A favorite book of mine is “Old Limber” or The Tale of the Taylors (Delong Rice, McQuiddy Printing Co., 1921). The small-sized 88-page volume speaks of a famed Walker hound once owned by Alf Taylor, former governor of Tennessee. The witty prose emulates that of Alf’s brother, Bob, also a Tennessee governor:
“Alf could not take the thousands in his audiences to the mountains; so he must bring the mountains to them. By the magical power of description, he lifted upon their enchanted views the blue and lofty peaks, drew out the long a sloping ridges and laid the river-threaded valleys. And when he has veiled them all with the silver sheen of moonlight, he blew the horn of fancy and out from their kennels came a third of a hundred hounds, each individual, except one, bearing some noted name.
“There was Alexander and Bonaparte and Bismarck and Lincoln and Grant and Thomas Jefferson (for Ben is a Democrat and would have his representation). There was a Caruso and a Patti and a Jenny Lind, which latter names were, perhaps, the most appropriate, for these dogs were singers – all.
“But the greatest of the troupe was “Old Limber,” a direct descendant of that mysterious tramp dog of unknown lineage, which old man Walker had found in the woods of West Tennessee eighty years ago. And still the picture grew under the spell of the speaker. The neighbors gathered and with them was Uncle Ace, the proud valet of the dogs and dusky musician to the camps of the clan.
“And they hied to the crest of a ridge, which lies on a nocturnal circuit of the foxes and release the chafing pack. There was the soft rataplan of feet as the dogs were lost in the shadows, turning for a little while the keys of silence until the strings of expectancy were taut; then intermittently, they thrummed the hills, as when a fiddler tunes his fiddle.”
A reader sent me several pages from The International Fox Hunter’s Stud Book, Volume II, (S.L. Wooldridge, Keeper of Records, The Chase Publishing Company, 1923). The volume offers an interesting look into the world of dog breeding. The names vary from the mundane to the atypical; some dogs even have two names. Limber’s parents and offspring can be found in the list:
“Taylor’s “Ole Limber” 2180 – Nat G. Taylor, Johnson City, Tenn., owner and breeder. (Walker) BW&T dog. Whelped June 29, 1915. By Limber (Taylor) out of Sail (Taylor); Sail by Ginger our of Mary Jones; Ginger by Tomcat out of Queen; Mary Jones by Dug out of Trilby; Tomcat by Jaybird out of Fan; Queen by Rout out of Fury; Dug by Harbinger out of Alice; Trilby by Raider out of Vic; Jaybird by Red Sam out of Mag; Fan by Minch out of Old Fan; Rout by Clark out of Spring; Fury by Bohannon’s Ginger out of Kate; Harbinger by Imp. Harbinger out of Belle; …
“Alice by Ed Walker out of Lot; Raider by Don out of Blk. Fan; Vic by Raider out of Tuck; Limber by Duke out of Kate; Duke by Gordon out of April; Kate by Buster out of Frances; Gordon by Phil out of Phoebe; April by Scrape out of Meck; Buster by Arp out of Phoebe; Frances by Don out of Tex; Phil by Arp out of Lill; Phoebe by Joe White out of Nancy; Scrape by Troupe out of Linda; Meck by Bally out of Emma; Arp by Joe out of Charmer; Phoebe by Joe White out of Nancy; Don by Rock out of Lucy; and Tex by Scrape out of Bones.”
Alf Taylor’s beloved canine has long been silenced, but tales of his celebrated hunting exploits still permeate local history books. “Old Limber” will not be forgotten, at least as long as this writer is around.