The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Old Lobo Wolf Chase

By Royce Q. Holland © 1987

Issue: May, 1987

We seldom hear hounds chasing wolves anymore, in Oklahoma, because of the game laws and the scarcity of the Gray Timber Wolves that gave us such a chase in the early thirties.

Wolves were very unpopular among the ranchers, but scientist now tell us that an occasional loss of a calf, was far out weighed by the damages of the wolves' absence from the out of control current rodent population on our Oklahoma Prairies.

In each county there was a wolf man. That was one of the few men who chased and sometimes caught the large gray brown creatures. My father was the wolf man in our part of the county.

We always kept about twenty five wolf hounds penned beside our barn. The wolf hound is a specialized dog. He is only good for chasing wolves. Outside of chasing wolves, they were dumb, dumb, dumb. If they were not penned between hunts, they would go off at night, and chase wolves, foxes, or raccoons on their own. They would run themselves up to eighteen hours full speed, at a time. When they were exhausted they went to sleep and many forgot their way home. Then they would take up at the nearest farm house, where they might get food. At least, we boys felt they had forgotten their way home.

The job of my brother and I was to ride our mules from county to county, gathering up those stupid hounds. Needless to say, he and I tried to keep the pen tightly closed and locked at all times.

Come hunting night, it was a different story. The real worth of the wolf hounds came to front. A wolf hound does not bark "bow wow" like a dog. He bawls with a very long, beautiful, sad, musical note peculiar only to his breed.

Let me break down our pack of specialized and regimented wolf hounds. One was always better than all the rest at picking up a new trail. Our such hound was named Old Trailer. She was skilled at analyzing a wolf trail, understanding that it was, in fact, a wolf trail, not the trail of a cur dog, a fox or a raccoon. And she could analyze the direction the wolf was traveling. This prevented the young hounds from wasting valuable time backward trailing. Once Old Trailer picked up a trail, she seldom lost it. It is needless to say that she led the pack.

Our last and very tragic wolf chase started when my father, one evening at dark, spotted a large wolf galloping across the prairie above our house. Dad dashed to the hound pen, loaded the hounds on our old Model T Ford truck, and holstered his old Navy six shooter. He never used a rifle because he did not need one. Being a freight wagoner of Old Oklahoma, he had mastered the skill of a six shooter. He could split with rapid fire, four eggs out of five, at fifty yards with that old Navy '44'.

We all climbed aboard the truck and rumbled down the Section Line Road to where Dad had seen the wolf cross. He stopped the truck and let Old Trailer out, leaving the other dogs in the truck. He unsnapped her collar and yelled that special yell, always starting the chase. "Hay High Ho Cikem, Trailer, Go get that wolf!", as he pointed his finger in the right direction of the trail. Old Trailer followed the wolf's trail across the dusty road. Then she followed the trail a ways, looked up at Dad grunting and whining, as she galloped. She raced about one hundred yards up the trail, then stopped and raised her head with her mouth open. She bawled out a long burst of music. She then stopped and looked back over her shoulder at all of us and the other hounds. She poised as if she were a great opera star waiting her cue to start the great performance. She then lowered her head and started to bawl, running down the trail.

"She's got the trail," yelled Dad, as he unleashed all the other hounds. Trailer's beautiful music was then accompanied by the rising crescendo of fifty three other hound voices with each his own special note.

What a scramble! Half of them were just half grown pups and they did not have the least idea what they were supposed to do. They were all awkward and clumsy, falling over each other. Then their hound instincts told them to follow the pack. So after a few seconds, all were straightened out and the chase was on.

Just then several neighbors arrived and turned their small groups into the pack. They wanted their hounds to get the experience of running with Dad's pack.

What a beautiful sight those hounds were; all were bawling and racing in line across the prairie. Next came Old Baldy. He was an older hound and he never got excited. We didn't notice him until he walked confidently out of the truck. But we didn't forget about him because he was the most vital hound in the pack beside Old Trailer. He was a distance runner and a fighter. He was a beautiful hound, showing a lot of black and tan Walker colors. His ability to fight was vital, because if the wolf was cornered and Dad wasn't there to shoot the wolf, Baldy could whip the wolf which kept the wolf so busy that he could not kill the other hounds. A cornered wolf is a killer of hounds. A cornered wolf can leave a circle of dead hounds all around him with use of his long fangs, which he uses much like a saber; cutting, slashing, slinging his head.

Old Baldy was not in any hurry. He seemed to know that this was going to be a long hard night. He loped after the pack about one hundred yards behind. He slowed down and put up his head and bawled a blast of music; a note we had heard before. We got used to that note because Dad listened for it all night to make sure that Old Baldy was still in the chase.

Dad could identify every hound all night. "That's old Tom," or "That's old Blue. Now that's old Baldy. He's still with them, Thank God." Dad would comment confidently.

At this point I must explain that the wolf we were chasing this night was an old she wolf. She had a den of pups somewhere near the Table Top Mountains, in Western Garvin County. Dad explained to us that she would never leave those pups. He said that she would run a five to ten mile circle around them all night until she was 'run to ground'. This explains why we seldom had to move to hear the hounds run in the all night chase. But there was one wolf, most of us, except Dad, would overlook. That was the old boy wolf wherever he was.

Here we must inspect the wolf family and so doing with an experienced wolf hunter like my Dad; one learns why wolves survived all these years.

We were not chasing just one wolf, we were chasing a whole wolf family, bent on survival by use of all their inherent tricks, schemes and plots they have inherited over the hundreds of years gone by.

The old male wolf had not been heard from this night. But about one o'clock there was a confusion in the chase music; a lot of yapping in discord of the general flow of the music of the hounds bawling.

