The Wolf Hunters_ A Story of the Buffalo Plains
BOOKS BY GEORGE BIRD GRINNELL
Published by CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
The Wolf Hunters. Illustrated.
12mo, net $1.35
Blackfeet Indian Stories. Illustrated.
12mo, net $1.00
Beyond the Old Frontier. Illustrated.
12mo, net $1.50
Trails of the Pathfinders. Illustrated.
12mo, net $1.50
Blackfoot Lodge Tales. The Story
of a Prairie People. 12mo, net $1.75
Pawnee Hero Stories and Folk Tales.
Illustrated, 12mo, net $1.75
THE WOLF HUNTERS
A STORY OF THE BUFFALO PLAINS
EDITED AND ARRANGED
FROM THE MANUSCRIPT ACCOUNT OF
ROBERT M. PECK
GEORGE BIRD GRINNELL
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
Copyright, 1914, by
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
Published September, 1914
In the days of the buffalo, wolfing was a recognizedindustry. Small parties—two or moremen—with team, saddle-horses, and camp outfit,used to go out into the buffalo range, establish acamp, and spend the winter there, killing buffaloand poisoning the carcasses with strychnine. Thewolves that fed on these carcasses died aboutthem, and their pelts were taken to camp, to bestretched and dried.
The work was hard and not without its dangers.Storms were frequent, and often very severe,and the Indians were bitterly opposed tothe operations of these wolf hunters, who killedgreat numbers of buffalo for wolf baits, as well aselk, antelope, deer, and other smaller animals.On the other hand, in winter the Indians did notusually travel about very much.
The following pages describe the adventures ofMr. Peck and two companions—all recently dischargedsoldiers—during the winter of 1861-1862.
Robert Morris Peck was born in Washington,Mason County, Kentucky, October 30, 1839. Atthe age of seventeen—November, 1856—he enlisted[Pg vi]in the First Cavalry, and the following yearwas sent to Fort Leavenworth and took part inthe Cheyenne and other campaigns. He was dischargedin 1861, and not very long afterwardbecame a wagon-master, in which capacity heserved in the army of the frontier. Mr. Peckdied March 25, 1909.
G. B. G.
|II.||We Get Our Discharges||7|
|III.||We Find an Outfit||12|
|IV.||Back to the Buffalo Range||24|
|V.||We Meet Doubtful Characters||42|
|VI.||Standing Off the Jayhawkers||51|
|VII.||Jack Takes a Prisoner||63|
|IX.||Buffalo Near the Big Bend||87|
|X.||Why Satank Killed Peacock||96|
|XI.||We Reach Fort Larned||111|
|XII.||Our Camp on Walnut Creek||122|
|XIII.||Killed by the Indians||150|
|XV.||Wild Bill Visits Us||171|
|XVI.||Tom Locks the Stable Door||184[Pg viii]|
|XVII.||Volunteer Troops at Larned||195|
|XVIII.||Bill Returns from His Scout||206|
|XIX.||A Night in the Kiowa Camp||216|
|XX.||We Trade with Indians||226|
|XXI.||Jack's Close Call||235|
|XXIII.||Surrounded by Kiowas||255|
|XXIV.||Captain Saunders' Fight||266|
|XXV.||We Part from Friends||277|
|XXVI.||Back to God's Country||297|
|"Then come a puff of smoke and the prairie was afire"||Frontispiece|
|"Five minutes to get out of range! Now, git!"||60|
|"It must have been the work of Injuns"||153|
|"Go to Tom"||250|
THE WOLF HUNTERS
"Well, men, what will we do?" said JackFlanagan. "We can re-enlist or go backto the States and each hunt his job, or we can tryto get something to do where we can all threestick together."
"Let's stick together if we can," said I.
"Now, hold on, men," advised Tom Vance,"until you hear what I have got to say. I havebeen thinking a lot about what we'd best do, andlast night I think it come to me."
"Tell us what it is, Tom," said Jack eagerly."'Tis yourself has the wise head on his shoulders,and I'd like to hear your plan."
We were three soldiers of Company K, FirstCavalry, whose terms of service were about toexpire, and we looked forward with much eagernessto the time when we should again be our ownmasters instead of being subject to military discipline.Of course, we could re-enlist for anotherfive years, and the government offered inducements[Pg 2]to do this. A soldier who re-enlisted withinthree months before the expiration of his termreceived a discharge three months in advance ofits expiration, with furlough for that length oftime and three months' extra pay. At the expirationof that time he was expected to report tohis company or, if unable to do that, at the nearestmilitary post. Failing to report for duty ontime, he was regarded as a deserter. Tom Vancehad served for three enlistments and Jack Flanaganfor two. I was at the end of my first five years.
We were at Fort Wise,[A] Colorado Territory, andit was the summer of 1861. The Civil War wasjust beginning.
"What is your plan, Tom?" Jack repeated.
