Ronnie Copeland, a serious Redbone man whose dogs have graced numerous winning ways on the bench and in the woods over the past few decades, hails from deep south Georgia He resides outside a little town called Odum that is the namesake of many of his kinfolk, including his Uncle Wyman Odum, the man most responsible for Ronnie’s love of coon hunting and Redbone hounds.
Uncle Wyman was Ronnie’s dad’s sister’s husband, and he began taking young Ronnie and cousin, Mickey Reddish, back when they were about seven or eight years old. Young Copeland’s parents would let him go hunting once or twice a week on school nights, but the steadfast rule was he had to be in by nine or ten o’clock – no exceptions – and if the rule was broken, so was the hunting; until they relented and let him resume, that is.
As Ronnie recalls, Uncle Wyman had some dogs with typical Redbone names, hounds such as Big Red, Little Red and Rusty, and a female named Ann. They had no carbine lights back then but rather used a hand lantern. It was a big deal to be assigned the task of carrying that lantern, and Ronnie loved to tote it to the woods. Now it seems Uncle Wyman would dabble in the snakebite medicine, especially on cold nights, and as the boys grew, he took many liberties of sending them in to the tree without him while he languished back at the truck. Then he would call them out.
Says Ronnie, “Mickey and I would go in to the tree with a hand lantern and a gun and I remember how we held that lantern up to try to find the coon. You know what I mean; we could see eyes if the coon was there, and the biggest thing in the world was to shoot the coon out. Then, Ann and Rusty would get him, and after, we would tote the coon out and that was a better job than carrying the gun. We didn’t use a compass back then, of course, because Uncle Wyman would call us out, but then again, several times we had to find our way out on our own because too much of that snakebite medicine and he’d fall asleep.
“We hunted out of an old car that had the back cut out and a dog box made from old wood and metal, and maybe it was put together with nails, stayed in that place. Back in those days, if we treed one or two a night, and sometimes three, we had really done something.
“Now, Uncle Wyman lived right in the city of Odum, and we would skin the coons out right there at Uncle Wyman’s in the backyard where the dog pen was. All of that is still there today and is sort of like a home landmark in Odum. Of course, the main family has since passed away, but other members of some of that family still live there.
Ronnie started chuckling. “Vickie, old Uncle Wyman had a heckuva sense of humor. I don’t know if you can write about this, but one time when we were skinning coons – and I still have this in my office in the drawer but I was probably around ten years old, and he skinned a coon out and we’d help pull the hide off, and that one time he handed something to me and told me to take that to my mama and have her tie a string to it and wear it to school.
“Well, we took Mickey home and then I remember coming in and putting that thing on the eating table, and my daddy liked to come off the chair! He slapped his hand down and said to me, “You’d better get that thing off the table, boy!” and then he promptly sat me down in the back room to have a talk with me. Turns out that Uncle Wyman had given me private parts from a boar coon. Anyway, I put it up and like I said, I still have it in my office-drawer. That was a sure-enough conversation piece for a lot of years, and I can picture old Uncle Wyman looking down and giggling about it.”
Some time went by and soon enough Ronnie and Mickey wanted a dog of their own. They ordered a Black and Tan from Clayco Kennels in Calico, Texas, and the dog was guaranteed to do this and that, Ronnie described. “It was during our high school years and we drove to Savannah to pick that dog up at the airport. It cost $85 to buy the dog and $115 to ship her to Georgia. She arrived in a wooden box. Mickey and I picked that dog up at two or three in the afternoon – she was registered and all that – and we brought that dog home and took her down to the creek not too far from where I live now and actually have lived all my life, and at three in the afternoon, she struck a track, but all in all she never did tree. We finally wound up catching her later that afternoon and at dark, we went hunting again. She treed that night in a hollow that had three or four coons in that tree. Now we both were grinning from ear to ear about our new dog and what she could do. Of course, in that hollow was a mother, a sow and a bunch of kitten coons but we didn’t think back then about taking care of things for tomorrow and leaving some for seed, so we came away from there with all those coons. We know better now. That dog probably treed more coons for us than any other dog we ever bought together.
