They ’re always there

Joan Crosby

I consider my life civilized. I use the Internet, text on my smart phone, and watch a flat screen television set.

But. I live close to the Superior National Forest. Side-by-side with untamed animals, and every now and then, they remind me that “wild” is still part of wilderness.

Several nights ago Dick and I decided to take a ride on the four-wheeler – a definite improvement over sitting inside watching a flickering TV screen.

I slid my arms through the sleeves of my battery-powered heated hoodie, donned warm boots, clamped a winter hat on my head and out the door I went. The dogs lifted heads off respective sofas but showed no sadness at being left. The autumn evening was cool, and they knew it.

Dick slowly steered the four-wheeler down the driveway, and we rolled along the South Shore Drive to a nearby logging road. The night air felt good though the evening sky was overcast.

Rapidly fading remnants of sunset still lit the bare branches. “Shall we explore?” Dick nodded at a barely recognizable trail through the yellowed weeds along the road. I said yes, so he turned off the main path into the dried grasses and dead pearly everlasting flowers.

We moved through the underbrush until the weeds ahead closed in and there was no more path. Retracing our tracks, we stopped a hundred feet short off the logging road, and Dick turned off the engine.

“Perfect,” I agreed, and we sat in the silent dark, taking in the autumn night. We were practicing a long-standing family tradition that began years ago when we’d take our little children for night rides, stopping occasionally and turning off the car lights to wait for wild animals to appear. Normally we saw only hapless rabbits or an occasional deer, but it was fun.

We settled in. I adjusted my hat; Dick shuffled his feet, finding a comfortable spot. At that very instant, I heard something.

“Sshh,” I commanded.

Just as he started to answer, I heard it again, a faint sound.

“Either wolves or an owl.” I wasn’t sure. “Listen!” Another distant sound, but definitely there. We were hearing the eerie, send-chills-down-your-spine howls of a wolf pack.

“It is wolves.” I had no doubts.

We listened and waited. Then, nearby and louder a harmonizing howl filled the air.

“That’s close!” We whispered and listened as, once more, the whole pack responded. The close-up howl began moving away, and when the pack uttered a final chorus, was part of it. After a few moments of silence the wolves uttered a final set of howling and then the sound faded into the distance even as they sang.

We waited and waited, hoping for more wolf music. Though we were quiet as mice, we heard nothing. The wolves had moved on.

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2016-10-29 digital edition

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