Animals In Appalachia Appalachia


rabies in Appalachia

Rabies written by Larry Griffith

As a boy in the early 1950’s I lived on Squirrel Run in Elliot Co. KY. It was called squirrel run because their were so many of them. A man by the name of Johnson lived on the farm in the 1870’s and 1880’s and paid a bounty on them because they were eating his crops. There is still plenty of squirrels and animals we didn’t have back then like turkey, deer, coyotes, and an occasional bear. One thing we did have was mad dogs.

The old house we lived in sat high on one side and low on the other side with the windows low. It made you feel like something was going to jump through one of those low windows. Dad worked away in Detroit which left Mom, baby brother, a brother 1 yr. younger than me, and myself for Mom to take care of. Us boys were too young to be of help so everything fell on her.

My brother and me played out all the time. We really enjoyed gathering beech nuts, and storing them in the Doan pill containers, playing with the puppies, and running our tootle models. The tootle models were nothing but big brushy limbs we drug on the dirt road to make the dust fly. This is just a guess but we must have heard the older folks talk of T-model Fords. Another thing we did was pour sand down the yellow jacket nests. That was a sport to us, and sometimes we got stung. The best thing we had was our pet dog Ole Buddy. I believe he was part shepherd and was our constant companion.

At night dogs would get under the house and fight. Mom would take the little 22 single shot rifle and shoot through the floor. I don’t know if she ever hit one, but they would leave. I remember one time her shooting at one out the front door with the single barrel 12 gauge. There was much rabies at the time.

Henry Salyers lived about half mile up the gravel road and he would come down of the mornings with his big double barrel shotgun and check things out. I don’t remember him finding any dead dogs or mad dogs but his coming made us feel better.

Dad quit his job in Detroit and came home. He got a job cutting virgin white oak about 2 miles up the holler we lived in. Dad told me a few years ago that some of the white oaks were over 3 foot through.

One day the owner of the timber company, a preacher from TN, was driving down the holler and Mom waved him over to the house and gave him the shotgun and shells. Ole Buddy was mad. He shot and killed him there in the road while we watched. I think he was trying to drink out of a mud hole. Dad came home from work, took the shotgun and killed all the puppies. He wouldn’t let us watch but we heard the shots.

All of us had to take rabies shots. I don’t remember all the details, but we went many times to the doctor’s office. The shots hurt and my brother and me tried to get away from the nurse, but they always caught us.

Oh, I just thought about the new dog Dad got us. He looked just like Ole Buddy and we named him Buddy too. He was an ill natured thing and wouldn’t let you near him while eating and didn’t want to be petted. He was not Ole Buddy!


Larry sent me the story about Ole Buddy a few months back. I was reminded of it this past week when a friend’s daughter was bit by a dog thought to be rabid. Not only do those shots hurt they are expensive too! I always heard a man down the road had rabies as a child and survived it. Most folks who told the story would end it by saying and that’s why he’s crazy as a loon.

I also read a scary account of a fox attacking a man who was sitting on his porch last week in GA. As violent as the attack was described I’m positive it would have killed a child or someone who was more feeble than the man who fought it off.

Anothony Cavender offers the following information about rabies in the book Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia.

“Many Southern Appalachians believed that snakes and dogs were particularly dangerous during the dog days of summer, when snakes became aggressive and dogs went mad. Remedies for snake and mad-dog bites were essentially the same. Magical cures for mad-dog bites were killing the dog, pulling out one of its teeth, and placing it under a rock; placing the hip bone of a deer on the wound; and killing a chicken, extracting its gizzard, and then hiding it. Another remedy was to kill the rabid dog and apply some of its hair to the wound (thus the phrase “hair of the dog that bit you,” which is used today in reference to a hangover cure in which one drinks some of the same alcoholic beverage that one got drunk from). “


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  • Reply
    Mel H.
    May 25, 2017 at 1:08 am

    Down here(NE GA.) the term was: “hyder-phoby”…..

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    May 24, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    How could I forget to thank Larry Griffith for sharing this story and to you for passing it on to us as well.
    Thanks Tipper
    and Larry

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    May 24, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    You can correct or not….but that is supposed to be over 300,000,000 dollars spent on rabies, etc. I also noticed several other errors in my comment…getting old I guess or not!
    I had researched this very thing when discussing the fact that they changed what was required in our county the times for rabies short 1yr, 2yr, 3yr or 5yr. with our vet…He said he just goes with what the county says or recommends or what has been voted on by the state! I asked how long a vaccination really lasts. He went on to say that it seems like it would last like a vaccination in humans etc…He is the one that told me that no one really knows if one shot lasts the lifetime of the dog as studies are just now being done on that very thing…and actually these shots for some breeds of dogs/cats can be harmful to their health…By the way the shot for 3years cost as much as a shot for 1 year…Hummm, ponder, ponder!
    I called the vet one time, thinking that a new puppy might have rabies as it was foaming at the mouth and spitting up…She said, “Didn’t we vaccinate your dog for rabies?” Yes, I said. Your puppy may have Parvo virus…it was yet too young for shots…Sure enough that is what it was…and it didn’t make it…the other pups did OK…but got shots earlier than was recommended due to our outside puppies being exposed to Parvo…Parvo has been rampant around these parts…stays in the soil for a long time the vet told us!
    Not all dogs foam at the mouth until the rage stage and just before being consumed by the disease!…Some have a form of rabies, as one vet told us, is called sleeping rabies…very skeery!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Barbara Gantt
    May 24, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Rabies is so scary. I grew up hearing that rabies was a hot summer problem. It is still cool here in Vermont. We have had a coon, a fox and a cat killed and tested to have rabies in our small town. Yesterday, there was a story on a Boston TV station about a rabid fox that bit three people last weekend. Barbara

