid was introduced to James Higgins. James held a job at the Texas & Pacific (now Union Pacific) Railroad in Arlington. “James and I first hunted together in October of 1965 and then began hunting together regularly in the spring of 1966. Although he moved around with the railroad, we still hunted quite a bit and formed a lifetime friendship. He is no longer able to hunt but was one of the true Treeing Walker legends and pioneers in Texas and the Southwest.”
In the summer of 1966, James and Sid decided to start up a kennel together and called it Fish Creek Treeing Walker Kennel and the name has been maintained ever since. “Ironically, the Fish Creek name probably seen the most is Fish Creek Rebel, a dog owned by James and others. Jimmy Woodard of New Boston, Texas, single registered a female from Rebel named Red Bayou Jane and bred her to an outstanding single-registered redtick male he owned (NITE CH Woodards Buck). One of the progeny was GR NITE CH GR CH Beshears’ Blue Boy II (Junior), one of the most dominant stud dogs in English history.”
A search will reveal that GR NITE CH GR CH Beshears’ Blue Boy II would be crossed with GR NITE CH GR CH ‘PR’ Indian Creek Wendy, with the litter whelped in July of 1980. One of the pups from this cross, GR NITE CH GR CH Timberstar Buck, owned by Hank Horne, would go on to place seventh at the 1986 UKC World Championship.
Presently, Sid owns two Treeing Walkers. The first is GR NITE CH GR CH ‘PR’ Bode McKee DNA-P (GR NITE CH ‘PR’ King’s X Wicked Oz x ‘PR’ Fish Creek Stylish Becky 2), who Sid co-owns with Payton Young of Granbury, Texas. The second is a female pup sired by Bode and out of ‘PR’ Stoned Strokin Dora, ‘PR’ Fish Creek Bode’s Bee Bopalupa. This past September, Sid and Payton loaded Bode up for the UKC Texas State Championship. This was a special year for the Texas State Championship as the event celebrated its 60th anniversary. Friday night saw 69 dogs take to the woods in hopes of grabbing a trophy to remember this special anniversary event and it was Bode McKee that would take top honors as the place Grand Nite Champion winner with a score of 325+. Bode also placed ninth overall in the entire hunt. Bode had also qualified for the 2012 UKC World Championship, but was stopped short in the zones.
While it may seem like Sid frequents the competition side of coon hunting by seeing the titles on his dogs, he doesn’t hit many and prefers to pleasure hunt his dogs the most. “I consider myself a pleasure hunter but still competition hunt occasionally, primarily Ada, Oklahoma Walker Days and the Texas State Hunt. I have shown dogs through the years and have offered dogs at stud and raised pups but pleasure hunting is and always has been my favorite part of the sport.”
A favorite question of mine to ask during an interview is about any past dog(s) that have left a lasting impression and for Sid it was GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Fish Creek Streaks. “My all-time favorite dog was a female, GR NITE CH ‘PR’ Fish Creek Streaks, and I saw her tree her first coon at seven months and last at 13-plus years. She was one of those dogs that could seemingly make coons ‘appear out of the air’, and the conditions or terrain did not matter.”
With over 40 years of familiarity with the Walker breed, Sid has no doubt seen changes happen within the breed, and I asked him to share his thoughts about it. “Walkers of today are better tree dogs and better-looking than in the past, but I believe in some cases too much tree has been bred in and track power has suffered. If I were to make a suggestion to the breeders, it would be to strive for more balance and no doubt many are.”
It was TWB&FA President Alan Kalal that suggested Sid to us to interview because of his 47 years of commitment to the TWB&FA. Sid has been a busy man within the Association as well as other honorable mentions within the coonhound world. “I have been a member of the Treeing Walker Breeders & Fanciers Association since 1966 and have served on the national board as well as being selected Member of the Year in 1982. I have also helped run local clubs in the past as well as serving on the Texas State Coon Hunters Association Board. In the early 1980s I served three years as a United Kennel Club Field Representative.”
Sid also holds a Bench Show Judge license that he obtained in 1972. He has judged the UKC World Finals twice and Autumn Oaks twice (he was the last person to single-handedly judge the event before UKC went to the two-ring format). Sid has made multiple judging appearances at Texas State, American Heritage, Ada Walker Days, National Walker Days and Bluetick Fall Round-Up and was slated to judge this past Battle of the Breeds event for the second time when an ice storm prevented him from making it.
If you ever find yourself with a dog in the show ring and have Sid as the judge, you’re in luck! Knowing that Sid is a well-respected show judge, I asked him to spill the beans on the type of dog he’s looking for. “When I judge, the primary thing I look for in a dog is balance, and looking at them gaiting, standing still and on the bench are all important parts of the process. I believe in giving every dog equal time on the first pass and expect the handlers to know what they are doing and to treat me with the same consideration and respect that I show them.”
Sid has accomplished a great deal within the time he’s invested in the Walker breed and he’s not about to quit anytime soon. “As long as I am blessed with decent health I intend to continue to pursue this great sport and always remember that while the coons and dogs are part and parcel of it that the greatest gift of all is many wonderful friendships established over more than a half century.”
From the woods, show ring, events, and associations, Sid has made a great contribution to the coonhound world over the years and here’s to many more!