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Books & Hounds

K. Ouchley

One of the joys and hazards of readingis that it can send one down previously unconsidered paths. My favorite childhood book was Wilson Rawls' Where the Red Fern Grows. Set in the Ozark Mountains, it is a coming of age tale about a boy and his two redbone 'coon hounds and their pursuit of one of the wiliest creatures in the forest. Rife with danger, adventure, sorrow, and joy all played out by a boy my age and his dogs- how much better could a book be? That it was also a fount of life's lessons was not apparent to me at the time.

So after reading this book, I was determined to procure my own 'coon hounds and begin my own adventures in the D'Arbonne Swamp just down the red clay hill from my house. After more than a half-century, I don't remember the details of how I financed the acquisition of expensive dogs,but I think it involved a line of credit with my parents and assurances that proceeds from the bountiful 'coon pelts that I would harvest would easily repay my debts. In retrospect, that was an early chapter in one of my own life lessons.

Kelby was a biologist and manager of National Wildlife Refuges for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 30 years. He has worked with alligators in gulf coast marshes and Canada geese on Hudson Bay tundra. His most recent project was working with his brother Keith of the Louisiana Nature Conservancy on the largest floodplain restoration project in the Mississippi River Basin at the Mollicy Unit of the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, reconnecting twenty-five square miles of former floodplain forest back to the Ouachita River.
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