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The Last Windrow: 'The Last Chase' from an old wolf's perspective

Columnist John Wetrosky shares a tale about this wild creature

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The huge paw print lay directly in front of my snowmobile last week.

I was checking the snow-covered trail just north of my house in the northern Minnesota woods. I stopped my machine and got off to inspect the track. It was the track of a lone timber wolf and it measured the size of my fully extended hand.

This was a big wolf that had been inspecting the deer carcass I had placed in that space last fall.

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I wrote a column on such a wolf a number of years ago and I choose to resubmit it to you this deep winter week. I wrote the piece from the wolf's perspective.

I know that these huge predators are both loved and hated at the same time, but somehow I'm heartened that such a wild creature still exists on the land.

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"The Last Chase"

The timber wolf was pushing snow with its deep chest as it wove its way along the creek bottom. Frost clung to its whiskers at the sides of the long, broad nose and steam rose from the nostrils. The wolf paused at the edge of the field clearing.

She was a huge specimen and had reared many litters of pups, but now she was alone. She had purposely left the confines of the pack to seek her final resting place. She could no longer bring down a deer or gracefully leap into the hip deep snow and bring out a mouse or vole. Her teeth, some of them now broken, could no longer tear their way through bone and sinew.

It was a crystalline night in the woods. Snow sparkled on every bough of fir and the scattered beaver ponds resembled flat, white feather beds. Stars glistened overhead so clearly that they looked closer to the earth than normal. No hint of wind could be detected as the old wolf sniffed the air, hoping to detect the scent of an easy meal.

She snorted as she heard her pack to the northwest. The young pups were beginning their chorus. Then the pack leader opened his hymnal and the others of the pack suddenly became quiet. She knew the sound of the leader. She had run beside him as he threw himself into the side of a weakened deer last winter and the pack converged to eat their fill.

No trace of the deer was to be found when they had finished. Just a hollow, red stain in the white snow remained.

The old wolf knew the power of the pack. How each individual had a specific purpose and how they employed those instincts toward survival. She longed to run again with them. She whimpered a short answer in their direction.

The sound of the pack came closer to her as she stood alone on the edge of the field and suddenly a deer burst from the trees and lunged across the opening. She could hear the pack in close pursuit and she could not help herself and she threw her old bones into the chase.

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Within seconds the big male was running close beside her as they closed on the quarry. She felt his breath and could hear his lungs grabbing for fresh air. As in past hunts, she took the left side and the big male took the right. She knew what was next.

With a lunge, the huge male grabbed a front leg of the deer and it rolled in an avalanche of powdered snow. With all her strength, she powered into the deer and within seconds all was quiet, except for the puffing of the rest of the pack as they caught up to their prey.

The leader looked on as she ate her fill. The others waited until she was sated before they took their turn. As the pack moved off after they had cleaned up, the old wolf stood and watched them as they trotted into the white curtain of snowflakes.

The leader stopped, looked back at her over his broad shoulder, lifted his huge head and raised his deep, mellow voice to the heavens. It was his goodbye to a worthy partner. Then he melted into the darkness of the bush along with the others.

It was her last chase.

See you next time. Okay?

John Wetrosky
John Wetrosky (2022)

Related Topics: THE LAST WINDROWMEMBERS-ONLYHISTORYPINE RIVER
Opinion by John Wetrosky
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