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Discussing this painting Howard Terpning wrote, “Scouts were sent out ahead of a war party to locate enemy camps and forces. These scouts often wore wolf hide-thus, were themselves called ‘wolves.’ It was believed that the great hunting ability of the wolf was imparted into the warriors. And of course, the wolf skin served also as a camouflage. In the painting the scouts are reporting what their reconnaissance determined. The young man in the background went along as an apprentice to this specialized skill. One of his tasks was to take care of the horses while the wolves crept close to the enemy.”

According to Elmer Kelton, “In Plains Indian terminology the scouts who rode reconnaissance ahead of the main war party were ‘wolves.’ Often these scouts wore a wolf skin, partly for camouflage but more importantly for symbolism, drawing to themselves the cunning and hunting ability of the wolf. The young man at left is an apprentice, holding the horses while the more experienced men creep up close to observe the enemy. His turn will come when he is adjudged to have acquired enough experience.

“The wolf was important in plains culture. To kill one was taboo in many tribes, for the wolf was regarded as having special powers. The Comanche believed it could not be killed by bullets but only by an arrow. Thus a warrior fortunate enough to acquire wolf medicine was impervious to the white man’s rifle fire.”

LITERATURE:
Don Dedera, Howard Terpning: The Storyteller (Trumbull, Connecticut: The Greenwich Workshop, Inc.,
1989), pages 33-5, illustrated
Elmer Kelton, The Art of Howard Terpning (Seymour, Connecticut: The Greenwich Workshop Press, 1992), pages 49-51, illustrated

PROVENANCE:
The Artist
Settlers West Galleries, Tucson, Arizona
Mr. & Mrs. Richard Huff, Tucson, Arizona, 1988
Private Collection, Tucson, Arizona, 1992

EXHIBITIONS:
The Great American West, Settlers West Galleries, Tucson, Arizona, November 1988
Cowboy Artists Masterpiece Exhibition, Cowboy Artists of America Museum, Kerrville, Texas, April 22 - August 27, 1989

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