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 24, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    The Pressley Girls have 5 new uploads on their Youtube channel. I don’t see that many views yet. We all need to listen, like them, subscribe to them and get behind them.

  • Reply
    May 24, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    I enjoyed all that talk about Rabies in our Mountains. That really did happen! We had dogs all our lives growing up and never encountered a Mad Dog or Rabies. I remember when Daddy took all three of our Girls dogs up to a big Sawdust pile and pecked ’em in the head with a Clawhammer. Them boogers just couldn’t resist killing our Chickens. Their names were Ring, Bounce, and Brownie and daddy buried all three in that Sawdust pile. …Ken

  • Reply
    May 24, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    One of my very first memories was having a cow go “mad” and the whole family had to take the rabies shots. We had to take 14 shots, one each day. I think the older members of the family got their shots in different large muscles, but since I was so small mine were given in my tummy. I insisted that the nurse give my shots. Actually I got stuck 15 times; I suppose I resisted and one of them got messed up. It was a very stressful time for our family. That spring there were a lot of rabid foxes.
    I enjoy reading the comments of others, for even though we live miles apart, we have so much in common.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 24, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    One year, must have been about 1963 or 64, my friend Beanie’s uncle Lloyd had a fine corn crop coming on but the squirrels was eaten it up. He told Beanie and me that he would supply us with guns and shells if we would get rid of them. Now that is like an invitation to the Inaugural Ball to a couple of teenage mountain boys. So the next morning bright and early we head out with shotguns on our shoulders and our pockets full of 12 gauge shells. Each of us had a tow sack because we knew we were going to kill some squirrels. We weren’t wrong!
    We settled down near the edge of the field next to the woods and waited. After a few minutes we heard rustling sounds and began to see cornstalks shaking. Ka-boom, down falls one squirrel and others run everywhere. Go pick him up and put him in the sack. Settle back down, maybe they will come back. Few minutes, more rustling and shaking, Ka-boom another one in the sack and the rest scatter. We are sitting back to back so we don’t shoot each other so I might have one lined up and Beanie would cut loose.
    This went on all morning and we were running out of ammo so we took a break and rearmed ourselves. We didn’t figure the squirrels would be out in the middle of the day but we went back anyway. Apparently squirrels don’t have a good sense of time because the cornfield was full of them when we got back. We got back into the routine and killed squirrels until we got tired of killing squirrels and then killed some more. Then long about 5 o’clock we decided they were sprouting faster than we could mow them down so we decided to call it quits.
    I counted 27 in my sack and Beanie had way more than I did. (Actually I don’t know that he killed more than me because I got to putting some of mine in his sack, when he wasn’t looking, knowing we had to lug them out of there.) We took them to Uncle Lloyd and he thanked us for killing them but said he didn’t want to mess with them. We tried to give them to everybody in the neighborhood and nobody wanted them. We took them to Grammaw’s house and she said (I can still hear it!) “You get them things away from here. Don’t you know they’ve got wolves in them?” “No Grammaw, there ain’t no wolves in here. It’s all squirrels!” We ended up dumping all of them over the road bank. I’ll bet the possums had a picnic for a few days there.
    Uncle Lloyd had told us to come back the next day but I didn’t. I don’t know if Beanie did or not. I didn’t even ask him. I had had my fill of squirrel hunting. It has lasted me until this very day.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    May 24, 2017 at 11:16 am

    This is one of my nightmares!! Mama used to tell us about dogs going mad and about a man who got rabies and walked around the community. He could never come in because people were moping the floors and he couldn’t stand the water.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 24, 2017 at 10:51 am

    “Mad dogs foam at the mouth.”
    “Mad dogs go blind so if you dodge out of the way they won’t see you and bite you.”
    “Mad dogs are afraid of water. They won’t drink if you offer it to them. If you have some water all you need to do is throw it on one and it will run from you. If one gets after you, all you need to do is jump across a branch or creek. I reckon that’s why they call it hidrofoby. Some just calls it rabies, it’s the same thing.”
    “I heard about this boy one time that got bit by a mad dog. He went mad too and tried to bite people. It was too late for him to get the shots. They had to lock him in a room. They tried to give him food and water but he wouldn’t eat or drink and died.”
    “They give you them rabies shots in the stomach. It has to be a great big long needle because they stick it all the way through your belly into your backbone. You have to take one shot ever day for 14 days. I hear it’s awful!”

