coon v, hence vbl n cooning [ coon n]
1 intr and in phr coon it (rarely ~ oneself, ~ one’s way); also with across, down, up, etc: To crawl, climb, or clamber awkwardly using all four limbs; to pull oneself along with one’s hands while straddling something; also, less freq, tr: to traverse or climb (something) in this way. chiefly Sth, Midl, but appar widespread in jargon of certain occupations
1828 Cherokee Phoenix (New Echota GA) 10 Apr /2, I have myself cooned a log. 1834 Pike Prose Sketches 77, Irwin . . was obliged to straddle the log, and as they quaintly call it in the west, ‘Coon it across.’ 1845 Vicksburg Daily Whig (MS) 4 Oct /5, So the doctor commenced chasing the bed “on all-fores,” and by dint of hard “cooning,” and a little assistance from his wife he eventually succeeded in getting between the sheets. [DARE Ed: The doctor is drunk.] 1855 Spirit of Times 25.80/1 cnKY, So getting [a] plank. . , I rested it against the eave of the shed, pulled off my shoes, put them in my pocket, and then ‘cooned up.’ 1858 White Cloud KS Chief 15 July /3, The other clung to the wall . . until the crash was over, when he “cooned it” around to a place where he could get down. 1866 Republican Banner (Nashville TN) 22 Aug /2, Indeed, Mr. D. was too badly corned to turn the corner, and was in the act of “cooning” it in that direction, when the Law trod on him. 1883 Overland Mth. (2d ser) 2.447 [Black], You knows how thick de bark grows on dem big cotton-woods; well, I jist hugged to it and cooned down. 1885 Hobart Recollections 397 Upper Missip Valley, He “cooned” himself over the log and woke, after long calling, the miller. 1893 Shands MS Speech 24, Coon. . . Used by all classes to mean to crawl over. If a man cannot walk a log over a creek, he gets down on his hands and knees and coons it; or if he get astride of the log and pull himself along with his hands, he is then also said to coon it. 1903 DN 2.310 seMO, He cooned up the tree. 1906 DN 3.116 sIN, He cooned the tree. 1908 DN 3.300 eAL, wGA, I cooned every log we come to. 1917 DN 4.410 wNC, I cooned acrost on a log. 1917 SE Reporter 90.619 cwVA, This method of crossing was accomplished by sitting astride the ropes, and . . “cooning” across. 1920 Barnes Tales X-Bar 159 SW, It [=a well] was too wide to climb out of by puttin’ a foot on each side and coonin’ up the walls like a straddle bug. 1925 Cherokee Times (Gaffney SC) 29 Jan 1/5, But there were some here who did not feel so much at home [on ice-covered streets]—particularly the man Joe Humphries saw “cooning” his way to work. 1926 Lord Frontier Dust 190 cIL (as of 1862), I told her to get the two longest of them into her room and I would show her how a Yankee could coon a pole. [Ibid 191, You ought to have seen me straddle those quilting frames and slide down to the porch roof.] 1927 AmSp 2.351 WV, Coon. . to crawl like a coon, close to a log. “I cooned the log across the creek.” 1927 Pittsburgh Press (PA) 23 Jan news sec 3/3, Kunes tells of times it was so windy that . . the ironworkers “cooned” the beams to keep from being blown off. 1937 Dayton Herald (OH) 27 Sept 6/7, We . . “cooned” under a barbed-wire fence and started across a field. 1939 Sat. Eve. Post 15 Apr 26/1, The car-knocker cooned it over the gons. 1959 Rogersville Review (TN) 24 Dec 1/6, Sheriff Howard Reeves and 3 deputies “cooned a cliff” in Houseright Hollow . . early Sunday to surprise a veteran moonshiner. 1961 GA Rev. 15.444 cGA, There was no way to reach the winding apparatus [of the clock] except by “cooning” it up a rope. 1965–70 DARE (Qu. EE36, To climb the trunk of a tree by holding on with your legs while you pull yourself up with your hands) 27 Infs, chiefly Sth, S Midl Cooning; OH56, OK18, Coon up; (Qu. Y34a, When somebody moves on his hands and knees: “He was down in the bushes, _____.”) Inf GA77, Coonin’ on his knees. 1966–70 DARE FW Addit ceGA, Cooning: crawling or shinnying horizontally as on a tree limb or log across a creek. (Inf says it was a common expression when he was young but doesn’t know if it’s still used); KY84, Cooning or cooning a log: crossing a stream by crawling across a log. You coon it only if you crawl across, not if you can walk across the log; OK42, Cooning across a footlog: crossing a footlog (bridge) by sitting on it and pulling yourself across with your hand. 1969 AmSp 44.13 Pacific NW [Painter jargon], Coon. . . . To climb about a structure without the benefit of ladders or platforms. 2009 in 2021 DARE File—Internet CA, Cooning the iron, straddling the beam and walking on the lower flanges is sensible and safer but it sure wears out the inside leg of ones levis fast. 2010 Picayune Item (MS) 4 May (Internet), Finding a leaning hackberry trunk, Bill cooned up it to a point directly over a game trail. 2015 DARE File—Internet ceNY, The other option was to “coon” the beam (less manly), where you scoot across on your bottom.
