Volume 33, Number 1, Fall 1993
Editors note: The Turnbo Collection is housed in the Springfield-Greene County library. There are 28 three-ring binders of Ozarks folklore and history.
Abraham Cole was a resident of Taney County, Mo., from 1858 until his death March 1, 1899. He lies buried in the cemetery at Protem. He was born in Meade County, Ky., in 1821 and was 79 years old at his death. He came to Missouri while a young man, and after rambling a few years he married and settled in Ozark County fifteen miles west of Rock Bridge. Here at the mouth of Barren Fork of Little North Fork he lived from 1855 to 58, and then he settled a claim on Big Creek in Taney County where he was living when the war broke out. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and served until the end of the war. Mr. Cole was a conservative man in both political and religious matters. In recounting old occurrences of settlers with the wild beasts of the forest, Mr. Cole tells the following details of a combat between a Negro man and a lot of wolves.
In narrating the story, Mr. Cole said that John Miller lived a few miles west of Rock Bridge on a ridge or divide He was an early settler in that locality and owned a Negro man named Bill, who was a robust fellow, obedient and kind and well thought of by those who were acquainted with him. One of Millers neighbors by the name of Joe Piland lived two miles distant. Joe was a brother of William Piland, who during the turbulent days of the great war commanded a company of cavalry soldiers in the union service and was known as an honest man and a distinguished officer.
When "hog killing time" came around in 1857, Joe Piland requested Miller to allow his Negro man to help him butcher his porkers; the request was kindly granted. There were several big fat hogs to kill, dress and salt, and Miller and the Negro labored hard all day and until after night before the job was completed. The Negro had instructions from his master to return back home that night and he started on his way home. He carried in his hand along, sharp butcher knife that he had been using that day.
The night was dark and the trail dim, but the Negro had traveled over it many times and knew it well and he managed to sing and whistle and stay in the trail, too. He had gone a mile, when suddenly his merry music was cut short by hearing wolves howl just ahead of him. Then he thought, oh, what a plight. I am in my clothes all covered with hogs blood. He stopped and drew a deep breath and conjectured whether the wolves would attack him or not.
In a few moments while he was standing there the wolves began to collect behind him and he would not go forward or retrace his steps, but decided to await developments. He did not have long to stand to find out their intentions, for the blood thirsty animals scented the blood on his clothes and surrounded him, and threatened to attach him at once. He had never thought of ascending a tree until at this juncture and seeing several trees standing in a dew yards of him he jumped for the smallest one and began to hustle up it, but before he got high enough for safety, two of the wolves caught him by his shoes and trousers and jerked him down to the ground. Fortunately he alighted on his feet.
Then a terrible struggle ensued between the wolves and terror stricken man. The Negro after desperate work kicked his assailants loose, and with his back against the tree, went to work with the butcher knife. The wolves leaped at his legs, body and throat, snapping, snarling and growling, and he kicked them with his feet and stabbed them with his knife. The battle was desperate and both man and beasts put on a lively stir. The Negro did not know how many were in the packhe was too busy to count their dim outlines in the dark. He cut and slashed until he saw two of them lying still at his feet. How many were wounded he was unable to ascertain, but there must have been several. He was worsting the blood thirsty creatures for they commenced to give back and re-
treated twenty or more yards from him. Now was his opportunity, and with a glance of his eyes up the tree and back where the wolves were growling and with a quick stout pull, sprung up the tree again, and succeeded in getting out of their reach. The wolves darted back to the foot of the tree in a moment. To his surprise when they dashed up he did not hear them fight over the two dead wolves.
The weather was moderately cool, and when the warmth of his exertions and excitement began to cool, he grew chilly and then cold. The wolves gave him colder comfort by remaining under the tree until daylight, and then they scampered away. The Negro gave them plenty of time to get off some distance before he ventured down and that was sunrise. When he slid down to the ground and after a short examination of the dead wolves and the blood sprinkled on the dead grass and leaves from the wounded ones, he scalped the dead beasts and left and started the free circulation of blood in his system while he was running home.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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