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The Bark Covered House
Chapter 10. How We Got Into Trouble One Night and I Scared


ONE warm day in winter father and I went hunting. I had the rifle that day. We went south, crossed the windfall and Reed creek, and went into what we called the "big woods." We followed deer, but seemed to be very unlucky, for I couldn't shoot them. We travelled in the woods all day and hunted the best we could.

Just at sundown, deer that have been followed all day are apt to stop and browse a little. Then if the wind is favorable and blowing from them to you, it is possible to get a shot at them; but if the wind is blowing from you to them, you can't get within gunshot of them. They will scent you. They happened to be on the windward side, as we called it. I got a shot at one and killed it. It was late and, carelessly, I didn't load the rifle. It being near night, I thought I should not have a chance to shoot anything more.

It was my custom to load the rifle after shooting, and if I didn't have any use for it before, when I got near home, I shot at a mark on a tree or something. In that way I practiced shooting and let the folks know I was coming. In this way I also kept the rifle from rusting, as sometimes it was vet; when I got into the house I cleaned it off and wiped it out.

In a few minutes we had skinned the two fore quarters out. Then we wrapped the fore part of the hide around the hind quarters, and each took a half and started. It was now dark, and we did not like to undertake going home straight through the woods, so took our way to the Reed house, from which there was a dim path through to Pardee's, and we could find our way home.

We were tired and hungry, and our feet were wet from travelling through the soft snow. As Mr. Reed had moved away there was no one in the house, and we went in and kindled a fire in the fireplace. The way we did it, I took some "punk" wood out of my pocket, held flint stone over it, struck the flint with my knife, and the punk soon took fire. We put a few whitlings on it, then some sticks we had gathered in the way near by the house. We soon had a good fire and were warming and drying our feet.

This "punk" I got from soft maple trees. When I wanted some I went into the woods and looked for an oldish tree, looked up, and if I could see black knots on the body of the tree, toward the top, I knew there was " punk " wood in it and would cut it down, then cut half way through the log, above and below the black knot, and split it off. In the center of the log I was sure to find "punk" wood. Sometimes, in this way, I got enough to last a year or two from one tree. It vasof a brown color and was found in layers, which were attached and adhered together. When I chopped a tree I took out all I could find, carried it home, laid it up in a place where it would get drier, and it was always ready for use.

We had to use the utmost precaution not to get out of this material. Sometimes I have known my little Michigan sister, Abbie, to go more than a quarter of a mile, to the Blare place, to borrow fire; on such occasions we had to wait for breakfast until she returned. I do not know that the fire was ever paid back, but I do know that we had callers frequently when the errand was to borrow fire.

When I went hunting I was careful to take a piece of this with me. I broke or tore it off (it was something like tearing old cloth). With this, a flint and a jack knife I could make a fire in case night overtook me in the woods and I could not get out. Fire was our greatest protection from wild animals and cold in the night. This was the way we kindled our fire in the Reed house, before "Lucifer matches" or "Telegraph matches" were heard of by us, although they were invented as early as 1833. [Fire making is an essential of human existence, and stone-age men mastered the art and devised instruments for its practice. Until the invention of the friction match, the most practical tool for starting a fire was the fire steel and flint. If the fire steel was lacking, any piece of steel, such as a jack knife blade might be made to serve its purpose. The friction match, which revolutionized the art of starting fires, was invented in England in 1827, and was first produced in America in 1836. A further period of time elapsed, probably, before it came into the possession of such pioneer families as the Nowlins.] After we got a little comfortable and rested, and the wood burned down to coals, we cut some slices of venison, laid them on the coals and roasted them. Although we had no salt, the meat tasted very good.

Late in the evening we took our venison and started again. It was hard work to follow the path in the thick woods, and we had to feel the way with our feet mostly as it was quite dark. We had got about eighty rods from the house when, as unexpected as thunder in the winter, broke upon our startled ears the dismal yells and awful howls of wolves. No doubt they had smelled our venison and come down from the west, came down almost upon us and broke out with their hideous yells. The woods seemed to be alive with them. Father said: "Load the rifle quick!" I dropped my venison, and if ever I loaded a gun quick, in the dark, it was then. I threw in the powder, ran down a ball without a patch, and, strange to say, before I got the cap on the wolves were gone, or at least they were still, we didn't even hear them run or trot. What it was that frightened them we never knew; whether it was our stopping so boldly or the smell of the powder, or what, I cannot say; but we did refuse to let them have our venison. We got away with it as quickly as possible and carried it safely home.

Another wolf adventure worth relating; I had been deer hunting; I had been off beyond what we called the Indian hill and was returning home. I was southwest of this hill, and on the north side of a little ridge which ran to the hill, when two wolves came from the south. They ran over the little ridge, crossing right in front of me, to go into a big thicket north. I had my rifle on them. They did halt, but in shooting very quickly I did not get a very good sight, however, I knocked one down and thought I had killed him. (They were just about of a size, and when I shot, the other went back like a flash the way he came from.) I loaded the rifle, but before I had it loaded the one I had shot got up and looked at me. I saw what I had done. I had cut off his lower jaw, close up, and it hung down. Another shot finished him quickly. He measured six feet from theend of his nose to the point of his tail.

I have seen many wolves, I have seen them in shows, but never saw any that compared in size with these Michigan wolves. It takes a very large, long dog to measure five feet. There was a bounty on wolves. I went down through the woods to Squire Goodel's, who lived near the Detroit river, got him to make out my papers and got the bounty. These pests were more shy in the day-time. They were harder to get a shot at than the deer. There were many of them in the woods, and we heard them so often nights that we became familiar with them. When the "Michigan Central Railroad" was built, and the cars ran through Dearborn, there was something about the iron track, or the noise of the cars which drove them from the country. [There is reason for doubting the correctness of the explanation given by the author for the disappearance of wolves from Wayne County, if, indeed, they disappeared thus early. The gradual removal of the timber, and the corresponding increase of settlers and farmers, would seem to offer a better explanation of their disappearance. In Iowa, the present writer was familiar with them throughout his entire boyhood, although railroads had crisscrossed the country long before his birth.]


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