On Labor Day, 1937, Key Underwood lost his beloved hunting dog, Troop. He and some friends wrapped the dog in an old cotton pick sack and buried him in a special place where they had all shared good times. Underwood added a sandstone chimney rock on the grave, with Troop’s name chiseled into the stone.Over the years folks have buried their coon dogs on this ridge in the Freedom Hills of Northwest Alabama, at 4945 Coon Dog Cemetery Road in Cherokee. There are now more than 300 coon hound graves in what has become the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Cemetery and the site includes two memorial monuments depicting treeing coonhounds.
The site is truly one of a kind.
And so is its annual event.
To celebrate the lives of the canine companions buried here, the cemetery hosts an annual Coon Dog Cemetery Labor Day Celebration. This year’s event will begin at 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 1, and close at 4 p.m. The public is invited to the free event that will include live music, barbecue dishes and arts and crafts vendors.
“We will welcome back the Southern Strangers to play their old-time bluegrass music and, as an added attraction this year, we will have Kerry Gilbert and the KGB Band,” said Janice Williams, president of the Friends of the Coon Dog Cemetery, Inc. “Our special friend and coon hunter, Sean Thompson, is bringing eight Redbone pups, born on the Fourth of July. These full-blooded eight-week-old hound pups will be for sale and Sean is donating all the profits to our organization to help with the upkeep of the cemetery.”
Attendance is free, but sales that day will benefit the Friends of the Coon Dog Cemetery’s fund for the preservation of the site, part of the Freedom Hills Wildlife Management area, stated David Isom, treasurer of Friends of the Coon Dog Cemetery, Inc.
Mitchell Marks, wildlife biologist and superintendent of the Freedom Hill, stated that the group hosts the annual Coon Dog Labor Day Celebration and serves as caretaker of the cemetery, providing grounds-keeping and decorations, as is customary, once a year for the celebration. Burials, which require meeting certain guidelines, are also coordinated by the group.