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A DEAL IS A DEAL (Third of a wolf trilogy)

Story ID:3473
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Local Legend
Location:Broken Tree Ranch Montana USA
Person:Mrs. Doe et al
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A DEAL IS A DEAL (Third of a wolf trilogy)

A Deal Is A Deal
by Kathe Campbell

Would I see the creature any moment while murmuring calming words in the corral where my jittery donkey herd had mustered? Great ears forward and nostrils flaring, they snorted up a wet storm, like the time my black jennet tangled with a bear. What's going on here I pondered aloud, watching and waiting as folk's dogs echoed their unease over the hills and valleys?

With our dog at my side, I slipped silently down the draw to watch a mule doe trotting back and forth up and down the gully from the road to the creek, time after time. It was a long haul as she put on her show, squealing and grunting as though wounded or sick. I had never heard or seen anything like it in all of our hiking, hunting, or ranch years.

At last, relieved and exhausted, the buff clad doe appeared with the spotted twins she had stashed in tall grass just over the ridge. Although startled to see me, she must have felt safe on this place next to my crew, and dropped down with her family to rest. Was it her way of luring a predator towards her own body instead of her fawns? Wow, truly a mother's undaunted precious love I mused while waiting to hopefully glimpse whatever she had seen or smelled. As usual at ranch crisis time, I laid awake that night.

At dawns first light Keesha engaged her alert bark. While traipsing from the deck, through the doggy door, and wearing a path through the house, she pounced on our bed reverberating low rumbles of distress. Whatever it was paid little or no attention to her threats as she dashed out toward the fence and then back to us time and again. This precious Keeshond had saved more than one bacon on this place, for not even one of our furred or feathered friends had succumbed to predators. Remarkable!

Half awake, I arose to sit on the edge of the bed anticipating the neighbor's yellow Labrador who comes to soothe his aching old anatomy in the pond. It's a daily ritual for the big dog who suffers from arthritis just like the rest of us old duffers in and around this place. Targhee was nowhere in sight in the quiet cool.

But wait . . . there was a dog alright. In the half light he blended in with the sand and rocks at ponds edge, a far cry from my favorite Lab. I blinked and wiped away the night's sleep. It was him, it had to be him with his long legs and big feet, his straight bushy tail with it's classic dark spot, the creature I would make a deal with if he would leave my ranch critters in peace. Coyotes and foxes show up near the pond now and then, but upon confronting Old Mother Goose's impressive wing span, Wiley Coyote invariably gives up and retreats quietly. This guy didn't have the look of a large coyote.

I had seen these fascinating canine from afar in the wilds, and here he was, a descendent of the oft criticized Canadian transplants. It was like meeting an idol for the first time, someone I had greatly admired, even studied and written about. Our Yellowstone son had told us often to beware, that a wolf or two could show up in my mountains, and now my dreams of a chance meeting had come true. To me he was bold and beautiful, this magnificent canine looking almost domestic. To others he would appear as a messenger of bad will, a carnivorous hunter preparing to practice what mother nature had endowed.

Big dribbles of water slid from under his chin and plopped down at pond's edge. He raised his head to ogle the ducks and geese floating upon the water like so many decoys. I dare say, their little hearts were beating like trip hammers as their wing and tail feathers quivered, and yet sensing not to attempt an escape. The wolf stood staring, seemingly incurious, waiting for the right moment, but his eyes were not that of a wild thing in anticipation of the kill. They were soft and light blue, almost white, and his browish-gray shoulders were not hackled, nor were his legs tensed for a pounce into the water. Where was my camera? Too late to chance him hearing me sneaking through the house.

I managed to get my husband's attention just long enough to pound the word "wolf" into his sleepy brain. As usual, he figured I was seeing things, until he slowly and patiently raised his gun site through a crack in the slider. He caught his breath and whispered, "That is a wolf, Kath, but he's only here for a drink." And with that . . . . . KABOOM! My heart leapt and my wilderness hero jumped skyward, turned, and raced for the woods like greased lightening.

Ken had shot over wolf's head to thwart any salivating temptations, letting him know he wasn't a welcome visitor, now or ever. Would the threat of death teach the wolf about woodsy neighborhoods? Keesha hurried from the deck to the spot to snuffle the wild dog, but there was no blood anywhere. Nonetheless, it didn't deter her from checking out the pond often, even after the first snow.

I felt honored, frightened, and relieved, all in the space of a few moments. We had made sure this captivating predator was safe, as were my fine feathered friends at our Duck Soup Waterfowl Refuge. The wolf was never seen again by anyone on our mountain, but the memory of the moment is fused in my mind as long as I live. The deal was a deal.