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Vicious

Vicious: Wolves and Men in America

JON T. COLEMAN
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1nq37w
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  • Book Info
    Vicious
    Book Description:

    Over a continent and three centuries, American livestock owners destroyed wolves to protect the beasts that supplied them with food, clothing, mobility, and wealth. The brutality of the campaign soon exceeded wolves' misdeeds. Wolves menaced property, not people, but storytellers often depicted the animals as ravenous threats to human safety. Subjects of nightmares and legends, wolves fell prey not only to Americans' thirst for land and resources but also to their deeper anxieties about the untamed frontier.

    Now Americans study and protect wolves and jail hunters who shoot them without authorization. Wolves have become the poster beasts of the great American wilderness, and the federal government has paid millions of dollars to reintroduce them to scenic habitats like Yellowstone National Park.

    Why did Americans hate wolves for centuries? And, given the ferocity of this loathing, why are Americans now so protective of the animals? In this ambitious history of wolves in America-and of the humans who have hated and then loved them-Jon Coleman investigates a fraught relationship between two species and uncovers striking similarities, deadly differences, and, all too frequently, tragic misunderstanding.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13337-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    ON A SNOWY winter morning in 1814, the wildlife painter, hunter, and naturalist John James Audubon watched a livestock owner torture a family of wolves. The farmer had captured the animals in pit traps dug along the parameter of his Ohio River Valley land. Every night he set hunks of venison on platforms of interwoven twigs balanced over four eight-foot-deep craters. When a wolf seized the bait, the platform swung on a hidden axis, dumping the animal into the hole.¹

    On the morning Audubon accompanied him, the farmer caught three wolves in one pit. The predators “lay flat on the...

  6. PART ONE: SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND

    • CHAPTER ONE Howls, Snarls, and Musket Shots: SAYING “THIS IS MINE” IN COLONIAL NEW ENGLAND
      (pp. 19-36)

      Woath woach ha ha hach woath.The great and hideous cry jerked the landing party awake. “Arm, arm,” yelled a sentinel. Muskets boomed and fell silent. Men traded whispers in the dark. One, a sailor, had heard the cry before. Companies of wolves, he reported, often sung to him and his mates on the cod fishing boats off the coast of Newfoundland. Convinced that wolves “or such like wild beasts” had made the noise, the men slept, rousing themselves in the morning to pack their shallop (the small boat sent from theMayflowerto search for a settlement site) and...

    • CHAPTER TWO Beasts of Lore: HOW STORIES TURNED FEARSOME MONSTERS INTO SKULKING CRIMINALS
      (pp. 37-51)

      IN THE WINTER of 1621 the wolves of southern New England chased their first domesticated European, the Plymouth colony’s spaniel. The colony had two dogs, the spaniel and a mastiff bitch. When not frightening Indians, the dogs flushed geese and deer for the settlement’s hunters, and the canines were unruly workers. They frequently took off after game and refused to come back. On one occasion two gunners, Masters Goodman and Jones, became lost in the woods while searching for the dogs. The men “passed an unhappy night . . . terrified at the howling of wolves, which they mistook for...

    • CHAPTER THREE Wolf Bullets with Adders’ Tongues: HOW TO KILL A WOLF IN COLONIAL NEW ENGLAND
      (pp. 52-66)

      IN THE NORTHEAST corner of Middleboro, Massachusetts, John and James Soule farmed side-by-side parcels in the shadow of Wolf-Trap Hill. A family folktale explained mound’s name. At dawn each day, one of the brothers hiked the hill to check the pit trap they had dug to catch poultry-stealing wolves. One morning, the inspector peered into the trench and discovered a wolf balled up at one end and an Indian shivering at the other; both had crashed through the boughs that covered the ditch in the night. The farmer killed the wolf, and “after an examination he found that the Indian...