“And Vickie, you know Eddie Surrency, don’t you? Well, we would swap back and forth with him a good bit on dogs, and finally, later, I bought a Redbone female from a man named Roy Thornton. He was a policeman here in Odum. She came from Mr. Steve Basson from Naylor,
Georgia, and I should say he was the Redbone representative for this state for a long time.
“We hunted her, and I bred this female to a dog by the name of Baker’s Red Cassidy, who Ted Baker had owned. However, at the time, Russell Lee from Waycross owned him. That dog was a direct son from Haye’s Rambling Red Ace, one of the top reproducing Redbones that ever lived. He went back to Timber Chopper blood. Anyway, he was killed and didn’t fill his stud potential because of it and even still he is in most Redbone pedigrees back there somewhere. Back in those days, there were two strains of Redbones, and the other was the Woodpecker strain; you know, the dog that won the ACHA World Hunt. There were men from back in those days like Mr. Milton Strain, as I remember, and Mr. Ether Smith and Mr. Travis Thomas, and I guess they would be in their nineties or even a hundred if they were alive today. Other names I remember, and some of them are still around, include Russell James Robinson, Gene Allhands – and he’s been a board of director for a lot longer than I ever was – and Dan Knight and Eddie Barrett. There was DeCaroll Williamson from North Carolina and Jamie Stone, and they had All Night Albert and Brunswick’s Little Man that we hunted with. “
“So, you mentioned you took your female and bred to the Cassidy dog,” I reminded Ronnie. “What happened with that?”
“Oh, yes, that was, of course, Copeland’s Red Bonnie that I bred to Cassidy, and she had about eight or nine pups, and I took those pups to the Grand American in about 1980 or so with Mickey and we sold every one of those puppies, except for the runt. I was friends with Greg Minkler, the Walker man, back then and I wasn’t really settled on Redbones yet. You know, I wasn’t a dedicated Redbone man, but you could call me wanting a good dog and well on my way, you know what I mean. Greg had Minkler’s Kansas Rock back then, I believe, and I bought a Walker dog from him.
“Anyway, no one wanted to buy that runt and back in those days, we were in what everyone called the dust barn where the cows stayed most of the time, and it had all those places boarded and all, kind of like now, but back then it was pure dust in there. Well, I brought that puppy home with me, and you know what? That is where Copeland’s Shortstop came from. He is the puppy no one wanted to buy – and soon enough he came on up and I knew I had something.
“Now, I was still learning, and I was getting into the bench shows, too, by then. I can remember the reason I knew I had something, and that was when I walked off the stage with him at the PCA World Show back then, and I guess you could say I was still a young kid and I wanted to play with the big boys, you know. I was the same way when I played ball, too. “
“We’ll talk some about your baseball, then, in a bit,”
I stated. “But what happened that day at the PCA World Show?”
“I had Shortstop and Mr. Gene Allhands was very influential to me, and of course so were many others, but anyway, I remember the show was held in Paducah, Kentucky and it wasn’t down on the ground level like we do nowadays – we were up on this stage and you walked up the steps to get to the show – and I was up against Raymond (Junior) Lassiter and he beat me and won it all with his Walker dog, who I think was Mundo. I have a picture with Junior backed off and looking at his fine Walker and I was backed off looking at Shortstop.
“Anyway, back to my story. When I came down from the stage, there was a place where the Redbone men were at, where they were standing, and Mr. Ether Smith came up to me. Now you know he was a living legend and he wore those old bib overalls; you know what I’m talking about, and in fact, I had been hunting with him the night before and my dog looked just so-so that night. I was nervous when he walked up to me and then he called me off to the side. A table was right there, and he asked me what it would take to buy Shortstop. I had grown attached to my dog by now and he was my first real love for a Redbone hound, you know, and he was like Dan in Where the Red Fern Grows to me.
