by Don Nichols, Sr.
Some might say that this is the story of the wasted life of a fine rabbit dog. Others might say that it is a story of a fine rabbit dog that lived his life just as he chose. I will let you decide for yourself.
Kiamichi Blaze was born on the 29th of May 1987 and died on the 4th of May 2000. His sire was AKC Piney Woods Buck and his dam was AKC Tony’s Miss Buttons. He had several Champions in his pedigree. The Field Champions on his sire’s side was FC Wittline Big John and FC Karickhoff’s Cappy. On his dam’s side there were CH Yaupon Row Collectors Choice, CH Yaupon Row Salute, CH Yaupon Row Hiphugger Hayday, CH J-Jan Blue Jay, CH Colgren’s Duke Devil, and FC Pearson Creek Casanova. Some of the dogs with unusual names that caught my eye on his sire’s side were Cool Hand Louie and Cool Hand Luke XXX and on his dam’s side there was Alice B. Toklas II.
The place that Blaze called home belonged to a friend of mine named Chester. He received Blaze as a gift from his nephew, shortly after he was weaned. Blaze took up residence on Chester’s farm on the Kiamichi River about eight miles southwest of Clayton, OK and a relationship began that lasted some thirteen years. Blaze grew quickly and became a solid well-built 14" dog at maturity. Chester had no other Beagles and, to my knowledge, never went rabbit hunting, so Blaze shared his home with various stock dogs of mixed parentage and one purebred Pekingese named Teddy.
From the very beginning, Blaze had a strong independent streak about him. He just took to chasing rabbits naturally since he had the run of not only Chester’s eighty acres but unlimited neighboring acreage as well. As far as I know, neither Chester nor anyone else ever took Blaze hunting or killed a rabbit in front of him. Living near the river bottom, Blaze had plenty of rabbits to run of both the cottontail and swamper varieties.
Blaze’s independent streak showed itself when it came to being petted or handled in any way. He would not let himself be caught or petted unless he wanted it. When he chose to be petted he could be very affectionate but most of the time he kept his distance from everyone, including Chester. He did not like to take medicine of any kind and he could get real mean when being wormed or doctored for minor cuts and scratches. Some weeks before Blaze died, Chester was showing me his sore thumb that Blaze had chewed up when he was attempting to doctor him. In spite of all this, they had a mutual respect and affection for each other. Although Chester never hunted or killed a rabbit in front of Blaze, he loved to hear him run and was quick to brag on him. Blaze loved to go with Chester wherever he went about the place and would always be somewhere within calling distance of him. He followed Chester’s tractor for many a mile and would chase rabbits and lay in the shade while Chester was brushhogging or doing other farming activities.
During some of these trips with Chester around the farm, Blaze had some close calls with coyotes that are very plentiful around that area. On more than one occasion, Chester said that he would look up to see Blaze coming toward him at a high rate of speed with a coyote hot on his trail. Blaze would take refuge under the tractor while Chester would get rid of the coyote. Usually Chester’s large stock dog would run the coyote off. These experiences didn’t deter Blaze from engaging in his favorite past time of chasing rabbits though.
When Chester was not out working around the farm, Blaze could always find a rabbit to run close to home. He knew right where to find a rabbit to run and he made it his daily routine. Sometimes he would run one all morning long and then come in and lay in the shade for awhile. He would then go back in the late evening and put in a few more hours running another one.
I first got acquainted with Blaze back in 1990 when we moved down into that area and was neighbors with Chester for a couple of years. We lived about three-quarters of a mile from Chester and it was not unusually to hear Blaze’s loud bawl mouth, after a rabbit, on a daily basis. I have been down the river a couple of miles from Chester’s and could hear Blaze pounding an "ole" rabbit for hours on end.
