Badlands Billy by Juanita Amero
Here we are once again. The winter behind us and much warmth and growth to come we hope. Last issue was a to-be-continued edition that continues here this month. As we left him, a young wolf pup has lost his keen foster mom to a trap. The stage is set in the wilderness as the young one grows, remembers his lessons and continues a legacy of outlaws.
Instinct is no doubt a wolf’s first and most useful guide through life, but gifted parents are a good start too. The young pup had a mother of rare excellence and he reaped those advantages.
It is said that a wolf will glance over the morning wind as a man does over his newspaper, and get all the latest news about the world around him. He can swing his nose over the ground and have precise information on the living creatures that walked there during the last many hours before. Which way it came from and where it went.
The young pup in addition to his frame of unusual power and endurance had this skill as he continued to grow alone. He had learned a deep distrust of everything strange, which proved to be worth more to him than all his cleverness.
Might is right in the life of a wolf. The young pup and his mother had been driven out of the delectable land of Sentinel Butte. Time after time, he drifted back to his native mountain. One or two big wolves there drove him off several times, only to return the next time better able to face them. Before 2 years old, he had defeated all rivals and established his right to live on his native home ground once again; where he lived like a robber baron and found safety in the rocky landscape.
He was not without human rivalry here, for a wolver named Ryder often hunted in this very country. Moreover, as fate would see fit, he was the very same man that had trapped the pup’s mother wolf a couple years before. It wasn’t long before Ryder came across the 5 and half-inch track, the footprint of a giant wolf. Roughly reckoned by the seasoned hunter, 20 to 25 pounds or 6 inches in height is a fair allowance for each inch of a wolf foot; this wolf therefore stood 33 inches at the shoulder and weighed about 140 pounds. The largest wolf he had ever met for sure. You see, Ryder had lived in goat country raising goats for most of his life, and now in “goat” language he exclaimed….”you bet, ain’t that an old billy!” Thus by trivial chance it was that the young pup was known to his foe as Badlands Billy.
Ryder was familiar with the call of wolves, the long smooth haunting cry, but Billy’s had a single feature, a “slurring” that was distinctive and eerie. Ryder knew of various ways to hunt the wolf. With foxhounds, which proved to be too thin-skinned. Greyhounds that were useless when the wolf was out of sight. Great Danes, though monstrous, too heavy for the rough country. The ideal group of hounds was a pack with some of all kinds including a Bull terrier to lead them in the final fight. He could tell of hunts after coyotes and gray wolves with this very pack, but he above all else dwelt on the prowess of “that thar cussed old black wolf of Sentinel Butte.” For Billy continued to live on the finest stock of the Penroof brand.
Billy knew the hunter and his group of men and hounds walked his land, and late one night in the fall after the last streak of light was gone the coyotes began their song. A deep booming sound was heard and Ryder responded with “That’s him… that’s ol’ Billy. He’s been watching us all day from some high place and now when the guns are useless he’s here to have a little fun with us.”
Two fearless dogs in their camp arose with bristling manes and rushed into the night only to return with yelps and fatal wounds. One of the dogs was dead by daylight.
The next morning the posse set out with fever after Billy. They found a coyote and the hounds killed it within a 100 yards. “Mighty brave dogs for a little coyote, but they could not face the big wolf last night?”
All of October slipped by, the hunters following dogs that could not keep Billy’s trail or feared to do so. The damage to livestock continued. Some of the hunters decided to break camp and go home defeated. Ryder and his remaining crew used their going to send a letter asking for reinforcements and all the spare dogs at the ranch.
The new dogs arrived within days. Eight beauties, which raised the number of the pack to 15. With the hounds came cooler weather and a light snow. The hunters who had left, returned, the weather had changed their minds. They were hoping a change of luck.
The hunter knows nothing more inspiring that the clean-cut line of fresh tracks that is leading to a wonderful animal he has long been hunting in vain. How Ryder’s eyes gleamed as he gloated over the sign they finally come upon.
It was the roughest of all rough riding. A history of Billy’s night before, lay before them like an open book. Here he had circled at the telephone box and looked for news; there he had paused to examine and old skull; here he had shied off and swung cautiously up wind to examine an old tin can; there at length he had mounted a low hill and sat down, to howl no doubt. Two wolves had come to him from opposites directions and together the threesome has descended to the river flat where the cattle would seek shelter during the storm. There they found the leftovers of the feast, a horrendous bloody scene of half eaten livestock.
As they mingled among the carnage, the hounds again began to bristle and sniff the air. Ryder and crew came to a hill where the three wolves had turned and faced the hunting party, then fled, all three, at full speed…. so said the snowy trail. It was clear they had watched the hunters and were not far away.
The hunters press onward in pursuit of this renegade Badlands Billy and his two comrades. The last stand of Badlands Billy is not something you would want to miss.
I look forward to sharing it with you next time, right here at Water and Woods.