“Mr. Smith asked me two or three times and he had a rolled-up checkbook in the front of his bib overalls. He made an offer of several, several thousand dollars, and that kind of money was strong as death back in those days. Yeah, he pulled that checkbook out from the front of his bib overalls and laid it on the table. Then he told me to fill it out for whatever it would take. I remember I about started crying right then and there. I looked at him and I said, ‘Mr. Ether, I just can’t do it. He’s like my young’un and like my family,’ and with that, Mr. Ether Smith put his arm around me and said, ‘Son, let me tell you something, and you listen. You have something special right there, and don’t you ever let anyone tell you different. I will teach you something else. As long as people are talking about you and your dog, you’ve got something. When they don’t talk about you, then you don’t have too much.’ Now, Vickie, I will remember those words as long as I breathe air and those words have helped me to handle lots of things in my life.
“You know, I was the sort that when people would talk about my dog, I would get mad and want someone to tell me to my face or not say anything at all, and after he said that to me, from then on I have always remembered that and it made me handle things much better.”
“Yes, I had someone tell me that, too, when I was young,” I recalled. “It must be a lesson that is passed on from generation to generation, and we should remember that, too!”
Ronnie agreed. Then he continued, “Mr. Paul Sheffield was very influential in my coon hunting life, too, and I hunted a few Walker dogs for him back then. And I remember when I came home from playing baseball, I went to playing softball locally for a while. That was before I went off for those couple of years. Well, Mr. Paul had a team he called Sheffield’s Trophies that was as good as any team around here in this part of the country. Now, there was a show in Vidalia coming up and this was when I was trying to get Shortstop to be finished out to a Grand Show Champion and I needed one more win.
“Now, Paul never touched much but a Walker dog, as you know. I remember he wanted me to play in a tournament somewhere, so I took that to my advantage. I told him, ‘I’ll make a deal with you. I want you to show Shortstop for me in that hunt over at Vidalia you are going to and then I’ll play ball for you in your tournament.’ Well, that was pretty strong for him, you know, but he took him and won the show and finished him out. I played ball for him and he came down there to where we were at, and I couldn’t stand it and I said, ‘How did you do’, and he looked at me long and hard like that was a stupid question and he said, ‘l took him, didn’t l?’ So, of course, he won with him. There were lots of folks that cut up with him a long time after that about him showing that red dog.
“Mr. Paul Sheffield taught me plenty about hunting. And Vickie, I am scared about leaving people out from this article. I’m afraid I won’t mention someone’s name that I should and when you’ve made as many friends as I hope I have; it is really hard to remember them all when talking like this. “
“Well, we’ll put that in here, then,” I said. “Certainly, it can be hard to think of everyone and everything you have done. Now, what about your ball playing? You’ve mentioned it several times by now.”
“Well, I started playing minor leagues in Jacksonville and I suppose you’d have to say I played both baseball and softball professionally before I left the game. I played some for the Kansas City Royals and the Boston Red Sox. After I came back from baseball, I got into the softball. I played for Thompson’s out of Savannah, and Steel’s Silver Bullets in Cleveland, Ohio at the same time – they were sort of affiliated if you get what I mean – and sometimes those teams played against each other and sometimes as one team. That was probably from 1984 through 1990, I’d say. You had to be a big stroker to play that caliber of the ball. It was Class A Super Elite Limited, and we didn’t play in many regular ballparks – the ones that were 280-290-300-foot parks – but bigger parks. I wanted to make it and so I worked out hard and took a year or two and got there and that’s what I wanted to do. I got my size and strength up and learned how to hit a ball. Now, I already knew something about that, but Vickie, there is an art to hitting a ball 400 feet out there. Some people can just walk up and do it, but not many. So you learn to hit and to put back rotation on a softball, and when you can do that, I don’t care if the wind is blowing 30 MPH in your face, if you hit the bottom half of that ball, it will spilt the wind as it goes out. I remember playing in South Carolina in a snowstorm and Tim Cramer was on the other team, in March one year and we were wearing double pairs of gloves it was so cold and nasty, and we were swinging aluminum bats in that weather, and I hit a ball 375 feet. I’ve hit a 400-plus foot ball into the upper deck of the Astrodome.”
