The Outlaws Part 1 by Juanita Amero
Old Three Toes, Rags the Digger, Ghost Wolf, and Spirit Wolf were just a few of the names given to the “outlaw” wolves of the past. These legendary wolves were the inspiration for many thrilling tales spun throughout the generations. However, the actual fact may not be the same as that which is remembered as legend. I will try to give you some of both and let you decide.
Years of being hunted and trapped unsuccessfully often left many wolves missing toes, feet, or even legs. Hence such names as Old Three Toes, Two Toes, Peg Leg, and Clubfoot originated. Whatever their names, it remains true that these wolves were not ordinary wolves. They all had distinctive physical traits, whether it be size, missing limbs, or unusual habits.
In this issue, I would like to re-tell to you the story of Lobo and Blanca, mates in the wild. Most of the renegade wolves were loners. This story is an exception.
Come with me on a written journey that campfire legends are made of. I hope it captures your interest as it did mine.
The legend begins on a cattle ranch in Currcumpaw Valley, northern New Mexico. A roaming pack of gray wolves were taking a toll on the valuable cattle there. A large gray wolf the locals had named Lobo, meaning “the king”, led the pack. Lobo was well known despite the fact most had never seen him. People learned to identify him by his distinctive howl. It was much lower in tone than the other wolves. Many unmistakably identified his deep low octave song to the moon as his alone. His track was at least an inch longer than the rest of his pack. Under Lobo’s leadership, the pack had managed to avoid all traps and poison set out to rid the ranch of these merciless killers. Up until outdoors man Ernest Seton was called to the ranch, Lobo’s pack seemed to live charmed lives. They ruled the ranch with their marauding, and it is said they destroyed more than two thousand head of cattle during their reign.
Taking nothing other than the tenderest part of mostly yearling heifers nightly, it was not long before a bounty of one thousand dollars was put on Lobo’s head. The one and only fear for this king wolf was firearms. He and his pack never roamed the ranch unless under the cover of night.
When Seton arrived to the ranch he knew he was not dealing with an ordinary wolf. Seeing the tracks of Lobo, he decided the traps he brought were too small. While waiting for bigger ones to arrive, Seton set out to poison the wolves.
Cooking up a mixture of cheese and kidney fat from a fresh wolf kill, Seton took great care not to get any human odor on it. He didn’t even breathe on the meat and wore gloves that had been steeped in blood. He put lumps of bait into odorless capsules laced with lethal poison and sealed it with cheese. He put them all in a rawhide bag previously soaked in blood. He started out with the capsules by dragging them behind his horse in the dust. Dropping the lethal bait along the trail he rode, Seton never touched any with his bare hands. The next day, an eager Seton set out with confidence only to find the unexpected. The wolf tracks told the story. Capturing their interest, Lobo and his pack had followed the drag. Coming upon the first dropped capsule, Lobo picked it up in his mouth. The second, third, and fourth were the same. Thinking he would surely see a dead wolf on this trail, he came upon the fifth and found all the bait capsules had been carried and dropped there. Lobo and his pack had covered them with filth, almost tauntingly it seemed, and left. Poison was not going to work.
One hundred heavy steel double spring wolf traps arrived. They were set along trails leading to water sources and canyon crossings. Extreme care and caution was used in the setting of the leg hold traps.
Each trap was chained to a short log smeared with blood to use as a drag. The traps were set and the ground smoothed with the body of a rabbit. A man would have never known they were there. But Lobo knew! He made a mockery of Seton as his men. Lobo would come upon the trap, detecting it by smell, and circle around to the downwind side. He scratched and dug the ground until he sprung and exposed each and every trap, chain, and log.
Noticing the pattern of circling the traps, Seton deciding to set them in an H pattern. One was put in the trail (the middle of the cross bar in the H) with others set around in the form of an H. Surely the wolf would step into one of these side traps as he circled the one in the trail.
One would think, wouldn’t they? Once again, by the tracks recorded in the dust, it happened no such way. When Lobo came upon the set, he stopped short. Never moving forward, he stepped backwards and continued this way until he was well away from the traps. He trotted on, making a wide circle around the H, and proceeded to kill another heifer a ways down the trail.
The next four months, Seton continued to pursue Lobo and his pack to no avail. This game was obviously in Lobo’s favor and Seton was surely at his wit’s end. Until…. Lobo made the one fateful mistake of his life. Lobo might have roamed and ruled till the end of his natural life in the wild, if not for this one downfall.
The mighty king wolf took a mate. He paired with a young beautiful wolf. With her young age, came incautiousness. The ranch hands that saw her said she was a sight to behold. She was pure white. They called her Blanca.