The Way of the Wolf….cont’d…part four

The Way of the Wolf….cont’d…part four

In his disturbed dreams, the hunter recalled that other world far below, a life of comfort and pleasure, a world that bored him and turned him soft and uninspired. Whenever he was overcome by the dreariness of comfort and ease, he sought the world of adventure, the world where he collided with the hard edge of life. Like the remains of a bad meal, he burped up this other world, leaving a taste of disgust on his tongue. He belonged here far away from that world of comfort and bad meals, worn thin by the fatigue of adventure. The hunter had the utmost respect for his inspirational rival and close friend, and often thought about how the wolf went about his business with honest, immovable resolve. On the other hand, the hunter, before acting, always took into account his motives: why did he act upon this feeling instead of that feeling, or move in this direction instead of that direction? The only time he acted without concern for motive was when he attacked the bad taste brought on by the turmoil in his stomach. His aversion to this evil taste in his mouth pressed him to seek out what was unfamiliar to him. Only through fear could he escape the bile of complacency.

At daybreak, the hunter peeked out from underneath the heavy wool blanket, and in the dawn of consciousness, he leapt up and set about gathering wood for the fire, stepping away from his campsite only to pee. His spirits were warmed by the fierce fire, and his belly was warmed by the sharp coffee that bit his tongue. He could hear Dan moving in the brush along the river. Dan never strayed too far away. Even in desolate places, and during periods of melancholy, Dan’s loyalty brought comfort to the hunter. In the ardor from the fire, the hunter gazed up towards the cold snowcapped peaks before he threw out the remains of the coffee. With inflexibility, he spread the blanket over Dan’s back, his confident voice reassuring Dan. He laughed out loud when Dan stamped the ground with his approval. He slung the saddle up, and snugged the cinches. He kicked dirt on the ashes of the fire, grabbed the saddlebags, and tied them on behind the saddle. He felt the coffee pot to make sure it had cooled, packed it away with the coffee, and then scabbarded the rifle. He took one more glance at the cold snowcapped peaks before slinging his leg over the saddle, and patting Dan’s neck, he reached over and whispered into his ear, “Well, my friend, our adventure continues.” It was enough, he thought, it was enough to keep him going. It had to be.

The wolf pack behind the big gray wolf left the closeness of the pine trees before dawn moving with fierce determination. Before the sun marked its high point in the sky, the wolf pack had relieved its ravenous appetite. The big gray wolf’s instincts had led the pack in the right direction, and, after the onslaught, it retreated back into the drowsy comfort of the trees to recuperate. The pack would spend the rest of the day in quiet seclusion, while down below the hunter progressed steadily up the steep slope. Before the end of the next day, before the wolf pack felt compelled by uneasiness to venture away from its peaceful enclave, the hunter on the vigilant winds of destiny would disrupt its tranquility.

That night, the hunter built a guarded fire, tucked away in the serenity of his meditations as he sipped the steaming coffee. Something told him that he was close to the wolf pack: maybe it came to him as the rancid breath of recent death carried on the harsh winds off the cold snowcapped peaks, or maybe it came to him as the sweet breath of tranquil sleep carried on the gentle breeze that brushed the soft edges of the succulent mountain meadows. Whatever came to him on the winds, he was unsettled by the uneasy grumbling in his belly. He would face his fate tomorrow.

As the wolf pack drowsed in its torpor in the quiet pine trees up above, the hunter made preparations for his attack. Before dawn he had made a fire and boiled coffee, and as the sun broke the horizon spreading light and warmth along the great plain far below, he stepped into the saddle, and over the creaking of the stiff leather, he bent to Dan’s ear, “This is the day, my friend, the day we have been searching for.” The hunter knew the way up the steep slope, the route had been etched over thousands of years by the constant progression of the migrating herds of elk and bison into the hard line of the ridge. The hunter felt the heavy weight of days in each steady footstep up the endless slope. When he reached the rim of the plateau far below the high snowcapped peaks, where the trail splintered into ancillary fingers, he pulled up, and stepped out of the saddle. He knelt, studying the fractured rock, looking up ahead to the high mountain peaks. From years of persistence he had learned the ways of animals, but not their minds. He lacked the acuity of smell and hearing that guided them, so he had always to rely on his imagination, and he needed his imagination now because the way of the wolf had been concealed in the clutter from hundreds of thousands of years of upheaval. The hunter knew that it wasn’t what was there that would guide him in the right direction, but rather what wasn’t there. The way of the wolf would be discovered not by following conspicuous tracks, but rather by following its mystical spirit. He stood, quiet, listening to the wind. Dan snorted, and nuzzled the hunter’s armpit. “OK, my friend, I know, I know, it is time to do something, right or wrong, it is time.”

