Saturday, March 1, 2014
The Axehandle Hound
This week's been a slow one on BeastPedia -- I've been extremely busy, and haven't been able to write as much as I'd have liked. It was much to my surprise, then, when yesterday's post resulted in more views than I'v ever seen on this blog. I guess you all like fearsome critters! As an apology for my slack posting, I'll send a couple more your way before moving back to cryptids. Today, I bring you the Axehandle Hound.
Thousands of years ago, humans domesticated the wolf-- more or less by accident. Wolves skirted the edges of our campfires, picking up scraps of meat and feeding on our garbage. Over the centuries, they lost their fear of humankind and became fairly easy to tame. The result was man's best friend -- the household dog. The Axehandle Hound, according to lumberjack folktales, got its start the same way. This doglike critter frequents the edges of logging camps in search of food to steal.
But there's one big difference between this creature and the wolf. Wolves feed on meat, but Axehandle Hounds eats... wait for it... axe handles. This makes them a great nuisance for lumberjacks, whose tools the critters would destroy. Axehandle Hounds are said to prefer the Peavey brand, and detest handles made of red oak. This latter quirk is a handy one. A foolish lumberjack, so the story goes, once domesticated a Hound. But he had lost his leg in a logging accident, and used a wooden axe-handle to replace it. His pet continually gnawed on the thing, until he fed it a piece of red oak and it ran away.
The story of the Axehandle Hound is a strange one, full of inside references to lumberjack culture. Clearly, it was invented to explain the loss of axe handles -- an extremely common event. After all, they were made of wood and their heads fell off easily. When dropped on the ground, they were nearly indistinguishable from any other stick in the forest. Why do Axehandle Hounds prefer the Peavey brand? Because lumberjacks did, regarding it as superior and using it with great frequency. Since more Peavey axes were used, more Peavey axe-handles were lost. According to joking woodsmen, it must have been the hound.
Red oak handles, on the other hand, were largely regarded as useless. A lumberjack spent hours every day working with his axe -- it was his main tool and source of livelihood. The quality of that axe was thus very important, and a weak handle simply would not do. Red oak was an "inferior" wood -- theoretically, it wasn't strong enough to bear an axe head. Handles made of this material were therefore spurned.
Read more about the Axehandle Hound:
Image (public domain) from http://www.lumberwoods.com/images/axehandlehound_small.png