The tale I'm going to tell (and it is a true one) took place thirty-some years ago when we were homesteading on the first piece of property we bought here in Minnesota.
It was about this time of year, in the fall, and we had our milk goats housed in an old log barn that had originally been built on the land when it was first homesteaded in the early 1900s.
That particular late afternoon, my husband was about a mile down the road at a friend's who owned and operated a saw mill. Our daughter was three or four years old. As I got ready to do outside chores, I gave her the choice of coming with me or staying inside. She knew that when neither her dad nor I was in the house with her and she chose to stay inside, she had to gather together some books and stay in a designated comfy chair to "read" while we were outside. Fortunately, that day she chose to stay inside.
The barn was a ways away from the mobile home we were then living in, and I always had my hands full when I took the hike down to the barn to do the milking. That day I had the wash bucket, the milk pail, and another bucket of apple peelings to give the goats. The door to the barn was on one of the short ends. It was a dutch door, and I had closed the bottom part of it earlier in the afternoon because it was windy out and all the goats were snuggled down inside the barn. I had to walk along one long side of the barn and then take a left hand turn to get to the end the door was on.
As I turned that corner, I stopped in mid-step when I came within three feet of one very large, beautiful white and gray wolf sitting on his haunches in front of the closed bottom part of the barn door.
Silly me. My first inclination was that he was someone's AWOL sled dog. There was a family living about two miles away that had a small team for mushing, and I immediately thought of them as occasionally one of their dogs would get off his chain and the whole neighborhood would be alerted to be on the lookout for the escapee.
I said out loud, "Well, whose sled dog are you?" Other than to tilt his head and look at me inquisitively, the wolf didn't move a muscle. We looked at each other for a few seconds before it slowly dawned on me that this was no runaway domesticated dog. This was one honking, huge, healthy timber wolf.
Starting to talk to him in a very calm voice, I slowly backed up the way I had just come. "You shouldn't be here so close to the barn. We have big goats and little goats in there and you would really scare them if you were to jump over that door into the barn. You need to go back into the woods now and stay away from our buildings."
I walked backwards about halfway up to the house before I had the nerve to turn around and scurry the rest of the way up to our porch. When I reached the house, I saw the wolf trot up along the same path I had just taken. Gulp. He was a big one. About a third of the way up the path, there was a road going off to the right we had made by driving across one of our hay fields. This road eventually led to the thick woods where it became one of our ski trails.
Mr. Wolf ambled down the road until he disappeared from view. I got on the phone and called the house where Roy was. The nine year old daughter answered the phone and I told her to go outside to find Roy and tell him it was no emergency, but I'd like him to come home as soon as possible which he did.
I related my story to him. He took a gun (not to harm the wolf but rather to scare him away if need be) and went down the road to see if he could spot any evidence of the wolf. He was gone about ten minutes when we heard one shot fired.
Roy had followed the road to where it crossed a small creek before going up into the woods. Near the creek bed he heard some rustling behind a huge boulder and then saw two big, fuzzy, pointed ears slowly showing over the top of the boulder, and then a forehead, and then a pair of healthy, sparkling eyes. (All the better to see you with, my dear. Hee-hee.)
He fired his gun into the ground, and shouted at the wolf that we'd appreciate it if he'd stay away from our animals. The wolf turned tail and loped off into the woods.
Roy returned and told us what had happened and remarked, "That was one big, beautiful specimen of a wolf!"
When my heart rate finally returned to normal, I realized what a truly unique experience I had just had. The wolf didn't feel threatened by my presence nor was he in the least aggressive toward me. Because he was so calm, and inquisitive, and beautiful, I didn't think to panic when I came upon him.
That was the last time we ever had any problem with wolves being so close to our buildings or animals. Well, except for the time our ninety pound, bear-like Bouvier dog, Max, was lured out into the field by a female wolf in heat and her husband/boyfriend/significant other came charging out of the woods intent on having Max for lunch.
But that's another story.
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