“So, you started playing baseball right out of high school, and then went to softball?” I tried to sum things up.
“Yes, that’s about it. When I graduated from high school in 1974, I went to Jacksonville, Florida playing in the minor leagues and stayed at it through those other ball clubs I told you about until I quit playing on the competitive professional level in the early nineties.
“While I was playing professional softball in Savannah after baseball, I met a fellow named Bruce Simmons and we became friends and hunted together a lot. Between me being out of town much of the time for playing ball and flying around to different ball clubs on weekends, I stayed busy, but we hunted through the week. We had a dog out of Shortstop that we bought from Tripp King up in Dahlonega, Georgia. I believe she was out of a female of mine called Copeland’s Creek Red Peg and his registered name was Dual Grand Champion King’s Rooster Red, but we called him Copeland’s and Simmons’ Rooster and we won a lot of stuff with him.”
“How long did you and Bruce Simmons stay partnered up?” I asked.
“Well, Bruce phased out of the picture when I left Savannah and moved back home after I quit with softball, so I suppose that was about in the late eighties. Actually, I kept playing softball, but I didn’t live in Savannah anymore. I’d been through a nasty divorce by then and I moved back around home to be close to my boys. I played for a little while after that, but it just wasn’t fun anymore and it didn’t pay enough of the bills.
“And I remember I played a little church ball. All my life I’d been pretty darn good at the shortstop position – which is where my dog Shortstop got his name of course – and then I finally went from shortstop to third base, and in one game there was a line drive that went by me so fast that by the time I was diving for it the ball was hitting left field, and right then and there I said that it was time to hang it up.”
During this entire ball playing, Ronnie was becoming more serious about the Redbones. He met Curtis and Kathy Elburn, and Ronnie stated they became like family.
Said Copeland, “Curtis and I saw each other at Autumn Oaks in the early eighties, and he has the trophy from this, but anyway, we paired up for Pairs that year with my male Shortstop and his female, and we won Best Pairs at Oaks! We became good friends and Curtis would keep Shortstop up there during our hot summer months down here, and then when it would get too cold up there, we would do the reverse and I would bring him down here. So, Shortstop did so much winning because he was all around the country, and it just worked out to where we ran him all the time. He won lots of shows, too, like UKC World Show Champion Redbone, ACHA World Show Champion Redbone, PCA World Show Redbone, and he won many state shows, too.
“But above all, Shortstop was one of the first hounds to come along that had it all. He could leave the bench and go into the woods and perform against any dog and do well. He was a Nite Champion with just one win away from Grand. Curtis won a lot of things with him and I want him to get lots of credit.
“And Mr. Ted Baker, the man who had owned Baker’s Red Cassidy, Shortstop’s sire, helped me a lot with Shortstop. Remember, Russell Lee owned Cassidy at the time I bred Bonnie, though. I made that cross twice.
“Then I owned Shortstop Two that I sold to Jack McCracken in New York for about five thousand, which was a good bit of money. “Oh, and there always used to be the Brooks Magill Hunt in Winona, Mississippi – remember that hunt? It was in late winter, like around February or March, and Shortstop did well there. Nowadays, Pastor Mr. James Robinson invites about forty to fifty people and we have a fish fry, and everybody just goes hunting with different dogs; it’s just a friendly hunt now of all Redbone people, you know, like a fellowship hunt.”
“So, when did Dusty come along?” I wondered.
“Well, Dusty was born on July 4, 1994. So, let’s see. To answer that, I must talk about my boys some. Kevin is my oldest and he’s 29 now and has Copeland Electrical Contractors and has given me three grand boys and one granddaughter. He coon hunted for a while but likes deer hunting much better. Then there are Korey, now 23, and Kyle, 24. Korey, the youngest, likes coon hunting fine and he could be good if he took the notion, but right now he has another year of college and he’s still in school and he’s modeling, too, up there in Atlanta.
“Kyle is an engineer for the state and he is the main reason I’m back in this game and why I love what I do so much. Kyle is very competitive.” Ronnie paused – he saw my look. “Oh, you want me to get back to Dusty,” he laughed. “Well, all right then.”
