This is a simple story and easy enough to tell.
An old man named Hyder Simpson and his hound-dog Rip are going on a nighttime coon hunt. His wife Rachel warns him that she’s had premonitions and that he shouldn’t go but he tells her not to fret and heads out after supper.
During the night, Rip trees a coon but the varmint escapes into the creek and even with Hyder warning the dog off, Rip jumps in the creek where he is dragged under by the raccoon. Hyder jumps in to save Rip but neither of them resurfaces even after we see the coon swim away and escape.
The next morning, we see Simpson and Rip sleeping on the bank of the creek. Hyder doesn’t remember much of the night but tells Rip they’re both going to catch hell from Rachel. While heading home they reach two of his neighbors burying a box on Simpson’s property. He questions them about it and even threatens them with his rifle but they seemingly ignore him and talk about the dog they are burying and how he will be missed. Hearing that they are burying a beloved dog he assumes they are overwhelmed with grief and unable to speak to him so he moves on toward home.
When he gets back to his cabin, he finds Rachel in her mourning dress and the local parson trying to comfort her over Hyder’s death. Simpson can’t make them hear him and soon we see the pallbearers removing his coffin from the bedroom and heading out toward the church yard. Hyder follows behind them to find out what is going on. But suddenly he finds himself and Rip separated from the funeral procession by a wooden fence that he’s never seen before. He follows the fence to find a way around it to the churchyard. After following it for a long while he reaches a gateway in the fence with a guard building. He calls out and an attendant approaches and starts asking Hyder some questions. Hyder answers them casually but when the man asks Hyder how he died, they get into a dispute. Simpson tells him that he’s certainly not dead and the man tells him that if he weren’t dead, he couldn’t be where he is now and that this was the gateway to the Elysian Fields. Hyder asks him why he can’t hear the singing and the harp music and the man says that he’ll hear it once he crosses the gateway. Looking in Hyder can see some smoke coming around a curve in the road. The gatekeeper invites him to come in but when Hyder tries to get a reluctant Rip to enter with him the gatekeeper tells him that dogs are not allowed.
Hyder protests and says he won’t go anywhere where Rip isn’t welcome and he questions how they can have coon hunts in heaven without dogs. The gatekeeper says there aren’t any coon hunts in heaven. This settles things and Hyder says that he’s not going in and will continue down the road. The gatekeeper tells him that there is nothing down the infinite road to nowhere. But Hyder moves on.
A way down the road Hyder sits down with Rip and talks about his confusion at their predicament. Coming down the road from the direction they were heading is a young man dressed as a country cousin to Mr. Simpson. He asks for Simpson and Rip by name and explains that he is an angel sent to find him and bring him to the gates of heaven. When Hyder tells him about his recent experience at the gate the angel tells him that wasn’t heaven it was hell. And the reason that they don’t allow dogs is because dogs can smell the brimstone and refuse to enter. “He tells Hyder, “A man will walk into Hell with his eyes open but even the Devil can’t fool a dog.” Heading now to Heaven he asks the angel if they have coon hunts and is told that there will be one that night right after the square dance. When Hyder says he wishes Rachel could attend the angel tells him not to worry, that she would be there soon and that she wouldn’t have any trouble avoiding Hell.
Hyder is played by Arthur Hunnicutt, an Arkansan who made a career in Hollywood playing hillbillies. This is a sentimental fantasy that plays on the heartstrings of anyone who ever had a favorite dog, especially a hound. It’s one of the goofy ones but I’m a sucker for dog stories. B+