Let’s face it, the majority of people we meet as kids do not stick in our minds that well. If they aren’t family, there has to be something unique about them to make them memorable. One of the really unique people I can still remember from my childhood was an old wolf hunter, and unique isn’t a strong enough word to describe him.

The Wolf Hunter of Sedalia

As a boy who grew up in Sedalia during the '40s and '50s, I remember those times as somewhere between the modern day and old west. It was not uncommon to see horses and cows in town, and several people still had horse-drawn wagons that would pass our house on Emmit Avenue now and then. One of the real old west things I could never forget was a wolf hunter who lived at the edge of town, and could have served as the stereotypical loner hunter of the movies.

He was anything but a talkative man which was probably a by-product of the lifestyle he had chosen. He was an unkempt man whose hair always looked as dirty as the equally dirty dogs he kept.  He would go off for weeks at a time to hunt wolves that were supposedly still in northwestern Missouri at that time. However, I can remember him saying that the days of the wolf were numbered in the state because man was killing them off and destroying their habitat.

The dogs the wolf hunter used to hunt the wolves were definitely not of the petting variety, and whenever I got too close to their pen, they proved that point by rushing the gate in an attempt to get at me. The old man laughed for one of the few times I can remember and said something about experience being the best teacher. The dogs were hardly more than skin stretched over bones, and I guess a little boy looked like fresh meat to them.  The old man said they had to be kept hungry and lean so they could run the wolves to ground. It was not uncommon for him to come home with fewer dogs than he left with either, and he said wolves don't always lose the fight.

The wolf hunter lived on an unpaved street just off Engineer Avenue, past 16th Street.  I can't be sure of the street number was, but I'm sure it was the last one Sedalia had back then. I also remember he didn’t have any neighbors, which could have been because of his dogs.  I gave the dogs and their pens lots of room myself, after that first time.

I lost track of the old man after I joined the Navy, but I never forgot him and his dogs. I have told the story to my children and grandchildren, as well as to shipmates on those long watches aboard ship, and the old man comes to my mind every time I watch a movie about wolves or men who hunt them.

Tune in to Jack Miller on Newstalk 1050 KSIS every Monday morning to hear excerpts from his book of Mid-Missouri Memories, titled ‘Unhurried Days.’