ARTICLE: ROOTER DOGS by Jerry Ison
Several years ago, there used to be a general store out on Loften's Cove Road near Townsend. It was one of those hundreds of old wooden stores stuck right up against the road right of way that catered to the local farm families. It had a porch that ran across the entire front of the building. For many years, in the cool of the evening that porch became a gathering place for some of the "old timers" who would sit around and engage in carving twigs and sticks into small mounds of shaving while engaging in some creative "competitive lying".
In the early fifties the proprietor, a man of Irish extraction, Michael O'Malley added two gas pumps. One reg'lar and one ‘hi test'. This attraction now encouraged travelers from cities nearby and distant to have occasion to stop.
One late summer evening the regular group had gathered for their normal routine, carving, lying and more lying. A big fancy car drove in and a fellow dressed in the finest department store hunting attire came up on the porch.
The men regarded him with some distrust and as a testing ground for some of their more inventive stories. It seems he was from Knoxville and had driven out to the area for some hunting.
"You know, possum, rabbits, squirrels. I'm proficient at it all." He declared.
"I've hunted almost any game you can name. And almost anywhere. I've seen it all!" He went on boasting.
The stranger looked at the group and spotting Lawrence "Larry" Terwilliger lovingly oiling his old Fox double barrel lying across his lap.
"Are you fellows hunters?" asked the stranger.
He had made the mistake of addressing Larry. Or as the locals referred to him, "Lyin Larry". Terwilliger was a pig farmer and his pigs were easily in nose range of the store, being located about 250 yards behind there.
The stranger asked Larry what if any hunting could be had in these parts? He claimed to be an avid hunter and was always looking for the exotic or unusual hunting experience.
The timing couldn't have been better. Only about a week or so before, Larry’s Mexican hairless had delivered two pups, but she had perished in the process. Larry had a little sow that had also recently birthed and he had tried in desperation to get her to nurse the pups. Surprisingly she took to the pups and they were to be found right alongside the shoats, nursing away. Those little dogs have almost no detectable hair except for a rough tuft on the head and they have short tightly curled tails.
"Wahl”, Larry began, “have ye ever done any Tarantula huntin'?"
"What?” exclaimed the stranger. “I’ve never heard of that. Besides, there are no tarantulas around here."
"I bag ta differ," says Larry. "Not only is they tarantulas 'round heah, they's huge, mean and pie-sinous ones that is good at stayin’ hid down in their holes. You gots ta have a special breed of dog ta find em, on what'll fit in them holes and root em out. And them dog's gotta be eye-mune to they's pie-sin! They's only one dog what fits that bill and that's them pygmy rooter dogs what we raise right over yonder on the farm."
The stranger still disbelieving Larry was nevertheless intrigued a bit.
"Oh, go on,” he said. "How could a dog be immune to poison?"
"Wahl", Larry explained. "Ever body knows pigs ain't bothered by snake pie-sin. They eat the deadliest ole rattler fer lunch. We breed some miniature Dobermans with some runt Pol'nd Chiner hogs and got us some Pygmy Rooters! I'll show em to ya if'n ya want ta see em!"
The stranger just had to call Larry bluff so he says, "You're on! Let's go see these Rooter dogs!"
Larry gave old "Sneaky" Pete Waggonner a quick wink and Sneaky got up and slinked off towards the rear of the store. Then he said to the stranger, “Okay, mebbe. But first how bout us makin’ a little wager seeing as how you don't thank ah'm tellin’ the truth.
The stranger studied this over a bit and began thinking that maybe this old codger was really putting him on and maybe should call his bluff.
"You betcha, I'll put the new Winchester in my car up against that double barrel you got there on your lap."
Larry eyed his gun like it was the most valuable thing he owed and using his best horse trading skills, began, "Hmm, I don’t ... Awrighty then, you got y'self a bet!"
Larry slowly rose and beckoned to the stranger to follow. Taking his sweet time, Larry led the stranger out past his house to the first stall in his small barn.
Sure enough, there lay the sow and two hairless, curly-tailed little pups were sucking away. Sneaky had deftly swung around the barn and extracted the real piglets just moments before.
The stranger was dumb struck! “How could this be”, he thought.
Larry reached over the rail and picked one of the pups up. "Here', he said, "Check em fer yourself."
That stranger examined the pig-like skin, the bristles on the back and head, the curly tail and the squashed-in muzzle.
The stranger was speechless for several minutes. Then he cleared his throat and mumbled something like, "I'll be danged, you win."
"What was that?” Larry yelled.
Okay the stranger proclaimed, "You win, but only on one more condition."
Larry took on an air of righteous indignation, "Hold on their Mister. You made a gentleman's bet they weren’t no conditions and I mean to hold you to it!"
The stranger stepped back a bit and stroked the pup, "I'll give you the Winchester, but you gotta sell me one of them rooters!"