I know I’m going to catch a lot of flak from the KGC people out there on this one but I gotta do what I gotta do! Before you get in an uproar about this article, keep in mind that these articles are meant to stimulate your mind, give you information that you might not otherwise have and show that research is key in what we do if we want to be successful. Hopefully the articles are occasionally entertaining because we certainly wouldn’t want to bore you!
Anyone out there that has done any reading anywhere about the KGC has certainly heard of the “hoot owl trail” and “hoot owl trees”. For those of you that have used your time wisely and hunted treasures other than the alleged billions of the KGC the “hoot owl trail” is supposedly a trail or trails consisting of trees that were intentionally bent or shaped to point in a specific direction and in some cases, supposedly give additional information such as a distance to another point. These trees are supposed to be related to treasure if you believe the KGC myths. I guess at this point I should say that this is my opinion concerning the statement “KGC myths” but if you have been reading the blog you already knew that.
Well, here’s something you probably didn’t know. The “hoot owl trail” of KGC lore seems to be the manipulation of an old saying, using an existing phrase to fabricate something. In this case a marked trail, and by fabricate, I mean changing the information into something that it is not. I wonder where that kind of fabrication could have come from? Maybe from the same place the KGC template came from? Are you getting tired of that yet?
Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying these shaped trees didn’t exist. They were most certainly used by the Indians to mark trails but the Indians never called them hoot owl trees. I will also add that I don’t think anyone in the KGC ever used a “hoot owl tree” to mark a trail because it would take years for a tree to be shaped into the pointer it was meant to be. The KGC didn’t use trails in that manner and they wouldn’t have been around long enough to form enough trees to point the way on a trail. Of course, if the KGC never put billions of dollars in the ground then there wouldn’t be anything to make a trail to anyway.
This doesn’t mean the occasional outlaw didn’t shape a tree by cutting off branches or marked a tree in some way but they didn’t bend a tree and tie it down to form a particular shape.
The original name of the hoot owl trail was actually the “Owl Hoot Trail”. There isn’t much difference between the two except in the definition. In researching the phrase I came across an autobiography of Jim Herron. Mr. Herron was the first sheriff of “No Mans Land” in the Oklahoma Territory. Mr. Herron was also a horse and cattle thief but that was after his days as a sheriff. I guess upholding the law didn’t pay very well back then.
According to Jim Herron’s autobiography the “owl hoot trail” was a phrase used to describe someone who was wanted by the law and continually moving around to keep from getting caught. The phrase originated from a saying used in the “old days” that said; “a man had seen the elephant and heard the owl holler”. Jim Herron said that this meant a man “had been around a lot and slept out, maybe hid out when he got tangled up with the Law a bit”. “If he was wanted real bad by the Law, we’d say he was ridin’ the Owl Hoot Trail”.
The “Owl Hoot Trail” had nothing to do with trees, it simply meant you were out on your own, staying away from towns as much as possible and hiding from the law. This phrase seemed to be very prominent among outlaws and was widely known/used by outlaws and men that worked the cattle trails in the 1800s.
It didn’t have anything to do with the bent or shaped trees and in fact, wasn’t even an actual trail. It was used as a description of something you were doing and not as the name of a specific trail or tree or marker. It seems this too may have been another one of those things Dalton and/or Howk twisted a little to fit their needs.
I guess the hoot owl trail has bit the dust.