  7. PART TWO: THE NORTHEASTERN WOODLANDS

    • CHAPTER FOUR Predator to Prey: WOLVES’ JOURNEY THROUGH THE NORTHEASTERN WOODLANDS
      (pp. 69-101)

      TWICE ALONG Maine’s coast in the 1660s, John Josselyn and his hunting partners captured wolves alive and tortured them for fun. The men happened upon their first victim while gunning for waterfowl on the beach. Their dogs, led by a female mastiff, chased the wolf across the flats at low tide. After an “excellent course,” the mastiff grabbed the wolf by the throat and pinned him in the surf. The hunters bound the animal’s paws and carried him home swinging “like a Calf upon a staff between two men.” That night, they unleashed the predator inside their living room. The...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Surrounded: FEAR AND RETRIBUTION IN THE NORTHEASTERN FORESTS
      (pp. 102-122)

      FEW CHILDHOOD memories conjure up warmer emotions than a bedtime story told by a doting grandparent. But in Brecksville, Ohio, there once lived a grandfather who tucked his loved ones in with wolf stories, and his tales inspired dreams more sour than sweet. Imagine yourself cozy under the covers when a blood relation walks in and assaults you with this legend:

      “It was a terrible night that night we left Batavia, New York, on our way west to our new home in the Western Reserve of Ohio. There were Father and Mother and us eight children all in a great...

    • CHAPTER SIX Metaphors of Slaughter: TWO WOLF HUNTS
      (pp. 123-144)

      ON CHRISTMAS EVE 1818 a small army of Ohio farmers fought a war of extermination in the dense forest of Hinckley Township. Armed with muskets, clubs, axes, pikes, pitchforks, and butcher knives, the “able-bodied men and large boys” encircled their enemy at sunrise. An officer ordered “All Ready,” and the combatants advanced, blowing conch shells and tooting horns. The ruckus drove the enemy deep into the woods, and the men followed, walking within arm’s length of one another to ensure that nothing escaped alive. Upon reaching a frozen stream, the ones with muskets climbed into the trees to avoid shooting...

  8. PART THREE: THE AMERICAN WEST

    • CHAPTER SEVEN A Wealth of Canines: MORMON AMERICANS ON THE GREAT PLAINS
      (pp. 147-172)

      ON A SUNDAY afternoon in April 1847 a large wolf interrupted a trailside prayer service near the Loup Fork of the Platte River. The canine’s appearance was a small miracle: one of the meeting’s leaders, the Mormon apostle George A. Smith, had just launched into a sermon about showing kindness toward animals. The wolf trotted out of a nearby patch of woods at the moment Smith exhorted the crowd to follow the Prophet Joseph Smith’s instructions “not to kill any animals or birds, or any thing created by Almighty God that had life, for the sake of destroying it.” The...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Call It a Coyote: HOW TO EXTERMINATE WOLVES IN COLONIAL UTAH
      (pp. 173-188)

      “’TWAS IN THE MIDDLE of the winter,” and the families around Plain City, Utah, wanted to throw a party. They sent word to Uncle Tom, the local fiddler, to come to town and supply the music. On the night of the dance, Tom finished his chores late and started walking toward Plain City in the dark. Snowdrifts blocked the main road, so he cut across the frozen Weber River. The howls caught him on the ice. Tom scrambled up the riverbank. He spotted the shack where the McFarland boys boiled their molasses and hurried inside. The wolves surrounded the cabin...

  9. PART FOUR: THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

    • CHAPTER NINE Annihilation and Enlightenment: THE CULTURAL EXTINCTION OF NORTH AMERICAN WOLVES
      (pp. 191-224)

      THE SHOT ECHOED off the rimrock. The bullet tore an artery, clipped a lung. Perhaps the hurtling metal demolished a kidney. Whatever the injury, it dropped the wolf. She lay in the dust sucking air. Her killers walked up and watched her die. As the high desert sunshine played across her corneas for the last time, she bled out. Many years later, this scene, filtered through memory and infused with symbolism, would help save wolves from oblivion. That bullet whistling through the New Mexican air brought death and insight.

      In his 1944 essay “Thinking Like a Mountain,” Aldo Leopold traced...

  10. Reintroduction
    (pp. 225-236)

    ON APRIL 24, 1995, Chad McKittrick, an underemployed lover of guns, beer, and bear hunting, shot an animal he hoped was a wolf outside of Red Lodge, Montana. McKittrick and his associate, Dusty Steinmasel, hiked to the canid sprawled in the mud. The scene—two hunters standing over a beast leaking from a high-caliber wound—qualified as a cliché in this portion of the American West. Montanans had been pumping bullets into wild things for more than a century. This killing, however, elicited none of the customary reactions. Instead of “nice shot” or “he’s a keeper,” the situation warranted an...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 237-266)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 267-271)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 272-272)