With my best friend
Life is good. Here I am with my best friend on a lovely afternoon, going for a walk through some of the most beautiful country in all of northern Michigan. The sun is shining, a rarity for February, deep blue skies, with just a few wispy clouds.
We both just had a fine meal, enough to drink, and our only obligations left for today are to enjoy the scenery and wildlife with each other. The wildlife discovered today might be somewhat limited, because Jeannie has been rambling on for some time now, you can always tell when she is in a good mood. I have heard all of her praises of Mother Nature before, so I can allow my mind to wander, and still appear to be interested in her discourse. She’s ‘Aces’, a better friend would be hard to come by.
I hope she decides to go straight at the East Lake swamp. A short trek after dinner is fine, but if she turns left, we are in for a two hour tour that usually includes scratches, wet feet, frozen coats, and not getting back home until well after dark. With these clear skies, once the sun starts to set, it is going to cool off fast. Her nature is such, that if I make a move to take the short route, she will definitely go the long way, with the "can’t you take it?’ and the "Getting Old?" ration of crap. Maybe I should encourage the swamp route, I think I spotted a rip in the seam of her left boot. I always get soaked and soggy socks for her might make her appreciate my side of these outings. Now, now, one mustn’t be bitter.
Jeannie and I have a very special relationship, going back about six years. We both were living in Ypsilanti, she was attending the University of Michigan and I was just existing, without much direction to my life. On a chance meeting, we got acquainted and immediately we both realized that some special chemistry existed between us.
She was firm, but kind and gentle at the same time. She did not force me into any decisions, but was always there for me, and slowly I found the missing pieces of my lifestyle. I found that facing responsibility was it’s own reward. Caring about people and respecting their thoughts led me to care about myself. She made me think that this complete reversal of my outlook on life was entirely my own doing. It just wouldn’t have happened without Jeannie. Life is good.
Yes, Yes, Yes! She took the quickie tour; I can almost feel the heat from the fireplace now. With a little luck, we can be shaking the snow off in about forty-five minutes. Crossing the edge of the swamp is still a pretty outing, and I believe we spot more birds going this way.
Wind driven drifts have a certain beauty out on the flatlands, but marsh protected snow lays in undisturbed piles here in the wetlands, displaying the tracks of the various critters.
Dried purple inkberries, black alder catkins, and red cannon and cranberries still hang heavy, and the birds swarm here for easy pickens. Strange, I have not heard the ‘tee tee tee’ of the chickadees for a while, I wonder where they are off to?
"I think when we get back home, I am going to wax the cross county skis," announced Jeannie, "the forecast for the next several…" Jeannie quit talking and she quit walking and after nearly running into her, I looked up and saw why. Wolf.
A large wolf was standing in the middle of the trail. Instinct told me that besides the obvious danger we both were in; there was something totally wrong with this event.
This wolf appeared to be loner. It did not react to us in a normal way; it remained crossways in the middle of the trail, listless, occasionally turning its head to look at us.
I moved from beside Jeannie, to directly in front of her, putting myself between her and the wolf. A couple of slow and easy steps closer to the beast and I was able to recognize part of the problem. The animal was injured or sick. A healthy wolf is more than I wanted to tangle with, but a diseased or injured animal is unpredictable and like most threatened animals, it will fight to the death.
He should have faced us as soon as we appeared. He should have lowered his front shoulders, set his head at a low angle, curled it upper lip, and produced a deep and throaty growl. The wolf would normally make a side-step approach, ready to break into a full run for fast animals like deer or rabbits or lunge to the throat for cornered or slow animals.
We only rated quick glances from this beast. Blinking constantly, it would partially curl its upper lip, then it would turn back, straighten out its neck, and look down at the ground. This was wrong, and I had no idea what would happen next. Then I spotted the drool and foam around the animals mouth, a sure sign that the wolf was rabid.
I felt I could not back down. This animal knew that it was operating at diminished capabilities, it could take us with little effort under normal circumstances, yet it did not.
I had to remain dominant; I stepped even closer, standing taller, starring directly into the wolf’s eyes.
Now he turned and faced us, now he lowered his shoulders and head, all of its teeth exposed. The wolf started swaying it’s head slowly back and forth, a gesture normally done only seconds before attack. His drool had a pink cast to it.
I did not blink, the wolf starred back into my eyes, a low rumble started growing from deep inside his chest. He lowered himself even farther; it’s lower jaw nearly touching the snow. I then did the unthinkable; I stepped closer yet, slowly swayed my head, and generated a growl myself.
The wolf yelped like somebody had stepped on his toes, stood up straight, took two steps left, turned and side stepped to the right down the trail for six or eight feet, and then broke into a full run away from us. It had a limp in its right rear leg. We stood in silence for a short while and then Jeannie said that we really needed to get back home before dark.
It was the quickest trip back that I can recall and the cabin never looked better. Jeannie told me to sit by the fire and she would be right there. The fire felt great. Jeannie was going on a mile a minute about the wolf. When she returned, she had a bowl of stew beef chunks smothered in last nights’ chicken gravy. She sat beside me, hugged me and brushed out my coat. This beagles’ Life is good.