A few years ago, when I first began to research the U.S. Fish & Wildlife restoration of the gray wolf population in Wyoming and Montana for my book, Wolf Song, there were very few of these spiritual and beautiful animals living in the United States anywhere. From the turn of the century, hunters killed them to extinction. Ranchers classed them as vermin, predators that would destroy their entire herds of cattle if left alive. Of course, this is rubbish.
The gray wolf hunts the prey that lives where it lives. Its natural target are elk, moose, small
animals like rats, rabbits, and the like. I don’t profess to be an expert, but I read releases from FWS over a period of about a year while writing the book. I learned that wolves live much like humans. Their packs are like trihe alpha male and female mate for life and are the only members of the pack that are allowed to reproduce. Young females help care for the pups. Young males grow up and go in search of others in order to form another pack.
Granted, this isn’t something most of us know or care about…but we should. Imagine wildlife without predators. Wouldn’t it be cute to have deer, antelope, elk and deer starving to death because of over population? Or rats and other true vermin overrunning our towns and homes. Every once in a while we see a news report about a wild animal caught in a mall or on a city street, confused and frightened. This is what happens when we remove predators from the food chain. The prey population explodes.
So, you can imagine my concern when I read a few days ago that Wyoming had taken the gray wolf off the endangered species list, and in essence placed it back on the “shoot on sight” list. An article in the Examiner explains it better than I can, and quotes experts who know much about this subject than I.
All I know is after educating myself on this animal, through the eyes of the Cheyenne as well as many members of FWS and conservationists, it pains me to see these animals taken off the endangered list. I am all for controlled hunting seasons for all wild animals, when there are too many of them. But let’s face it, very few of us have to kill wild animals in order to put meat on our tables. Most of this killing is trophy oriented. There was a time when the ears of a wolf brought money to the possessor. Let’s not let that happen again.
My book, Wolf Song, takes place at the time when this restoration program was just getting started. A Cheyenne shape shifter who is also an alpha gray wolf, appears to Olivia at a time when she desperately needs spiritual support. He has come to help her release her sister Lara to the spiritual world after an accident put her in a vegetative state. Liv’s friend Ginni is engaged to a Wyoming Fish and Game officer and when the two start to blog on the side of the restoration program, they begin to receive death threats, and wolves are shot and left to be found.
Many of the situations in the book are taken directly from the releases of incidents that occurred near Yellowstone National Park during the time I was researching for my book.
Here’s a short excerpt from Wolf Song. Olivia visits her sister Lara:
This evening with Lara was like all the others. Nothing ever changed. I couldn’t think of anything to say except how sorry I was about this whole stupid unthinkable mess. And Lara couldn’t tell me how dumb I=d been to drive off a road I was so familiar with. That would lead to another bawling fit on my part. No doubt she had grown tired of hearing my weak apology. Knowing my sister, she=d long ago forgiven me. All I needed was for her to tell me so.
When the doctors transferred her to the care facility, I biked there every evening after work for months. Hard to remember when I let one or two days slip by between visits, till I was down to twice a week. Sitting at her bedside and crying was my usual pursuit. That evening, that damned book she was so fond of fell open in my lap. Unable to tell her about my ghost or my nightmare, I began to read aloud.
AThe La Loba story describes her home as that place in time where the spirit of women and the spirit of wolf meet . . . @
Shaking like a leaf in a windstorm, I turned the page, but couldn=t continue. The words simply wouldn=t roll off my tongue. What was going on here? Must=ve been a reason why the book fell open to that page. Wolves and spirits and women. The Cheyenne=s words of the previous night dug at my heart like a hammered spike.
Lara babbled something, and I jumped like I’d been slapped. Held my breath and glanced at her.