He related that his boys were beginning to get into competition hunting, and they went to a qualifying hunt in Tifton and that night they drew out with Russell Lee, who owned a Redbone named Dusty at the time.
Says Ronnie, “After he put it on me that night when I thought I had a good dog, and especially after he told me who he was out of, because he sounded like him and looked like him – and that is Shortstop – well, I just had to have him. To make the long story short, I started trying to buy him and finally bought him at the Grand American in ’97. And we did some winning. Like the South Carolina State, and we took after the Purina Race with him but what happened was that he got sick and it cost us the Purina Race. We had Mike Wright, David Westbrook and Chuck Abbott all helping to handle him along with Kyle. And me, too.
“Dusty won 23 casts the year we ran Purina. Remember, back then you had to place high enough to get in the Top Ten to get points and it wasn’t like it is today when you can get points just for a cast win. Let’s see, we did well at National Bluetick Days at the 1999 Clay City, Indiana hunt and bench show; and Southern National Redbone Days, he was High Scoring Male on Friday night at Cedar Grove, North Carolina. He placed both nights in 1999 at the St. Jude hunt in the Top Twenty, and he qualified for the UKC World, and won Kansas State Redbone and High Scoring Redbone at the 1999 Winter Classic. And at the American Heritage Hunt in Paris, Texas in 2000, he was High Scoring Redbone Male, and Georgia State Redbone, and Georgia State Hall of Fame Redbone; and at Danville, Virginia, he was 1999 State High Scoring Redbone, and at the XVIII Bluetick Reunion hunt in Elizabethtown, Kentucky he was, too. And Louisiana State High Scoring Redbone.
“He was about three years old when I got him, and I bred a fairly good number of females – I believe IJKC has him at 191 puppies – but it mostly was private treaty and to mainly my females.
“But Dusty was killed, did you know about that? Kristi and I were headed to American Redbone Days in Batesville, Arkansas and a big semi-truck ran into the back of a truck behind us while we were stopped in traffic on 1-40 near Russellville, Arkansas. We were sitting still waiting in roadwork and the tractor trailer was slowing down, but he ran into that vehicle at about 20 MPH and when it in turn slammed into us it pushed us 75 to 100 feet down the interstate.
“The accident didn’t kill him right then, but it broke his neck in two places. That is when my back got messed up, too, and since then we’ve had about 300 to 400 thousand in surgeries done to my back and it will never be right. We were in the Tahoe and Dusty was in the back. I was driving, and my wife Kristi was in the passenger side. It was a tough situation for Dusty. He had too much trouble from his injuries and when he would even bark it would hurt him. He stayed alive for about six or seven months after that, but the vet said eventually his system would shut down, and it did. He is buried in a field here behind my place. Now I do have 22 females here for breeding and many of them are daughters and granddaughters of Dusty. “
Now, in the meantime, my daughter Britani and I traveled down to Jesup and took a memorable hunt on a ten-thousand-acre island out in the old Altamaha River. Ronnie’s dearest friend – a man he calls his brother – Donnie Keith, and Donnie’s son, Josh David, had a cabin on the mainland, and were equipped with all the necessary gear and gadgets to make such a thing happen, including a barge and a boat, and four-wheelers and a dog box on the island side. Also, along for the hunt were Ronnie, his wife Kristi and Kyle. The four dogs we turned loose included the Copeland dogs of Clyde, Deacon, Kate, and then Donnie and Josh’s dog, Rusty. So, we began talking of the current dogs.
“Vickie, you know, and most folks know, that I was gone for a while. I don’t like to talk about it much, but if doing so will help keep someone or someone’s young’un out of trouble, then it will be worth it. I guess you could say I have done a few things in my life and some were bad, and some were good, and I like to think you learn from your mistakes, you know what I’m saying. Nobody is proud of something like that, but many people do know about it. I do not look at life the same as when that happened to me. What got me through it was that my family came always to see me, on a regular basis, and I called home every day. And through it all, one thing that happens is you learn to cherish the good things. I got in some trouble and I’m not the same man I was back then, and I feel blessed to have a good family and my boys and my wife and my good friends, and the good Lord is taking care of me.
