LAST OF THE CODY WOLVES by Clint Anderson
From the March 1968 WESTERN HORSEMAN
Submitted by Steve Moreland, February 13, 2018
It was a cold winter night that was about spent, and snow covered the rolling Sand Hills. The morning passenger train, as it was called in Cody, Nebraska, was boring down on the town. The lights were turned low for the drowsy passengers in the chair cars; the sleepers and mail cars were in darkness.
Suddenly, the engineer and fireman sat alert at the scene illuminated by their headlight. They thought of Bill Anderson and his dogs at the next stop a few miles ahead. All trains stopped in Cody as it was a freight division and a coal and water stop for the steam locomotives. Bill Anderson, my father, was the owner of the livery stable of fine race horses and knew every railroad man between Omaha, Nebraska and Casper, Wyoming. The trainmen quickly addressed a note for my father and handed it to the night operator. The note read: “Gray wolf killing a cow at the Carter place on the north side of track.”
The operator sprinted across the block to the stable and woke the night man, George Justis. George pulled on his clothes, fixed his fur cap, and buttoned his sheepskin coat. Another short run brought him to my father’s house. Awakened from a sound sleep, Dad was quickly into his corduroys and shotgun chaps and heading up the street, which by this time was beginning to show signs of the new day. He saw a light in the poker room of the White Elephant and opened the door to a room full of smoke from cigars and Bull Durham cigarettes. He was usually a quiet man but news like this buoyed him up. He fairly shouted, “A gray wolf at the Carter place.” This put a stop to a game about over.
The men dashed across the street where Justis had the lanterns lighted and the saddle room unlocked. The dogs, sensing something unusual was about to happen, started stirring and stretching from their warm beds burrowed in the hay. Horses were soon saddled, and Dad’s favorite horse, Tony, a rather small mustang-type bay with the Box R on his shoulder, was alert and ready. Dad checked the cylinder of his ivory-handled .45, as sure to be in his saddle packet as his rawhide quirt was to be hanging from the horn of his Coggshall saddle.
Then he began checking his dogs; first, Old Dan, an extra-large greyhound, white with tan spots, carrying scars on his nose from previous hunts; then, the young Little Dan and Rags, the long-haired Russian wolf hound; and last, Baby Blue, a sleek alert greyhound, dancing on her hind feet. She was the fleetest of them all and a dog that knew her job of catching and throwing the coyotes; but this would be her first experience with wolves.
The snow crackled as the horsemen mounted and headed to the east where the light of a new day was breaking. It was not long until the few miles to the Carter place were covered, and the quiet tension of the group reflected the excitement. The only sound had been the squeak of the saddles. Breath from the horses hung like steam in the cold fresh air.
The remains of the cow were soon located. Her throat had been ripped. The killer had eaten nearly a quarter of beef. A clear trail led to the south side of the tracks and across the hills. The wolf was soon sighted and the chase was on. The dogs, being fresh, were at their best and the wolf, not too fleet an animal and gorged with fresh beef, was soon caught by speedy Baby Blue. She looked even more delicate beside the large killer. After the first tussle, the wolf sat on his haunches, seemed not at all afraid, and snarled at the dogs as much to say, “Come and get it.” Dad, knowing the power in the animal’s jaws and noting his self-protecting position, knew that the wolf could easily break a dog’s leg or tear him wide open. So he pulled his six-gun from its resting place and put a well-aimed bullet through the wolf’s head.
Soon the hunters were back in the little cow town, more noisy and jubilant on the return trip. The word had spread to the townspeople and a group was out to hear the story. Horses were unsaddled and put in their stalls to enjoy a feed of grain. The dogs were petted by the admirers for a job well done.
Wolves were rare here, even in the early 1900’s. Since this was such a fine specimen, he was mounted and placed in the White Elephant. Later, when prohibition closed all of these establishments, he was moved to the drug store and put on display there. Not covered for protection, he finally became shabby and was hauled to the dump.
In the spring of that year, another wolf was sighted by Jess West, foreman of the Diamond Bar Ranch. He galloped to town and a group was soon on its way. This did not prove to be as exciting as the first chase. The day was warm, and the heat soon exhausted both the wolf and dogs. This wolf was a female and since she was caught in the same area as the first kill, the men were sure the two were mates. They say that once wolves pair up, it is for life. So ended the appearance and savage destruction of a pair of ruthless killers.
It is said that once a gray has made his kill and had his fill, he will not again return to the carcass, thus avoiding the chance of being poisoned or trapped. The meat the wolf leaves provides food for coyotes for several days or more. The coyote is much smaller, faster, and more cunning in his habits of hiding than the wolf.
The hunting, sighting, and chasing of a wolf or coyote on horseback was the ultimate in excitement: the dogs running at top speed, with the fast or throw dog in the lead, closely followed by the fighter or killers—usually among them a proven veteran that was known as a throat dog; the shrewdness of the experienced hound; the crossing of fences; and the feel of a sure-footed horse under you (some horses that had been in many chases seemed to be as excited and raring to go as the hounds and hunters). This was another exciting and sometimes dangerous sport of the early men of the plains country, which has gone into history.