Wolves Circling the Fire
Of Beasts and of Tyrants
Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Association
There was a time in Man’s evolution when he huddled around the
nighttime fire gazing outward at the glowing ring of eyes – the
predators who viewed man only as food. A few of these
predators came in and joined Man at the fire and became dogs.
Others remained outside and have always been wolves.
These early Men learned to build structures, not only to keep out the
rain and the cold, but to protect Man and his weaker family members
from the ever-present wolf, who circled warily and constantly, always
ready to snatch as a meal any unwary member of Man’s family.
In fact, one might reasonably view Man’s entire development and
creation of civilization as a process of fortifying against wolves, the
chief among Man’s predators. So, the process of civilization has
been a contest against wolves, with savagery and risk being at one end
of the scale, and a complicated system and evolution of security being
at the other.
There are people nowadays who believe we need more wolves. There
are people who have understandable trouble grasping and accepting the
great complexity that modern Man’s society has become, and who openly
or secretly yearn for more primitive and simpler times, with lines more
clearly drawn, and the customs, associations and processes less
complex. These people thrill with a comprehension of that which
is wild and primitive in a way Jack London would certainly understand.
However, there is a reason for the colloquialism, to “keep the wolf
from the door.” Because of its insatiable predation and unending
hostility to Man, the reputation of the wolf properly echoes down
through the corridors of time as the enemy of Man, and perhaps the
greatest single impetus for Man’s journey along the path of
So, the contemporary struggle between those who wish more wolves to
share space with Man, and those who still seek to protect themselves
and their families from wolves, may be viewed as a struggle between the
progress and regress of civilization itself.
The equation becomes more interesting when one notices that the leading
supporters for the pro-wolf, civilization-regression often live most
closely in the heart of civilization, in the steel and glass constructs
of Man’s major hives. These may be the people most harried by the
press and complexity of modern society. For them, the advocacy is
strictly an intellectual exercise, a remote game they might play as in
a game arcade at the shopping mall.
These same supporters would never send their children to play in the
forests and hills where real, live, hungry, flesh-eating wolves
actually roam. They have not lost all personal survival instinct.
Yet, it is a tribute to the complexity of our society that these same,
well-fortified city dwellers, living in circumstances designed to “keep
the wolf from the door”, can compel others of us living in the forests
and hills to live with those ancient enemies of Man constantly in our
midst. They make their warm and fuzzy movies about wolves, they
give the wolves names agreeable to children, they promote wolves as
friendly, (almost)stuffed animals to schoolchildren, but return each
night to the civilized security of their glass and steel caves, where
their flocks and their children remain protected against Man’s ancient
adversary. In their understandable yearning for simpler times,
they are selfishly willing to expose others of their kind to risks and
predation that they do not and will not suffer themselves.
Whatever the motives of the predator-advocates, the effect is
undeniable. Not only the flocks of Man suffer, the billions of
dollars sportsmen have invested in restoring and enhancing wild
populations of deer, antelope, elk, sheep, moose and goats is
disappearing at a disastrous rate. So, the predation occurs at an
alarming and increasing rate, if not upon the flesh of Man, then on his
wallet, his estate, and his ability to survive economically.
Under these circumstances, one might ask, who are the predators?
Are the predator advocates not preying on the others who will suffer
the consequences? I believe that the predator advocate leaders
actually understand their own predator status, and are convinced they
have the power and right to compel the conduct of the prey – the others
of their kind who will suffer from their schemes. When they
identify the animals for which they advocate as elite and powerful,
they also see themselves as elite and powerful – an identity
transference of sorts. The obvious question is, when will those
who they view as prey, upon whom they would vent their predatory
savagery, when will the prey wake up and understand the nature of this
To bring the discussion full circle, those who believe we need more
wolves may be right, albeit for the wrong reasons. Maybe we have
been too long without predators, and we are getting soft. Maybe
we need predators and tyrants nibbling around the flanks of our flocks
and families to challenge us to rebuild the fortifications and sharpen
our marksmanship. But, the predators against whom we must fortify
are those among our own kind who are comfortable seeing us as prey,
those who would threaten the survival of our freedoms for their own
whims, the would-be tyrants who would prey upon our liberties to serve
their own agendas.
Maybe the wolves are a blessing – a wake-up call. If we are not
awakened from our slumbers near the fire by the howling out in the
darkness, maybe we deserve to be food for the tyrants.
- 30 –
Informational note: The Montana Shooting Sports Association is
the primary organization asserting the rights and prerogatives of gun
owners and hunters in Montana. MSSA president, Gary Marbut, grew
up on a 5,000-acre cattle ranch in Western Montana, is an officer of
the Western Montana Fish and Game Association, Montana’s oldest and
largest regional organization of hunters and anglers, and is a lifetime
hunter, in the last decade hunting elk with a revolver.