“And basically, the boys got this Clyde dog while I was gone. Kyle called and said, ‘Daddy, I think we found a dog,’ and I asked him to tell me about him and to send pictures to me. Well, we bought him from Shane and Mike Groves of Blazer Lights, and he was about 15 to 16 months old. We bought him with a two-week trial for a good bit of money plus two puppies from him. Kyle and Korey drove to Salisbury, North Carolina to Southeastern in 2003, and if you remember, that was the year of that big snowstorm up there and when they got there to pick him up, the people had him tied out in the snow.
“Kyle told me how he looked so pitiful, little and skinny and he wondered what they have driven all the way up there for, but they went ahead and got him. Now they told me he was treeing, when they first got him back, but basically for two solid weeks he ran armadillos down here in South Georgia. Those boys of mine, Kyle and Korey, got him turned around pretty good. In the meantime, some truth came out about what had happened to me and put me away and that got me released early and I came home on October 6, 2004. We started from there with Clyde. The boys had worked him hard and we got him totally broke off armadillos and deer and other junk we have down here, and I saw lots of potential in him. He is a direct son of Harry Oumedian’s Yellow River Huck. Kelley Hyde owned Clyde’s mother, and her name is Grand Nite Champion Sawblade Fiddle. Joe Melton that owned Fireball – and he also has contributed to the success of the Redbone breed – had something to do with him, too. That is where he came from.
“As much as Clyde has won, we pushed, and I knew what it took to get to the top. He was High Scoring Redbone at the Georgia State in December that year, and that was the start of the competition part of the history with Clyde and Kyle, although some others have helped handle him also. He won the 2005 Redbone part of the Purina Race. And that first year we were running him in the hunts, it took forever to get the first place to finish him to Nite Champion. There is no telling how many seconds and thirds he had. He took first place at the 2005 Georgia State Hunt and finally finished out to Nite Champion and was High Scoring Redbone at the Hall of Fame Hunt in Georgia, and we went after the Purina title and finished him to Grand Nite by winning 23 of 25 casts.
“You know, all you can do is win your cast. He is a Dual Grand now and has sired 100-plus pups and he is throwing super dogs. He is the total package.
“What about this Kate dog I’ve been hearing about that we have along tonight?” I asked.
“Kyle left to go to the AKC World hunt that weekend so I had to stay here. Ryan Beasley and his girlfriend, Ashley Smith, also headed up to the UKC World Show because we had two dogs qualified that they planned to show, and Ashley – she has never shown before, believe it or not – beat Ryan with one of our dogs! We just got her back from Kay Thompson. Mike Seets has helped me out, too. Kay bred her female to Clyde, and Ryan got her back. I think our dog, Jenny, is the youngest dog to ever win that title at the UKC World Show.
“But, anyway, back to Kyle. They went up to Warsaw, Indiana, and he won the Redbone part of the AKC World, although he did not get in the Top 16. However, he did get in on Monday night and got to Thursday night, but he didn’t win that night. So, he left at 1 a.m. and drove home straight through because Kate was just $19 short from a ticket to the PKC Nationals. I remember he pulled up at 5:30 p.m. and Bo Scurry and I took off and went to Baxley to a hunt down there at Paul’s and she won $95 or $104 or something like that to do it! You know, that’s pretty good for a dog that has just been hauled all the way from Indiana.”
“Where did Kate come from?” “Okay, Donnie and I went to the Grand American, and you know we have a booth in the stud barn, and Donnie was looking for a good female and I found her, one that Kane Rudd had, and her name is Rudd’s Hillbilly Kate. I knew she was good, and we paid a good bit for her, like three or four thousand, and she was as good as we thought. Then about a year ago, Donnie went through a divorce and he called me and asked me if I wanted to buy her.
