High on a ridge in the Freedom Hills of northwestern Alabama sits a peaceful small cemetery dedicated to coon dogs. Here some of the best and most beloved hunting dogs known to man lie under the soil in the middle of some of the best coon hunting land anywhere.
Located about 15 miles west of Tuscumbia, Alabama, the cemetery came into being in 1937 when Tuscumbia hardware store owner Key Underwood had to put his faithful hunting dog Troop to sleep. Underwood buried Troop in this peaceful spot where they had hunted for years and etched his name and the date of his death on a stone. It seems fitting that Troop should spend eternity in a place he loved so much. When another coon hunter’s dog died, he asked Underwood if it would be all right to bury it beside Troop. More burials followed, and today almost 200 coon dugs rest here.
Their owners have erected stone monuments and simple plaques in memory of the dogs who have passed on, testament to their love for their canine hunting partners. Some are simple, bearing only a name, while others include information or reflections on the animal – “He was good as the best and better than the rest” and “He wasn’t the best, but he was the best I ever had.”
Every year on Labor Day the Tennessee Valley Coon Hunters Association holds its Coon Dog Labor Day Celebration at the cemetery, with bluegrass music, a barbecue, a liar’s contest, and flowers placed on the graves. Though the dogs buried here may not be able to hear all the activity, it gives their owners an opportunity to commune with their beloved hunting partners buried here.
Except for the Labor Day activities, the cemetery is normally a quiet place, with the only sounds being the breeze in the trees overhead and the gurgling of a nearby stream. It seems like it would be a good place for any hunting dog to rest. Only coon dogs are buried in the cemetery, no family pets or lap dogs, and dogs buried here come from as far away as Arkansas and Mississippi. Today nearly 200 dogs are interred in the cemetery.
The Key Underwood Coon Dog Cemetery is located west of Alabama Highway 247 on a narrow road that winds several miles thorough the hills. The turn off the highway is about twelve miles south of US Highway 72. If souvenir hunters have not stolen the sign, which it seems happens quite regularly, the turnoff is marked.
The road is really not suited for an RV, and there is no parking for a large vehicle at the cemetery, so park your RV elsewhere and drive your tow vehicle. The park has a picnic area and primitive restroom.