“[A Tale of Wolves in Belfast]”

transcribed by G. Douglas Clarke and Carol M. Clarke

My father’s hired man, a resident of Belfast, was about twenty one years old when he told this story.  His name was George Davis, and this occurred when he was a young boy, living with his parents, who had just moved into the place, then a dense wilderness.

Their home was a log structure placed on a clearing large enough for the house and barn, which consisted of logs rolled up the same as for the house.

Their stock consisted of one yoke of oxen and two cows and a number of pigs.  A bell was buckled around one of the cow’s neck, in order that they could be more easily found, as they were all turned into the woods to obtain a living.

At milking time, they were sought after and driven to the barn.  Ferocious animals infested the forests.  Bears, wolves and panthers often committed depredations among calves, sheep, and pigs.

One day George’s father left home on business, to remain over night.  It devolved to George to bring up the cows, and attend to the milking.

When the time came to search for the cows, George took his little dog along to track the cattle and went into the forest.  He soon found them and started them for home.  He noticed it was growing dark quite fast.  He urged the cattle along in order to get to the house before night set in.

All at once the wolves set up a hideous howl, which seemed very near.  At the first sound the cattle and dog ran with all their might, leaving him in the rear and to his horror he could see objects moving about, which seemed to be closing around him.

He had been told that wolves could not climb trees.  He assended [sic] the first favorable looking tree not any too soon, for the wolves closed around the tree at once, with terrible and unceasing howls, pawing the ground and bounding their length up the tree bent on having him for their prey.

All night they kept up this howling, snapping of their teeth and pawing the ground.

The atmosphere was so cold and he was so frightened that he often felt that he must give out and fall to the ground.

The thought of his mother in her lonely condition, and her anxiety about him stimulated him, giving him courage to hold on to the tree for dear life.  As the day began to dawn, the wolves ceased their howls, and hid away in the thicket one by one until all had disappeared.

Not until the sun was high up in the heavens did he dare venture down out of the tree and go home.

His mother, with two helpless children, had suffered untold agonies from the first howling of the wolves until he made his appearance late in the morning.  She met him, and clasped him in her arms, while the tears flowed freely for joy, that her loved boy was alive and had escaped a horrible death.

To prevent the depredations of the wild animals, torch lights were kept burning during the night.

At the howling of the wolves the men would go out with I loaded guns to protect their flocks for they were sure to meet with losses if they were not on guard.  The inhabitants formed themselves into hunting-parties during the winter, and by spring there were many less wolves, bears, and panthers, making the employment quite profitable as there was a bounty on each head.