2 tr: To steal (produce) from gardens or orchards; to steal (something), usu of relatively small value, with stealth; also intr: to steal in this way. chiefly Inland Nth, esp Gt Lakes old-fash
1866 Tioga Co. Agitator (Wellsboro PA) 15 Aug /1, Milo Goodwin, of Chatham, will please accept the thanks of the Junior also for a mess of green corn, which, he says, reminds him of the days of “cooning.” 1868 Livingston Republican (Howell MI) 26 Aug /4, A few years ago to “go cooning” meant to go out at night with a good dog to catch racoons. . . But now “cooning” in villages and just around them, means stealing water-melons, or whatever else in gardens and orchards is wanted by idle, worthless boys. 1877 Ft. Wayne Morning Gaz. (IN) 31 Aug /3, Young Hettler, who was fined for “cooning” water melons recently, is not the son of Captain Hettler. 1890 Rockford (Wash.) Enterprise 23 Aug. 3/1 (DA), One of our lads while ‘cooning’ apples in town this week was caught and badly scared. 1901 DN 2.138 c, nNY, Coon. . . Steal; “to go cooning melons.” 1902 Lippincott’s Mth. Mag. 69.625 AZ, He couldn’t ’a’ took it [=a tablecloth] off the table. Cooned it when they hung it up to dry, maybe. 1917 DN 4.410 wNC Coon, . . To steal. “I had to coon an ace of hearts.” 1923 Central City Republican (NE) 13 Dec /1, The checker players parked close to the box [of prunes] and stealthily cooned them out until they had eaten half of the box. 1926 Democrat & Chron. (Rochester NY) 20 Aug 1/7 (as of 1861–65), Chester Hutchison told several instances while in camp when he “cooned” peaches and sugar when he was given rations which resulted in a peach stew for the boys. 1950 WELS (To take something of small value) 3 Infs, WI, Coon. 1965 Little Autobiog. Malcolm X 15 MI [Black], In the summertime . . some of us boys would slip out . . and go “cooning” watermelons. 1966–69 DARE (Qu. V5a, To take something of small value that doesn’t belong to you—for example, a child taking cookies: “Who’s been _____the cookies?”) Infs MI18, 103, Cooning; (Qu. V4, Other words for stealing something valuable—for example, a watch: “Yesterday somebody _____my watch.”) Inf MI76, Cooned. 1967 DARE Tape OH15, They used to go cooning, as they called it, for melons. 1969 News–Palladium (Benton Harbor MI) 8 Nov 2/3, [Letter:] Many years ago when boys took melons from our patch, my dad called it “Cooning” melons, and he did not get his gun and shoot them. 2003 DARE File nwWI (as of 1940s), We had an expression when we were kids, “cooning” watermelons. That meant stealing them.
3 tr: To catch (fish) with the bare hands or with a gaff; also intr: to fish in this way. Sth, S Midl Cf noodle v1
1892 Forest & Stream 39.139/3 cnKY, The fish are caught on trot-lines, and taken by “cooning,” which is done in this way. During the spawning season . . catfish burrow under broad rocks, clearing out beds under the rocks, and paths and entrance ways to the edges of the rock. . . The fisherman locates these rocks . . and having stopped all the holes but one, he reaches under with his hand. The fish, usually a large one, will seize his hand, and the fisherman quietly works his hand so as to grasp the fish by the gills and yanks it out. . . Sometimes a long iron rod with a short, sharp hook at the end is used. 1907 Windsor Rev. (MO) 18 July 8/5, “Cooned” a Big Catfish,—Jim Crews, Duff and Jake Green and Ed Doss went “coonin’” for fish down on Tebo. 1925 Courier–Jrl. (Louisville KY) 23 Dec 6/4, [Letter:] One [=cause of the dearth of fish] . . being . . the curse of “community protection,” as in the case of seining, cooning, gigging, dynamiting and other forms of unlawfully procuring fish. 1938 Shreveport Jrl. (LA) 12 May 5/3, Down at the dam [of Caddo Lake], it was said, some people were “cooning” fish out of the shallow water—throwing them out on the banks with their hands. 1947 AmSp 22.74 KY, Grabbling for fish, of British provenience, is paralleled in America by the independent usage, cooning: ‘The game warden arrested Bill Johnson’s boy for cooning bass in Elkhorn Creek [Kentucky].’ This usage is perfectly consistent with the wise practice of the fish-loving raccoon. 1985 Moore Every Sun 66 sTX, In South Texas and in some other places there’s something they call “coonin’.” In the spring catfish will come up there and go along and get under little ledges on the bank. People will go along and feel back in there, and get ’em. They call it “coonin’.” You know, like a raccoon does? 1999 Ray Ecology Cracker Childhood 41 seGA (as of 1960s), He could tickle fish. Some people call it cooning, some say noodling. . . [H]e’d dangle his hands among sunken tree roots beneath cut banks, feeling for fish.
4 tr: To gather (oysters) by hand in shallow water; also intr: to gather oysters in this way. esp Gulf States Cf coon oyster n
1938 Science 88.547, Coon oysters often grow in shallow water and are taken by hand so much that wading for oysters is known in some localities as cooning. 1985 Galveston Daily News (TX) 24 Feb sec L 14/3, Billy “Killer” Praker, 36, and two friends were “cooning” oysters from a reef in a closed area of Jones Bay. 1990 Atlanta Constitution (GA) 23 Apr sec A 3/2 seLA, That’s why Olen Barthelemy, 17, allegedly was caught red-handed last week “cooning” for oysters in the effluent-laden waters of the Happy Jack canal in Grand Bayou. 2008 Miami Herald (FL) 28 Dec sec C 3/5 swAL, There are two ways to get oysters: going out on the water and pulling them up with a pichfork, or “cooning”—walking along the shoreline and picking ’em up, racoon-style.
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