HOW TWO CATTLE HERDERS FOUGHT WOLVES
By S. C. Turnbo

Many times my thoughts wander back to the time when I was a little fellow and lived on Elbow Creek. This was from 1849 to 1853. I well remember how I followed my father along this stream and over the hills of this rough valley while he was caring for his cattle that thrived so well then on the fine range. We would go out afoot and carry salt with us and salt the cattle on stones or naked spots of ground. It was a fine sight to see the cattle quit grazing and come running up to get a taste of salt. If it was in the latter part of April they were beginning to show signs of "picking up." If it was in the month of May they were shedding the old hair and a new growth starting out. If it was in the month of June they were mending in flesh rapidly. If it was in the month of July, August, September or October they were rolling fat and could easily winter themselves on the range. It was common then to see plenty of cattle belonging to the stockmen of Taney County that ranged from 4 to 6 years old. Hundreds of these cattle when they were sleek fat were fine indeed. This has been many years ago, but those hills, hollows and glades where my father and others salted their cattle seems familiar to my eyes to the present day. This calls to mind another story originating from this same little creek which we learned from John Cardwell and Sam Carpenter, two early settlers of Taney County and both of Cedar Creek Post Office. Mr. Cardwell said Bob Rains related the story to him soon after its occurrence. Mr. Carpenter gave the writer an account of it in June, 1895. The narrative as given by each man is combined to make the story more complete. The sketch gives the present generation of Taney County, or those who are interested, an idea of how wolves, on certain occasions, were so vicious and held in such dreadful fear by a few of the settlers. In 1856 or three years after we left that part of Taney County, Lige Majors, son of Ben Majors, established a stock ranch on Elbow Creek where the residence of John Cardwell now is. The camp was made just above the pool of water in Cardwell’s stock lot and it was the year previous to Cardwell’s settling there. Lige Majors, like his father, was a prominent citizen and stock dealer, and at the time we speak of owned a large bunch of cattle. After deciding to keep his cattle on Elbow Creek he employed Bob Rains and Sam Carpenter to herd them on the range. It was a delightful spot to camp on. There was plenty of water and an abundance of luxuriant grass on which cattle did well winter and summer. There were plenty of deer that were seen in large and small groups, which fed on the tender herbs and the small undergrass. Numerous flocks of wild turkey rambled here and there and lived on wild onions, wild grapes and wild vegetable seeds. In the spring of the year the goblers would get so fat that they were not able to fly but a short distance and hunters would run them down on horses or catch them with hounds. The myriads of song birds of various colors and sizes sang from daybreak until dusk of the evening and the music was sweet and pleasant to the ear. The little valley of Elbow Creek was open then; that is it was divided into bald knobs, prairie hollows and wooded hills. There was no brush then for the great forest fires that raged through the woods in the early spring kept the small undergrowth destroyed. It was then that the Elbow hills were the stockman’s paradise and the hunter’s happy hunting grounds—for the stock dealer could raise all the cattle he wanted without expense of feeding them and the hunter could kill all the game he wanted without having to go elsewhere to find it.

The two herders employed by Mr. Majors cooked in the open air but they built a small cabin of poles and roofed it with long boards to sleep in and store away their provisions. The men had a gay time, were happy and enjoyed their employment. They had nothing to do but kill fat bucks, cook, eat and sleep and prevent the cattle from wandering off. Wolves would approach of nights and set up a lively howling but the men slept in their huts and they had met with no danger so far. There was no enclosure to drive the cattle into of nights and they would lay down to rest in scattering bunches and were not liable to be stampeded in this way by the wolves like they would be while penned up in a lot, but the two men were not let off free until a serious racket happened between the varmints and the herders which come about in this way. One evening after sunset while they were collecting some of the cattle on the creek above camp, they noticed a big flock of wild turkeys flying up into the timber to roost. Not that they needed a turkey for food but they both agreed that it would be fun to shoot at them after night and they decided to return after nightfall and kill a few of the flock merely for pasttime.