“Vickie, basically, everything I have belongs to me and Kyle. She is Lester Greene’s Hillbilly Brandy and Stepp’s Alarka Creek Sally bred. One thing that made this so good is that before we bought her, Kyle kept talking about wanting to draw out with her. Then one night at a local PKC hunt, Kyle and Josh, Donnie’s son, drew out together and Josh had never been in a hunt before. He beat Kyle and Clyde that night with Kate! Since then, Kyle beat Jet 8 with her at American Redbone Days. She has won a lot of stuff for Kyle. She was born in 1999 and is seven or eight years old but she doesn’t act her age.” “What about this Deacon dog?” I pushed.
“Okay, Kristi and I purchased Deacon last October. She drove all night to Ohio, and we bought him from Rob and Katina Childers. He is a grandson of Dusty and a direct son of Razor Red, the dog that beat Dusty on that Purina Race. Deacon’s mother is Sidearm Little Red Riding Hood, and she was a daughter of Dusty. This had a lot to do with me buying him. I remember when Kristi saw Deacon, she said “I’ve got to have some of that.” I’ll never forget how she said that!
“Deacon needs three more wins to Grand Nite and he is already a Grand Show Champion. We’re really getting some nice young pups from Deacon. Really, we are very blessed to have two good stud dogs at this time. Clyde and Deacon are both four years old.”
And how did the most active coon hunting Copeland son get started? Kyle told me he was in the woods when he was barely old enough to walk. “Vickie, I’d often fall asleep in the truck, but when the dogs treed, Dad would carry me on his back into the tree. I -loved it. Then, whenever I was about six or seven, I stopped hunting for a while and started back when I was ten or eleven. I hunted Walker dogs too and was in my first competition hunt when I was thirteen years old. I hunted a dog for Kerry Rooks that you remember was Redhot Alf, and I sold that dog to him. He was Copeland/Rooks Redhot Alf. We won the Alabama State and the Brooks Magill Memorial Hunt as High Scoring Opposite Sex and I guess a lot of small hunts around here. Then I went to playing baseball and roping and was out of hunting for a few years. Now I am back in and more serious than ever. I am competitive and I like to win. That is the reason I coon hunt, period. And I love the sportsmanship of it, which I have seen a lot of at the bigger hunts, contrary to what people hear, and I’ve really enjoyed the honor sportsmanship of it.”
“Well, you’ve really been doing well with Kate,” I observed. “Besides winning the Redbone part of the AKC World Hunt, didn’t you go up to Autumn Oaks and win big there, too, this year?”
“Yes, I won National Grand Nite Redbone with Kate this year. Ryan Beasley, who dad mentioned earlier, lives with me, and we went up there. We go on the road a lot together. I want to win and I’m going to keep at it, and right now it is with the Redbones and with my dad.”
And folks, that sums it up. Copeland’s Redhot Kennels has developed into a family affair, and the closeness of this family is readily evident – all you must do is pay attention. Ronnie is deeply tuned in to the blessings in life and he readily shares those thoughts with anyone who will listen. And he’s as dedicated to the hounds as ever, with big plans for more breeding and competing and winning with those Redbones he loves so much. He has obligations he’s made for himself, such as to Howard K. Smith of Smith’s Cohay Creek Redbones in Mize, Mississippi, a man who suffered a heart attack and doesn’t hunt much anymore but is about to get a puppy from Ronnie, with Redbone roots going back to the cross of Cassidy and Bonnie. Add the efforts he’s put into a fenced sixty-acre training facility with more plans for expansion, and his efforts to keep his Redbone line alive and well with Dusty going back to Shortstop and Deacon as a grandson of Dusty, and he’s got his hands, and his life, full to the brim.
And on this very cold south Georgia night, with the temperature well below freezing – cold for these parts – on the island paradise out in the old Altamaha, the red dogs ran some hot tracks and some cold tracks and treed several coon in excellent red dog fashion, amongst the whitetail and wild hog and alligator sign all over the island. When Britani and I left in the wee hours, we received an open invitation from the Keith’s to return for another hunt – on a place like that, with nice folks, who could ever turn that down? We are already looking forward to it…