The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Catching wolves in pen traps was a great pasttime indulged in by a few of the first settlers of the Ozarks. Mr. Rila Mullen furnished me an account of a man of the name of Chandler who lived in Sharp County, Ark., seven miles from his nearest neighbor who made it a business to kill wolves, a large number of which he caught in pen traps which he constructed in the following way. He would cut logs and haul them with oxen to a selected spot where he intended to build the pen and in putting the logs together he would make the pen longer than it was wide in the shape of a quail trap until it was seven feet high, leaving the top wide enough for a long trap door which worked by hinges and rested on a balance log and would revolve over. One end of the trap was made so that a wolf could easily climb up on top of the trap pen. The bait was hung on a stick at the opposite end of the pen from where the wolf got up and was too high for the wolf to reach it from the ground. The wolf when it reached the top of the pen could not get to the bait without walking over the trap door and the moment it reached the end of the door over which the bait hung the end of the door the wolf was on would drop and the other end would fly up and the wolf would land on the floor of the trap and the door would drop back to its original position and Mr. Wolf was completely trapped. Mr. Chandler would occasionally have a lot of sport by letting a number of dogs into the trap while a wolf was in the pen which would result in a fierce combat between the wolf and dogs. I saw one of these pen traps one day that Mr. Chandler had built on Chandler’s Creek where he trapped and killed several wolves. One day in 1858 when I was 4 years old Mr. Chandler caught a large black wolf in this trap and he sent word to a few of his neighbors who lived 7 to 10 miles from him to come to the trap to witness a big fight between the wolf and a bunch of dogs. I recollect that my father and mother and we children went there. Others who were present there were Jacob Shales and his wife whose name was Lena, and also their children; Jim Gardner and Susan Gardner, his wife, and all their children; Wesley Hatfield and Fannie Hatfield, his wife, and their children; John George and his family; the old man Sells and his aged wife; and Mr. Chandler and his wife and children. When the people had collected at the trap and the men had completed arrangements for the fight five dogs were put into the trap through the trap door where the wolf was. The wolf backed up in a corner of the pen and lowered his head and body in readiness for the assault from the dogs. He showed his teeth, bushed up his hair and growled. The dogs at first seemed to be afraid of him and darted around in the pen and bayed the wolf and when a dog ventured too close to the wolf it would snap the canine In a vicious manner. After keeping up these maneuvers a while the dogs grew bolder and made a dash at the wolf and closed in on him and a fierce battle commenced. The dogs and wolf rolled together and fought desperately. The fight was long and bloody, which greatly interested the spectators. The men would cheer heartily for the success Of the dogs. Finally the wolf began to show indications of weakening for the number of dogs were too much for him and he was so exhausted that he was so disabled he could not make any further resistance and the men raised the trap door and made the dogs come out. Then the men finished the life of the wolf.

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