After supper was over, which was a short time after dark, both men started to have a merry time with the turkeys. They concluded to take only one gun and use it time about between them and that would give each man an equal chance, for if one made two or three miss shots he could not say that he had the worst gun. They kept a large yellow dog with them that they called "Watch," and as the two herders and sportsmen left camp they called Watch to accompany them on their turkey hunt to share the enjoyment with them. It was not a dark night and the moon was not full though it afforded light enough to see the turkeys sitting on the limbs of the trees, and they wondered how many turkeys each of them would kill before the remainder of the flock flew and sought safety from the leaden messengers that they intended to let fly toward them. But they were counting too fast, for it so happened on that occasion that man proposed and God disposed. For soon after leaving camp while walking through the tall grass near the bed of the creek where there was a little narrow creek bottom, they heard a peculiar noise behind them to which they gave hardly a moment’s notice until they heard it the second time. The dog showed signs of restlessness. He appeared to be uneasy and stayed near the two men and made a noise of whining and half growling. The men looked at each other in a doubtful way. They believed it was something but thought it might not amount to anything. Again the same noise was wafted to their ears and they wondered what it meant. They stood still and waited to ascertain the cause, of it. They did not have long to wait before the cause of the fuss was solved, for they heard a rustling in the rank grass and a bunch of wolves began snapping their teeth together, and at the same time they saw the forms of wolves by the light of the moon, advancing at a lively gait toward them. The noise of the wolves and the sight of them alarmed the men and they rushed out of the tall grass and halted on the hillside. The men when they stopped noticed the terrified dog cower at their feet. All but two of the wolves stopped; these seemed more bold and sprang forward to attack the men and dog. But Rains, who carried the gun, leveled it and took quick aim and shot one of the wolves before it had time to reach them. The other took warning at this and turned and fled back to the main bunch, which was in plain view a few yards distant. As the men saw the impudent beast fall and the other turn and flee they went off on a fast run in an opposite direction. They cared nothing for the kind of order they retreated. They considered it best to do their best. It was the quickest way to get away on quick time and they put it into execution, and away they went. After a run of 50 or 60 yards up the hillside they halted where a tree had fallen to reconnoitre. They heard the wolves coming and Bob Rains guessed at a charge of powder by pouring it from the powder horn into the palm of his hand and hastily pouring it into the rifle. He then rammed down a naked ball on top of it. He was none too soon for at the moment he primed the gun four other daring wolves rushed up the hill at them and when they got within a few yards there was another report of the rifle, but the men did not stay long enough to note the effect of the shot, but turned their course toward camp and ran in haste with the hungry wolves in hot pursuit. How many of the gaunt beasts were following them they were not able to tell. There may have been only a few more than they saw, but the way they were pressing forward in the direction of camp it would seem there were a hundred. It not only seemed there were a hundred but the men were scared as bad as if there had been a thousand. It was not far to camp but the race was none the less lively for they made steps fast. The wolves knew their enemies were panic stricken. It was more of a route than a retreat. The wolves snapped at the men’s heels to urge them on faster. They needed no spurring for they were using their best speed and made good use of the time. When the two terrified herders reached the door of their hut the wolves halted just a few yards away and set up a direful howling. The men did not take time to listen to the serenade until after they dashed into the hut, let the dog in and barricaded the door. The herders were in no mood to enjoy the unwelcome and lonesome music though they were forced to listen until near midnight when the wolves took their departure and allowed the men to rest. Next morning soon after daylight they ventured back with dog and a gun each to the scene of trouble. The live wolves had disappeared but there were two dead ones lying stretched on the grass. As hunting turkeys on their roost were not as enticing as they supposed it was they declined to venture out anymore after night.

Mr. Cardwell said that Bob Rains informed him that the night they were attacked by the wolves he felt like he could run faster than he ever did in his life, and according to the account given by Mr. Carpenter we suppose that Rains and Carpenter certainly did some fast running. This is the same Bob Rains that was killed by John Jackson in front of J. P. Vance’s store in Forsyth. It was said that Jackson struck Rains 3 or 4 times on the head with a keen bladed knife, the point of which penetrated the skullbone deep enough to reach the brain. At each stroke of the knife Jackson had to use some force to jerk the knife out. Rains sank down and died immediately.

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