I had a pack of Beagles when I moved down near Chester’s and after getting to know Blaze and hearing him run, I decided that I would like to have some pups out of him. I talked to Chester about it and he said that that would be fine with him. He didn’t want anymore Beagles and told me to come down and get Blaze whenever I wanted to use him. The next time that my best female came into season I went down and got Blaze. He was about four years old at the time and had never bred before. I put him in the stall with my female and watched to see what would happen. I knew that she was ready. Blaze acted as if he couldn’t care less about that business. He sat and looked at the gate like he just wanted to get out and go home. After several hours I decided that he was not going to get the job done and I opened the gate and let him out. He didn’t waste anytime in getting back to his home territory. I had to find another stud dog to breed to.
The next time that I decided to breed my female I had wised up a little and decided to try a different strategy. I took her down to see Blaze. I had her on a leash and I tied her up where he could check her out. At first, he was a little hesitant but, after finding out that she seemed to like his advances, he became more aggressive and began to try to mount her. He would try first one end and then the other, then one side and then the other. Chester and I had to laugh at his clumsy efforts. He refused to give up though and finally was successful. I took her back home and brought her back again the next day. This time Blaze seemed to have forgotten everything that he had learned the day before. He made a few false starts and then he found the right place again.
I had brought her down there in the trunk of an old 1973 Buick. On the third day that I brought her down to see Blaze he came running out to meet us and went immediately to the trunk of the car. He reared up on the rear bumper and could hardly wait for me to get her out. This time he accomplished the mission in record time. After the third mating, I quit taking her to him and waited to see if it had been successful. Blaze never forgot the old car, and from then on whenever I would drive up to Chester’s house in it, he would come running out to meet me and go right to the trunk and wait eagerly. Chester and I had many a laugh at him over this.
This mating resulted in some pups that were not only pretty but made some good rabbit dogs as well. I bred one other gyp to him later on and I believe that these two were the only two that he ever bred.
I moved away from there and back to Clayton in the fall of 1992. I would always ask about Blaze whenever I would run into Chester and he would tell me that Blaze was still giving those rabbits fits around there. I said, "I am very surprised that Blaze has managed to somehow avoid being killed by the coyotes and has survived this long." As Blaze got older his hours of rabbit chasing became fewer and fewer and his naps became longer. He still ran some everyday, but Chester said that he could tell that he was definitely slowing down. His head was turning more gray and he was getting stiff from arthritis. The last few years of Blaze’s life were shared with a large black dog that was half Labrador and half German Shepard. He and Blaze were the best of buddies, and he would usually accompany Blaze on his rabbit hunting trips to the river bottom. Chester felt that this may have been the reason that the coyotes had not killed him years ago.
I was visiting with Chester around the first of May this year and inquired about Blaze. Chester said, "Oh, he is around here somewhere". He said, "Until a week or so ago Blaze was still running rabbits everyday but now he spends most of his time napping in a sunny spot". While we were visiting Blaze came out from under one of the vehicles that were parked there, and I noticed that he was having great difficulty walking. He appeared to be very stiff and in some pain. He found a sunny spot and laid down but didn’t appear to be resting very well. I remarked to Chester that he seemed to be in pain, and that it looked like he was suffering from arthritis. Chester said, "If he doesn’t show some improvement in the next day or two I will take him to the vet and have him put down. I can’t stand to see him suffer". I agreed that that would probably be the kindest thing to do.
I ask Chester what Blaze’s age was and he said that he couldn’t recall for sure but that he thought that he was about fifteen. I said that he was probably one of the oldest Beagles that I had ever seen, and that I would like to write a short story about him. I took my camera and went back down there a few days later and took these two pictures of him.
KIAMICHI BLAZE at 13 years old. These were the last pictures taken of this great hound.
I didn’t see Chester for a couple of weeks after that. When I next visited him one of the first things that he said to me was, "Well, I had to put the old man down". I detected a note of sadness in his voice and I asked him about it. He said that a day or so after I had been there last that he noticed that Blaze was lying down in the garage and couldn’t get up. He was just lying there and would bark occasionally, and acted like he was in extreme pain. Chester said, " After putting him out of his misery I took him down into the river bottom, and buried him in one of his favorite rabbit running places". We talked about him for while, recalling his experiences with the coyotes and how we laughed at him and his mating escapades. I said, "I’ll bet that you miss him don’t you?" He justlooked at me and said, "Everyday".