"Well, men," said Tom, "as I say, I thoughtof it last night, and I believe that we can spendthe winter somewhere out here in the buffalorange hunting wolves and can make a good stakedoing that. We all know something about theplains and something about wolf hunting, and ifwe can raise the money needed for the outfit, Ibelieve we can make a go of it. The Indians arepretty quiet now, but, of course, we know somethingabout Indians and know that they've gotto be looked out for all the time, but I guess we'llbe safe enough. What do you think of it?"
[Pg 3]"It's sure a fine plan," said Jack, "if we cancarry it through; but how much money is it goingto take?"
"It's a great scheme, Tom," I added, "and itseems to me there ought to be money in it; buthave we the capital?"
"We'll have some money," said Tom, "but, ofcourse, we've got to sail pretty close to the windand to cut our coat according to our cloth. Whenwe get our 'final statements' cashed we oughtto have about two hundred dollars apiece. Thisought to buy us a good team of ponies and campoutfit, with supplies for the winter. At outfittingtowns like Saint Joe, Leavenworth, Kansas City,or Independence there are chances to buy a goodteam and camp outfit in the fall from people whoare coming in from buffalo hunting, and get themcheap, too.
"We ought to go to one of those towns, look outfor such hunting parties, and, if we can find whatwe want cheap, take it in; then we can strike outfor the plains by the old Santa Fé road, select alocation in about the thickest of the herds, buildus a cabin or dugout, and get ready for winter."
Jack and I agreed that the plan was sound, andTom then asked us for any ideas or suggestionsthat we might have. We both felt, however, thathis fifteen years' service had given him so muchexperience that he was much more likely to thinkof the necessary points than we, and we had far[Pg 4]more faith in his judgment than in our own. Weasked him to go ahead and give us the furtherdetails of his plan so far as he had thought themout.
"First," Tom said, "we must get what we absolutelyneed, and if we have any money left afterthat we can buy luxuries. For grub we'd bettertake about the same as government rations—flour,bacon, beans, coffee, sugar, rice, and salt. ASharp's rifle and a Colt's navy apiece, with plentyof cartridges, will be all the arms we'll want, and,besides the clothing we already have, each manought to have a good suit of buckskins. Theseare better than any cloth for wear and to keep offthe wind. We can make overcoats, caps, and mittensout of furs as soon as we take a few pelts anddress them. Most of these things we can get herebefore we are discharged. The first sergeants ofthe cavalry companies often have some of thesethings over and will sell them to us for very littlemoney."
"How about tobacco and pipes?" asked Jack.
"Tobacco don't come under the head of generalsupplies, and, as Peck don't use it, every man willhave to buy his own tobacco."
"How about whiskey?" asked Jack, for he hada weakness for liquor.
Tom answered him quickly: "There'll be nowhiskey taken along if I am to have any say inthe plans for the expedition. When we leave the[Pg 5]settlements you'll have to swear off until we getback again; and that reminds me that when weget our 'final statements' cashed it will be a goodidea for you to turn over your money to Peck, allexcept a small allowance for a spree, if you musthave one."
Jack was forced to yield to the decision of themajority that whiskey should form no part of oursupplies.
"Seems to me," I began, to change the subject,"that we've got to decide on where we'll go.Where do you think we'd better locate our wintercamp, Tom?"
"As to that, I haven't quite made up my mind,"said he, "but it must be somewhere near the centreof the buffalo range and not too far from theSanta Fé road. Fort Larned is about the middleof the range this season, and I've thought some ofpitching our camp on Walnut Creek, about twentymiles north of the fort."
"It's now toward the last of August," continuedTom, "and our time will be out in September.We can call for our discharges now any time thatwe see a chance to get transportation into theStates. It'll take us about a month to reach theMissouri River if we go by bull train, and that'llbe about the first of October. Allowing aboutten days to fit out for the return, it'll take us therest of October to go back to the neighborhoodof Fort Larned. We won't want to do much wolf[Pg 6]skinning before the middle of November, whenthe winter coat begins to get good, but there'llbe plenty of work to keep us busy, building, fittingup camp, and getting ready for the cold weather.It won't do for us to have our camp too close toFort Larned or the Santa Fé road, for aroundthere buffalo and wolves will be scarce, but wewant to be near enough to call for our mail occasionally.Besides that, if Indians should betroublesome it's a good thing to be nigh to UncleSam's soldiers."
"They say," put in Jack, "that there's plentyof otter and beaver in Walnut Creek."
"Yes," replied Tom, "we'll be apt to find someof them, but they're nothing like as plenty asthey used to be. All those timbered creeks usedto have lots of beaver and otter in them, andwe'll find some of them, but our best hold will bewolfskins. They are plentiest and easiest to get.We'll take a few steel traps along to try for otterand beaver. We'll take anything we can in theway of fur."
WE GET OUR DISCHARGES
The next day Tom came to me looking ratherserious, and I saw that he had something onhis mind, and when he had gotten me alone he explainedwhat this was.
"I've been thinking it over, Peck," he said,"and I've pretty near made up my mind that we'dbetter drop Jack and either pick up another manor else you and me go it without a third man. Iam afraid that Jack's fondness for liquor will gethim into trouble and so