Skerrit the Wolfer

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Imagine God had taken a nice stretch of open flat country and crushed it together in a fit of anger, creating a godforsaken set of crowded hills and valleys-that was Cypress Hills.  Everyone who passed considered it strange to pass this stretch of the trail surrounded by majestic mountains that rose gracefully from flat, treeless plateaus and shallow valleys with not a dip or buffalo wallow where wolf or coyote could hide

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Skerrit and his crew had come up from Montana, through Billings and into the badlands of Alberta, where the likes of the Sundance Kid and Butch Cassidy had hidden from U.S. Marshalls in those miles of caves. They crossed the Medicine Line and made their way into Cypress Hills, a godforsaken set of crowded hills and valleys.

Skerrit had the dirty habit of salting bait cattle with strychnine and gave upset to all who learned of it, including Sherman’s party.

“Them rowdies could be atop you before you know it,” the proprietor of the Imperial Hotel on 11th Avenue said.

“What’s he look like?” Sherman asked.

“He’s tall and wiry, skinny as a starving calf, and his eyes flicker up and down when you talk to him like the strokes of that Morse code machine at the Telegraph office. He’s one sonofabitch hooligan, that one,” a saloon keeper said.

“I heard tell he laid still as a newborn deer for near two days and nights and ferreted out a den of twelve pups at thirty dollars a skin. That was back in ‘05. They drank to their hearts’ content coming back over the Medicine Line that time,” a second man said.

“For three nights, those wolfers hollered at the moon with their drunken cries, bringing trickery wherever they go,” a saleslady said from the Sykes Piano Parlors and Village Blacksmith Company.

Wolfers never stayed long enough to clean up their treachery as birds and insects spread the poison. It was the homesteaders, the hard-working settlers, who paid the price for their quick-kill methods.

Joyce

Joyce Derenas is a historical fiction author who writes stories based on the real lives of her French-Canadian ancestors of the Beauce Valley in Quebec.