Monday, March 9, 2009
MONTE WOLFE, THE LEGEND
After Monte's disappearance, the stories began to flow. His exploits as a hunter; his quirky ways; his feats of strength. They came from so many sources, they are collectively a picture of the real Monte Wolfe regardless of his origins or what his real name may have been.
He spelled his name Wolfe with the English e on the end. He used expressions like thar and by gar, and made some "Canuck" bunk beds for friends of his. He served some time in jail as Ed Mc Graff for relieving Constable Billy Schmidt of his gun while trying to arrest him for stealing a gun from Alexander Chauncey. He was prosecuted as Ed Mc Graff in Tuolumne County and sent to State Prison. He also supposedly served in War War I as Ed Mc Graff, but he once corrected someone and told them his name was Monte Rice, and another time Ed Wright? He wanted to be unfound and his inconsistencies made everyone more curious. For instance, he had a barely accessible cabin on the Ned McGrath ranch on Little Humbug Creek. Ned McGrath, Ed McGraff? The names so similar? He claimed to be Catholic and his mother had a proper upbringing. He canned venison, never dried fish or meat as the Indian's did. His cabin building skills and handiness with an ax suggest a Canadian background. No one knows for sure who he was, but his feats of strength were legendary and indisputable. He would easily ski to Nevada to get his mail since the rangers took his mailbox away in Calaveras County. He'd pack people into the woods and carry their stuff plus his own. He'd catch fish for them if they didn't get their limit. His main cabin was two rooms, 14 by 20 with a loft. It had guest beds made of metal with real mattresses. He had a cement mixer, a wheel barrow and a heavy cast iron cook stove that he carried into the canyons by himself along with a victrola, steel cookware and other heavy items.
One man recalls meeting Monte carrying a keg of heavy nails on his shoulder. He stopped to talk for several minutes and never set his burden down, but continued on as though it was nothing.
He made a log ramp and hoisted 600 to 800 pound logs up the ramp he made while building his main cabin. After working all day on his "new" cabin, he still had energy enough to hike five hours out to escort people to their cars as the day dwindled, making it back alone at night.
The Lewis family recall that he offered to build them a cabin on the Moke River if they would supply the windows. He showed them a couple catfish lakes so full of fish they'd practically jump in the pan. "His legs were like fence posts and we couldn't keep up with him. Monte explained that he wore several pairs of stockings to protect himself from rattlesnakes," said Earl Lewis.
Monte loved to be social and readily sought company on his terms. Yet, he gave the impression that he was hiding from justice.
All the little contacts people had with him through the years verify his unusual personality, his strength, his sense of fun. He would ski into Tamarack and chase the giggling cook around the bar (a skit they planned for the entertainment of patrons) and through the kitchen, jump up on the bar and emote with relish. He loved talking about his encounters with cougars and bears.
Slim Hinton remembers he started a forest fire once and was embarrassed by it. He burned around his cabin every year and it got away from him. The burn exposed a cast iron stove he had tried to move to his lower cabin. It even defeated Monte. Hinton said he couldn't even budge a corner of the thing. Another time he used his shoulder to lift and nudge a cabin into position that he helped another guy build. He liked women and had a number of women visitors. He worked for others when he could find work, but he always left himself an out. He had many a cache stored around a four county area to give him a wide range and an "out" if he needed it.
The above pictures show Monte's smaller cabin, one of the log bridges and a cache wired into a hollow of an oak tree. He kept his food in water tight, vermin proof containers. He grew 500 pounds of potatoes a year and kept them buried in oak leaves near his cabin.He would have enjoyed knowing people are still talking and reading about him today.