Last real Coyote hunter: A man who wrestles coyotes doesn't much need to brag
BY MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writer
Monday, July 30, 2007
2/04/08 at 3:35 PM
Read other stories in the series: A funereal existence ::
Big-City Cuisine in Small-Town America :: Reaping what we sow :: Prairie family persevered :: 'Not much left' of town except strong local pride :: Oklahoma 'ghost town' still alive and kicking :: ‘We’re all characters around here’ :: Hominy warms to Mexican cuisine :: Remnant of boom days :: Cut from the same cloth
Editors Note: During 2007 --
Oklahoma's centennial year -- Tulsa
World staff writer Michael Overall is
traveling the state, writing about
uniquely Oklahoman personalities.
FREDERICK -- With a fresh pot
of coffee in her hand, Ilene Eoff explains why she likes her cafe being
so small. Refills are free and she
spends a lot of time pouring.
"In a normal place, I'd have to
walk around all day," she says.
"Here, I just stand in the middle,
and I can reach everybody."
She's exaggerating, but not
much. The I.D. Cafe measures
about 10 feet wide and maybe twice
that deep, with a grand total of 18
When the district judge walks
over from the courthouse across the
street and sits down for lunch, he
can practically whisper to the next
"Try the chicken-fried steak," he
says. "It's the best in the world."
Not the best in town. Not the best
"The world," he says. "The whole
Then he orders meat loaf for himself, because it's even better.
Taking over the cafe a few years
ago, Ilene's only qualification was
that she made dinner every night
for her family.
"It's the same food," she says.
"Just for the whole town."
She'd make a good interview herself, but her husband is on the way
here to tell his story.
When the district judge hears
that Douglas Eoff is coming, he
leans over again.
"Tillman County is full of characters," he says. "And you're about to
meet one of the biggest."
"The same story": In the early
1900s, President Teddy Roosevelt
came to Tillman County to go hunting with Jack Abernathy, a rancher who was famous from Texas to Wyoming for being "a real coyote hunter."
He didn't shoot the coyotes --
dogs cornered them, then Abernathy wrestled the coyotes with his
own hands. And to this day, Tillman
County brags about Roosevelt coming to watch.
"But Abernathy cheated," Eoff
says. "He wore a glove with spikes
in it and he'd ram that glove down
the coyote's throat. The coyote never had a chance."
When Eoff catches a coyote, he
uses his bare hands. No gloves. No
"If a coyote bites down on me," he
says, "I don't panic."
If you jerk your hand back, the
coyote's teeth will rip flesh off the
bone. So Eoff calmly digs a fingernail into the soft roof of the coyote's
"When it lets go, grab it by the
throat and yank it up," Eoff says.
"When you get all four legs off the
ground, the fight is over. You've
He can't count how many fights
he has won -- either against coyotes or other men. If Eoff has a disagreement with you, he doesn't call
an attorney -- he takes you around
back and settles it the old-fashioned
"I'm 73 years old," he says. "And
there's nobody young enough to
Think he's bragging? Stretching
"Ask anybody," he says. "Ask the
judge over there. My mama always
told me that if people are telling the
truth, they tell the same story every
"Last of my kind": If Eoff had
been born in the 1800s, he would've
died a young man. Instead of a
ranch hand, business owner and
coyote hunter, he would've been a
"I'd be the kind of hothead who
has to prove he's the fastest," Eoff
says. "Sooner or later, you run into
You don't need a six-shooter to
find out if you could outdraw him.
Balance a silver dollar on the back
of your hand and hold your arm straight out, level with the ground.
Now, drop your hand, letting the
coin fall, and slap your hip, where a
gun holster would be -- then raise
your arm back up, level with the
"If your hand hits that silver dollar on the way back up, you're as
fast as me," Eoff says. "I've seen all
kinds of men try."
We haven't even had time to talk
about riding and roping and rodeoing. Eoff can handle a rifle like
Annie Oakley, and throw a tomahawk behind his back.
"I could split you in half from 10
paces," he says, "and not even be
looking at you."
In territorial days, the district
judge wouldn't have called Eoff "a
character" for stuff like that. Shooting, fighting, hunting coyotes --
that wasn't any more eccentric than
playing golf today.
Now, Eoff calls himself the only
real coyote hunter in Tillman County, maybe the only real one anywhere.
"I'm the last of my kind," he says,
mentioning that his son drives a
truck and his grandson works on
computers in Chicago.
"When I'm gone, there won't be
any more like me."
Michael Overall 581-8383
Doug Eoff — Frederick town character and self-proclaimed coyote hunter — poses with his dog, Candy.
Ilene Eoff’s food
at the I.D. Cafe
is the best in
some claim it’s