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    May 24, 2017 at 10:42 am

    I have always been afraid of Rabies…Back in the fifties a cute little black cocker spaniel look alike, from the children’s book Dick and Jane, got hit by a car and wandered into our yard…The tire just brushed his head and shoulder, but I am sure he was very sore as it rested under a tree. My parents attempted to find the owner and we were told to leave the dog alone that it didn’t seem all that hurt…no cuts or blood and was walking…and it would probably go on back where it lived to his owner. Of course days passed and he stayed. My brother was playing with him and patted his shoulder and he snapped and bit my brother…Panic set in…the doctor recommended rabies shots and we have the dog confined for several days…Everything went well, the dog wasn’t rabid but my brother had to take the whole series of rabies shots in the belly and he said they hurt…My Dad said after all that work and trouble the dog was coming back home with us…He became the best pet for my brothers following them to the creek when fishing, on paper routes and to school…
    Rabies was always talked about after vaccinations to protect animals was required by the government…Every year about this time, stories of rabies sightings occur. Only it seems when it is time for the local annual rabies clinics….Raccoons then Skunks then bats seem nowadays to be the carriers…Back in the day we were warned of foxes, dogs and cats…Only two to three people die or rabies a year nowadays…I think the dropping of rabies protection baits by helicopter in more rural areas really work for the wild animals to help control the disease…I haven’t heard of this being done in a while…rabies is costs are over three hundred thousand dollars…and profitable for some. I have heard that some rabies shots are not necessary every year, especially if they have had regular vaccines for a couple of years. Our dog had a shot one year that lasted three years…then all of a sudden the county decided the next year to require yearly shots…Ponder on this one….
    I am more afraid of rabid bats…A woman died a few years ago near the plateau from handling a bat, bitten and contracted rabies…
    Cudjo, the movie about the rabid St. Bernard was my most memorable rabies movie besides Old Yeller! Yep, and I remember kids during the fifties yelling…”MAD DOG” if someone saw a strange dog! Memories abound!
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    May 24, 2017 at 9:16 am

    My Mother told of having to take round of shots for rabies when she was small. I wish I had asked more questions, because that must have been an ordeal back then just getting her back and forth to doctor.
    In the last few years I had read a story where a child had taken a cute little raccoon to a country church, and the other children were petting it. The raccoon had rabies, and all the children had to get the shots. This is not on the subject, but another scary thing was Tetanus or Lockjaw. In those days most did not survive “Lockjaw.” Dad talked about a cousin who survived Tetanus. Childhood was full of danger, and I stepped on many rusty nails as did my siblings. We children were blissfully unaware of all the dangers, as we flipped head first over bicycle handlebars. No helicopter parents back then!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 24, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Never had any brushes with rabies, thought it was a concern every year. I heard the stories of dogs whose eyes turned green and disposition turned mean. We shut up a dog in a barn stall once because my Dad thought he might have been bit by a rabid animal. As best I recall, he was not rabid.

  • Reply
    May 24, 2017 at 9:06 am

    I was bitten by a dog when I was 5 years old, and went through the rabies shot series. I don’t recall them being real painful. My father killed the dog, so supposedly he couldn’t be tested for rabies. I was near the dog while he was eating so I guess he felt threatened. He was a new pet we had gotten only a few days earlier.

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    May 24, 2017 at 8:12 am

    Growing up in Northern Illinois, I knew that animals could get rabies and you had to get these terrible shots if you got bit by a dog with it. I also remember my parents talking about growing up down South where they used the term “Mad Dog” with much scarier stories. I think my grandparents as well as other people were very afraid of this disease and rightly so. Probably dogs were killed that did not have rabies but were sick with something else. It was just too dangerous to take a chance.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    May 24, 2017 at 8:02 am

    It seems like rabies is part of rural life and imagination. I think of Old Yeller and To Kill a Mockingbird. But, this story and yesterday’s post makes me think about how our environments change. My Great Uncle talks about how they nearly hunted out the squirrels in Spud Run and the deer had long been gone. Now, the place is teeming with them. And coyotes. I’d never even seen a coyote until I moved out west. Now, my parents have to give their dogs medicine to keep them from getting some disease dogs get from coyote urine. My brother bought a mini-14 and regularly shoots coyote that stray on his property around my niece’s fair rabbits. Although, I think he just wanted an excuse to get a mini-14.
    It makes you wonder what my grandkid’s world will look like.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    May 24, 2017 at 7:56 am

    Rabies are scary, even now.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 24, 2017 at 7:15 am

    Gruesome stories and gruesome remedies! I’ve heard about rabies but never was around where any animals had it. Thanks, Larry, for the story. It a glimpse into life in the mountains.

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