The Wolf Hunt continued…
The old wolf which Balser and Tom had chased to earth had found a fine dinner for his youngsters, and while the boys were watching the hole, no doubt the wolf family was having a glorious feast upon the gander.
The boys, of course, were at their rope’s end. The dogs were not with them, and, even had they been, they were too large to enter the hole leading to the wolf’s den. So the boys seated themselves upon a rock a short distance from the opening, and after a little time adopted the following plan of action.
Balser was to lie upon his breast on the hillside, a few yards above the opening of the wolf den, while Tom was to conceal him self in the dense foliage, close to the mouth of the cave, and they took their positions accordingly. Both were entirely hidden by vines and bushes, and remained silent as the tomb. They had agreed that they should lie entirely motionless until the shadow of a certain tree should fall across Tom’s face, which they thought would occur within an hour. Then Tom, who could mimic the calls and cries of many birds and beasts, was to squawk like a goose, and tempt the wolf from his den so that Balser could shoot him.
It was a harder task than you may imagine to lie on the ground amid the bushes and leaves; for it seemed, at least so Tom said, that all the ants and bugs and worms in the woods had met at that particular place, and at that exact time, for the sole purpose of “drilling” up and down, and over and around, his body, and to bite him at every step. He dared not move to frighten away the torments, nor to scratch. He could not even grumble, which to Tom was the sorest trial of all.
The moment the shadow of the tree fell upon his face Tom squawked like a goose, so naturally, that Balser could hardly believe it was Tom, and not a real goose. Soon he
uttered another squawk, and almost at the same instant Mr. Wolf came out of his hall door, doubtless thinking to himself that that was his lucky day, for he would have two ganders, one for dinner and one for supper, and plenty of cold goose for breakfast and dinner the next day. But he was mistaken, for it was the unluckiest day of the poor wolf’s life. Bang! went Balser’s gun, and the wolf, who had simply done his duty as a father, by providing a dinner for his family, paid for his feast with his life.
“We’ll drag the body a short distance away from the den,” said Balser, “and you lie down again, and this time whine like a wolf. Then the old she-wolf will come out and we’ll get her too.”
“I wouldn’t lie there another hour and let them ants and bugs chaw over me as they did, for all the wolves in the state.”
“But just think, Tom,” answered Balser, “when the wagons go to Brookville this fall we can get a shilling apiece for the wolfskins! Think of it! A shilling! One for you and one for me. I’ll furnish the powder and shot if you’ll squawk and whine. Squawks and whines don’t cost anything, but powder and lead does. Now that’s a good fellow, just lie down and whine a little. She’ll come out pretty quick.”
Tom still refused, and Balser still insisted. Soon Balser grew angry and called Tom a fool. Tom answered in kind, and in a moment the boys clinched for a fight. They scuffled and fought awhile, and soon stumbled over the dead wolf and fell to the ground. Balser was lucky enough to fall on top, and proceeded to pound Tom at a great rate.
“Now will you whine?” demanded Balser.
“No,” answered Tom.
“Then take that, and that, and that. Now will you whine?”
“No,” cried Tom, determined not to yield.
So Balser went at it again, but there was no give up to stubborn Tom, even if he was on the under side.
At last Balser wiped the perspiration from his face, and, sitting astride of his stubborn foe, said: “Tom, if you’ll whine I’ll lend you my gun for a whole day.”
“And powder and bullets?” asked Tom.
“Well, I guess not,” answered Balser. “I’ll lick you twenty times first.”
“If you’ll lend me your gun and give me ten full loads, I’ll whine till I fetch every wolf in the woods, if the bugs do eat me up.”
“That’s a go,” said Balser, glad enough to compromise with a boy who didn’t know when he was whipped.
Then they got up, and were as good friends as if no trouble had occurred between them.
Balser at once lay down upon the hillside above the wolf den, and Tom took his place to whine.
The boys understood their job thoroughly, and Tom’s whines soon brought out the old she-wolf. She looked cautiously about her for a moment, stole softly over to her dead mate, and dropped by his side with a bullet through her heart.
Tom was about to rise, but Balser said: “Whine again; whine again, and the young ones will come out.”
Tom whined, and sure enough, out came two scrawny, long-legged wolf whelps.
The boys rushed upon them, and caught them by the back of the neck, to avoid being bitten, for the little teeth of the pups were as sharp as needles and could inflict an ugly wound. Balser handed the whelp he had caught to Tom, and proceeded to cut two forked sticks from a tough bush, which the children called “Indian arrow.” These forked branches the boys tied about the necks of the pups, with which to lead them home.
Tom then cut a strong limb from a tree with his pocket-knife. This was quite an undertaking, but in time he cut it through, and trimmed off the smaller branches. The boys tied together the legs of the old wolves and swung them over the pole, which they took upon their shoulders, and started home leading the pups. They arrived home an hour or two before sunset, and found that Liney and Sukey had arranged supper under the elms.
The boys scoured their faces and hands with soft soap, for that was the only soap they had, and sat down to supper with cheeks shining, and hair pasted to their heads slick and tight.
“When a fellow gets washed up this way, and has his hair combed so slick, it makes him feel like it was Sunday,” said Tom, who was uneasily clean.
“Tom, I wouldn’t let people know how seldom I washed my face if I were you,” said Liney, with a slight blush. “They’ll think you clean up only on Sunday.”
Tom, however, did not allow Liney’s remarks to interrupt his supper, but continued to make sad havoc among the good things on the log.
There was white bread made from wheat flour, so snowy and light that it beat cake “all holler!” the boys “allowed.” Wheat bread was a luxury to the settler folks in those days, for the mill nearest to the Blue River settlement was over on Whitewater, at Brookville, fifty miles away. Wheat and the skins of wild animals were the only products that the farmers could easily turn into cash, so the small crops were too precious to be used daily, and wheat flour bread was used only for special occasions, such as Christmas, or New Year’s, or company dinner.