"Oh, God", said Dad. "That old boy wolf is slicing her trail. He's dashing back and forth across her trail, trying to get that pack to pinch up on his trail, so he can give her a rest." Dad listened intently for a while. "But Old Trailer is hard to fool. She's still on the trail", he said confidently.

Everything was quiet for a while, then Dad slapped his knee. "He did it." Dad said, "They've taken off after him now and he will take those hounds clear out of this country, as far from those pups as possible. No circling with him. He'll take them all the way to Kansas and beyond if he can. He was clever enough to fool old trailer. I bet that's Old Lobo. He's been around for about five or six years." Dad looked at each man with us and said, "Men we are going to lose some hounds tonight."

A neighbor lifted Dad's old bull horn and tried to call the hounds, but when hounds are in the heat of a race or a fight they seldom respond to Dad's call horn. We sat and listened to the beautiful chase music fade away to the Northwest to Chickasha. "Well, he's on his way," said Dad. "Perhaps Beaver County at least, before he even turns or slows," said Dad as he walks to the truck.

"But how are we going to follow them?" asked one of the neighbors.

"We're not going to follow them," said Dad. "Just on a long shot, we are going up to those sand rock cliffs at the head of the Table Top Mountains just Southwest of Rush Springs in Grady County. That's where he'll stop and make his stand, if it is Old Lobo, and I certainly think that's who he is. Ed Lawsen told me about Old Lobo. He lost thirteen hounds last fall in those sand rock cliffs. When Old Lobo gets his back to a cornered cliff on a ledge he can whip a hundred hounds, and kill half of them in the process."

Sadly and quietly we drove two hours to Rush Springs then we took a poor country road down the head of Wild Horse Creek. After about thirty minutes we heard the pack and their music come into hearing.

By the time Dad got the truck parked, the chase music had changed.

"They are fighting", said Dad. "He's slipped onto one of those narrow ledges. They have him bayed against one of those sand rock cliffs." Dad listened intently for a while. "Thank God, Old Baldy is still with them. Old Baldy is a scrapper, but I don't know how he'll come out against Old Lobo. Lobo is a big one. I think I saw him, one evening, lope across our pasture last spring. He'll stand twice above any of our hounds."

The fighting noise grew intense as we scurried about twenty minutes to the base of the steep cliff.

Suddenly, with a thud, bump and a yelp we saw a hound roll down the steep grade and come to a stop near our feet. He was dead, and covered with blood.

"I've got to get up there", said Dad unholstering his old '44' checking the load.

In the meantime the noise of the fight, not three hundred feet above our heads, was frightening. Fifty five hounds fighting is a noise to behold. Hound after hound rolled down the steep grade. Some dead, some crawling, limping and whining. Dad scurried to the base of the cliff with his old carbide miner's light. (We had no powerful flashlights in those days, but the carbide was quite bright.)

Dad stopped and bent over a fallen hound. It was Old Baldy. His throat was slashed and his whole shoulder joint was protruding through fresh flesh. He was covered with deep gashes. He was dead.

"This is all of it," said Dad straightening up and drawing his '44'. "I've got to kill that wolf," he said scurrying up the steep grade streaking his light along the cliffs.

Just then, dad stopped and laid his light down. He gently picked up a bloody hound in his arms. He fell to his knees. "Oh, Trailer, you old fool. Why did you try to take Lobo by yourself?" Dad was crying, holding Old Trailer to his chest. He laid her down gently and pulled his '44' again. "I've got to kill that wolf before he kills every hound we've got."

He disappeared up the cliff. We could only see the streaking of his searching light beam. Then we heard one deafening shot. The huge wolf rolled all the way to the bottom of the steep grade. The wolf didn't move. He was dead, I guess, before he started rolling from the top of the shelf.

Dad walked to the truck holding Old Trailer to his chest. He turned sadly to my brother. "Bring Old Baldy to the truck. We will take him with us." The other men came along dragging the huge gray wolf.

It was a sad two hour trip home. Dad had one of the neighbors drive the truck. He just sat there and held Old Trailer in his arms.

We unloaded all the dead hounds and the huge wolf.

"Dad, if I can borrow your knife, I will start skinning this wolf." I said, hopeful to cheer him up.

"No son. We are not going to skin that wolf. Get your shovel and go to the hill and dig three holes." He nodded toward a little knoll where he always buried all of his dead hounds.

"Dig one hole for Trailer and one for Baldy and dig one for the wolf in the center." He looked a long time at the huge wolf. "We ain't going to hang the hide of this noble wolf on no barn wall." I was shocked and Dad noticed it. Dad took a deep quivering breath.

"To save his pups, he out ran fifty hounds half the night," said Dad. "He made a stand and killed and crippled over half of them, and he would have done in the whole pack if I had not shot him." Dad laid Trailer on the ground gently and stood up, blood draining down the front of his overalls bib. "It just don't seem right to hang up this wolf's hide," he said. "We didn't win this fight son." He smiled and winked at me through the tears and bit a quid of home grown chewing tobacco and tongued it into his cheek.

This surprised me because we need the money so badly.

The Rancher's Association had up perhaps ten dollars bounty. The Federal Government had up, I think, about seventeen dollars, and the pelt would bring, at least, nine dollars. But that's the way Dad wanted it.

Dad never found heart to train another pack of hounds. He turned into the State Hospital six months later with a life crippling disease. He never again heard the hounds run.

I sometimes wonder if there is still that brand of Honor Enemy Comradely still existing in Oklahoma. I guess there is but in a different form.

There is still one thing incomplete about the last chase. I wish I were musician enough to put that whole chase to music. Yes, I know there are many efforts to mimic a wolf chase with voice, French Harp, Fiddle, Banjo and Guitar.

But if one could put that last chase to music along with all the truly deep emotion felt by all of us that night, it would be a Folk Classic that would be played by Bluegrassers for a thousand years.