Monday, March 7, 2011

A FAITHFUL Moment: Dances With Wolves

I've been planning for a while to run a series of posts about Montana and the Yellowstone region, in homage to Maggie, the protagonist of Faithful. But I thought I'd start with a personal experience just happened!

We do have wolves here in the mountains around our cabin. I've known this for a while, and we've seen them - usually from the car while driving through the open prairie lands on the way to town - but once I watched them running across the slope across the river from our front porch, and once we saw a wolf while out walking with a group.

Today I crossed paths with a lone wolf, while I was walking alone and was (most likely) the only human in a five mile radius. While he wanted nothing to do with me, I certainly wanted nothing to do with him. But his path took him to a stand of aspen that lies between where I was on the hillside and our cabin.

So my little heart was beating hard for a time, as I skirted the woods and made noise and generally got a move on - without looking like I was moving too fast. I had my eye fixed on the direction in which he went. At one point as I crossed his path (literally) I caught a whiff of him, and boy, did he smell. As an FYI to lovers of novels featuring cute boys who can morph into wolves: don't try this at home.

Not long ago a wolf pack killed a rancher neighbors' dog right outside their house. And I know the ranchers aren't happy with the wolves in general as they can and do predate on sickly calves. I am a big fan of the wolves for many reasons, not the least of which is we need balance in nature and generally speaking wolves want to stay out of our way. But respect is important here. Respect of his space, and my hope that he'll respect mine.

Would Maggie have seen wolves in Yellowstone in 1904? Not likely. Wolves were nearly extinct in this part of the world at that time, having been hunted to the brink. I read nothing about wolves in the journals of the Park Superintendent that year while doing research. I'm glad they're back. But I'm also glad that I'm back in our cabin with no closer encounter than I had.

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