The hunter looked back over his shoulder to the wide plain far below that opened up like an endless ocean before the unfaltering sun. He knew which way to go now. He led Dan to an effulgent spring that seeped from the shattered rocks below the wide plateau, and Dan drank heartily. The hunter looked at the spongy earth surrounding the spring, smiled, and bent down to share the cold, inspiring spring with Dan. He felt the warm sunshine on his upturned face, led Dan to the plateau, and stepped back into the saddle.

Up ahead in the rustling pines on the edge of the high mountain meadow, the wolf pack, their bellies full, wrestled playfully, biting each other’s ears, while the big gray wolf lounged on the edge of sunlight, his black eyes half-closed, glancing from time to time across to the far side of the sunlit meadow.

Moving closer, the hunter pulled up to rest, and tucked up against a rock outcrop, the warm sun reflecting off the smooth sandstone, he built a fire from the scattered remains of the few junipers that held firm along the rocky ridge. In the warm pleasure of the overhead sun and the sweet juniper fire, the hunter dozed. Dan stood close by, grazing peacefully on the short sweet grass of the high plateau. When the hunter awoke, the fire was out, but the sun still shone brilliantly. It was time to go. He made sure the fire was completely out before he set out once again, leading Dan up a narrow, rocky trail to where the plateau opened up to a gentler terrain, where he stepped up into the saddle and high trotted to the edge of the plateau where he looked up the steep slope to a pine forest that adjoined a high mountain meadow. High overhead on the anabatic wind of the warm afternoon the hunter saw the birds circling. He counted thirteen. The high flying buzzards told him that something had been killed, but picked clean. The wolf pack had been successful. He was close now. He drew the rifle from the scabbard and jacked a shell into the chamber, and slid the rifle back into the scabbard. He still had an hour to go. He would have to make his way up above the grove of pine trees so that the pack couldn’t scatter ahead of him. Hopefully he could position himself on that outcrop that marked the western edge of the forest without alerting the wolves. He looked farther up the slope to discern an alternate route that would get him above the pines. He had to backtrack, but he knew that he still had plenty of sunlight, so he was worried.

In another hour he was spread out low on the edge of the small outcrop above the heavy grove of pine trees, out of sight of any eyes that might be scanning the surrounding range. Through his binoculars he was able to see that the stripped elk carcass on the southern edge of the meadow was a fresh kill. He surveyed the thick pine forest, but didn’t see any signs of the wolf pack. He looked at the buzzards circling overhead. They had already come, and had left disappointed. Wolves aren’t very charitable, he thought. They would continue to circle overhead, finally drifting with the winds farther down the slope, searching the lower shelves before finally settling on the plains. Buzzards were too much like people, they would always live off the hard work of others.

He looked over his shoulder to the western horizon, already turning purple orange in the dying remains of the day. He had always been amazed how the sun seemed to hold fast to the high sky, until a certain point, when the earth suddenly dipped its broad shoulders, and the sun was flung into darkness. Only over the Pacific Ocean, the earth’s spoiled child, was the sun allowed to stay out longer. To keep Dan out of sight, he had hobbled him away from the edge of the outcrop. He didn’t like hobbling Dan, but he knew how curious Dan was, and he didn’t need Dan poking his nose over the edge of the outcrop, snorting or stamping his feet. The wolf was blessed with highly sensitive ears, and he knew that even though the pack was festive, it was still on high alert, it was the way of the wolf.

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