Three days after her departure from the Jonesboro Sun, Maria won a first place award for a general interest column at the annual Arkansas Press Association convention.
Hers was the only entry from the Sun to win a first place award.
She sent me a copy of the column to proof back on Feb. 3, 2012 which remains in my email folder. The version that ran in the paper may be been slightly tweaked, but this is the essence of her award-winning work:
By Maria Flora
Freddie Coggins and his coon hounds had no more than started hunting Jan. 16 when a man in a truck ran over Trixie.
It was a customized white truck with large tires and may have been a Dodge. And if you see it, Freddie would appreciate you telling police. He’d seen the truck before in the neighborhood of Craighead Roads 955 and 954 where he and the dogs were hunting that night, but he doesn’t know the driver. And it was dark when Freddie whooped him, but he thinks he’s seen that boy before.
Freddie said he didn’t get the model and license number because he wanted to get to Trixie, who had crawled off into a ditch when the ruckus broke out — three against one, with Freddie the victor if you don’t count poor Trixie.
“It looked like her whole back end was broken,” he said. It was Trixie’s first birthday.
“It was just a kind of a bad night of hunting,” Freddie said. “I had just turned them loose not five minutes before.” They got back in Freddie’s truck when the fight was over and went off to tend to Trixie’s wounds. No coons lost their lives to Freddie that Monday night.
It was after 7 p.m. and dark, Craighead County Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron Davis’ reported.
Freddie said he didn’t realize Trixie was in the road when he saw the truck speeding toward him. “The guy was driving way too fast. I was flashing him my (spot) light to slow him down,” Freddie said.
After the driver ran clear over Trixie, Freddie waved for him to stop and was, no doubt, behaving a little aggravated. But what happened next surprised him.
“He got out and got in my face and jumped on me,” Freddie said. The driver in his early 20s smelled like he’d been riding around and throwing a few back.
“It was unbelievable. The guy runs over your dog and wants to fight,” Freddie said.
Now, the young men in my office doubt some of Freddie’s account of what happened from this point, but my money is on the 46-year-old man whose dog was just run over and who was just attacked, compared to some drunk 20-somethings. If you doubt it, run over an older man’s hunting dog and please tell me what happens next.
In Freddie’s case, we have his word and a police report and nothing from the bruised dog abuser. So I’m going with Freddie’s account, which is pretty entertaining. I called him myself last week.
And I’ll tell you up front I’m having a good time with this story. You’ll have to decide yourself if it was really a 2x4 board that hit Freddie, or if the second boy whacked him with something else at hand, but after talking to Freddie, it’s clear something deliciously fun took place, and the deputy recorded an injury that looked like Freddie was hit by a 2x4. So you can fill in your own blanks and substitute one detail for another if you want because it went quick and in the dark, and details can get a little fuzzy. These stories tend to grow with the telling, which is half the fun.
But Freddie’s account goes something like this:
The first young man got out of the truck and took a swing at Freddie. “And I set to wailin on ’em.”
At some point a second young man got out of the truck and came at Freddie. “I didn’t know there were any more in the truck,” Freddie said.
“Somebody hit me with a two-by-four, and I set to wailing on ’em. He never did hit me again, but I beat ’em down into the road.”
Freddie had the two on the ground and was still kicking and stomping when he saw the truck cab light come on and a third young man starting to get out.
Freddie told the boy he’d get what his friends got if he stepped out of that truck, and the boy said “yes sir” and stayed put.
In a bit Freddie told the third boy he could scoop up his friends off the ground if he wanted to, which he did. And they drove off as Freddie went to see to Trixie, who he was sure was dying of her wounds. And he called police to report the assault that turned upside down Freddie’s aggressors. The deputy confirmed something had happened to Freddie, and Trixie.
Freddie took Trixie to the vet Friday because she was still passing a little blood, but she’s expected to be just fine, he said. But she’ll probably be shy about trucks now.
Freddie hasn’t seen that truck again, although he’s still watching. He’d like to let police know who they are. “But,” as he put it, “they still got a lesson.”
We later learned that Trixie had to be put down because of her injuries and that arrests were made. The local postmaster told me that Freddie liked the column so much he had it laminated and carries it around with him.