Old Drum

I was thinking about my unsuccessful hunt on Sunday, and how totally unaffected by my failure was my dog Rina. She was just as happy at the end of the hunt as she was at the beginning, and was still busy finding birds long after my hawk had given up trying to catch them.

I wrote in my falconry blog: “Most folks will help you spend your winnings, but fewer will be your friends in defeat. This is one of the great and oft-acknowledged benefits of owning a dog.” Not exactly ground-breaking news, but true enough.

On reading the day’s entry, a friend forwarded the eulogy of Old Drum, a coonhound killed unjustly in 1869 and avenged in court by his outraged master. The trial was eventually won ($50 award to the former owner) in large part by this moving passage, delivered by the owner’s legal counsel.

For all I know, this story is the stuff of urban legend, but the words attributed to lawyer George Graham Vest should live on nonetheless. I wonder if PETA have anything so profound as this to say in support of an end to all dogs:

“Gentlemen of the Jury, the best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it the most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.”

“Gentleman of the Jury, a man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and the sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert he remains. When riches take wings and reputation fall to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens. If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.”

8 thoughts on “Old Drum”

  1. I like Mark Twain’s observation: “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.” Another PETA contrast!

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  2. Sometimes I think dogs are better than people.

    And I think PETA is a bunch of bad-crazies.

    Matt, a while back you asked about my parents and the end of their farming career. Somebody else asked too and I’ve finally gotten around to writing about it. It’s up if you’re interested. You’ll have to read through a bunch of stuff about horses first but be patient, it’s in there!

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  3. A dog doesnot kill a person just like that. It gets furious when it receives a bad behavior from its master. An animal is as sweet as a man n is far less harmful than most of us.

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  4. What is it about dog literature that always brings a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye?

    Could it be that dogs really are that noble?

    [He asked rhetorically…]

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