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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

A whale of a tale? No - try wolves

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
The annihilation of the buffalo brought about many sad consequences.

For one, the Plains Indians lost their larder, forcing them to live on reservations or starve. Second, another species of the prairie, the Lobo wolf, was also annihilated. He, too, was dependent on the buffalo for existence.

Every herd of buffalo had its own packs of following wolves. They kept the old and weak buffalo culled out, as well as any sick newborn calves. This natural-selection process assured only the strongest of the buffalo survived.

Though not as well-known as buffalo hunting, killing and poisoning the wolves following the herds was also profitable.

A good wolf hide often brought more money than a prime buffalo hide. Sales tickets from a hide-buying company almost always showed wolf hide purchases along with the buying of buffalo hides. By the time the buffalo were gone the Lobo wolf also disappeared.
Texas - Cow with black birds
TE photo, September 2009

Another little-known story took place as trail herds of longhorns were driven from the south to the Kansas railheads. When a herd began its trek, flocks of cowbirds or blackbirds attached themselves to the livestock.

The reason? Flies, mosquitoes, gnats, ticks and skin warbles covered the backs and hides of the longhorns making up the favorite daily menu of the crafty bird. It was an easy life just riding along on a steer's back, flying occasionally while eating whatever was at hand. The steer didn't care, maybe switching his tail once in a while.

It was proved the southern birds rode and flew the entire trip to Kansas. How? One gentle bird flew too close to a cowboy who flicked his leather quirt at the bird. The tail feathers flew, leaving the bird bobtailed and easy to identify. Sure enough, at the end of the drive, the bobtailed bird was still with the herd.

Frank Groves, a well-known cowboy from Stinnett who passed away in 1944, saw many things in his lifetime. He actually saw the first things that happened in the Panhandle when settlers began arriving on the Plains.

One of his stories hit close to home for me, as I live only a few miles from Lake McClellan in Gray County, south of Pampa. It seems a cowboy named Homer Mills lived in a rock dugout just above where the lake is now located. Once, when Frank visited Homer, the old man told of a big animal coming into his dugout each night, eating up his leftovers and fresh meat. Being pitch dark, he couldn't see the animal, but since it didn't bother him in his bunk, he was afraid of confrontation. When he made sure his door was latched, the animal tore the latch off.

Later, a man from New Clarendon cutting firewood near Homer's dugout shot and killed a Mexican cougar measuring more than 8 feet in length from nose to tip of tail. It was probably a good thing Homer never saw the intruder in the lamplight. No telling what might have happened.

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" December 22, 2009 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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