What I expected to see, I don’t know. She remained my sweet Lara, like she’d been for way too long. Curls of red-gold hair, cropped short to make it easier to care for, shimmered in the light. She’d been so beautiful, and I, well . . . I was always the plain step-sister type. Did I envy her? Yes. Did I love her? Dear God, yes. I touched her cool cheek, breathed a kiss on it. Even now, in this dreadful state, she radiated.
No more reading for now. We’d talk. I dragged in a shaky breath. “Oh, sweetheart. Today the strangest thing happened to me.” And the words tumbled out before I could stop them. I told her about my wolf dream and the sensual response of my body, about the Cheyenne who’d appeared to me at the museum.
“Even as Wolf Shadow faded through the wall, those golden eyes gleamed out of the shadows. A wolf. Could the two be one?”
About then she stopped gawking around the room and stared right at me, lips moving silently. An awareness of being, a sharp intelligence shone from her eyes. But I’ve thought that so many times, it’s downright heartbreaking. Yet, this time it was so real I couldn’t help hoping.
“Lara? Honey?” A shiver raced through me and I gathered up her curled hand.
“Her spirit calls to be free.” A voice vibrated from out of the corner of the room. A voice I recognized, a voice that set my nerve endings tingling. I leaped to my feet, the book slapping onto the tile floor, resounding like a gunshot in the silence.
It was the Cheyenne. Wolf Shadow. Here, in Lara’s room.
A whimper like a little kid’s, slid from my dry throat. He wore a sleeveless leather vest, beaded like the jacket he’d worn earlier. And nothing else. Guess he forgot his pants when he shifted from wolf to man. I’ll admit I took a good look. Flesh and muscles gleamed, but the shadows kept his best secrets.
“Uh, not that I’m not enjoying the show, but aren=t you missing something?” I gestured toward his narrow hips and the darkness between his bare thighs.
He popped out of sight, but I swear he blushed. It’s just possible I didn’t get out enough, but that was one hell of a show. Giggling, I imagined those powerful bare arms around me. And went into some kinky stuff, too, before he floated back, properly attired.
What the Hell? Did he keep a suitcase somewhere close?
My mirth was quickly overshadowed by the hiss of the respirator, the timed beep of the monitors. Oh, how I wanted to escape this room of death and go somewhere else with this man. And that made me feel guilty.
As if he understood those secret desires, he did not speak, but one large hand reached out of the shadows to hover above Lara’s chest. Stupidly, I thought of one of those healers who claim to have the power to drive away pain and death. To raise the lame.
“Don’t, please. Just go away.” My whispered plea did not reach him.
” came to help. There is evil nearby. You can’t fight it alone.”
Hands over my mouth, my trembling knees dropped me back into the chair. Tears welled from my eyes when he shifted into the cone of light. Cheeks streaked in red, black and white, he no longer resembled the peaceful Cheyenne, but rather a fierce warrior ready to do battle.
If I could’ve moved at all, I would have thrown something at him. “If anyone is evil, it’s you.”
He lowered the hand to Lara’s chest. “Her heart beats, but there is only her spirit. Waiting to be set free.”
“Stop touching her. Go . . . go away. If anyone is evil, it is you. This isn=t real.”
By this time, my words were garbled beyond understanding. Though my brain shouted flee, it was impossible. Literally not even one finger would move. My throat closed, no sound would come out, especially not the bloody murder scream that struggled for release.
He appeared not to notice. “Come, put your hand here. Touch your sister’s heart. Feel how her spirit struggles to go free.”
My teeth ground together painfully and a shudder passed through me. Dear God, help me. Show me the way.
In spite of my own desires, I stood and placed one hand where his lay. As if by magic, his was no longer there, and I sensed only the steady rise and fall of her chest and the thud of her heart. And her dear sweet voice calling. Crying out to me.
“Please let me go, Livvy,” she said, using her favorite nick name for me when we were growing up.
I sucked in a breath. This was not real. It was a trick. But why was he doing this to me . . . to Lara? There must be a purpose, something I could discern. I waited for her to say something else, but she kept up that incessant head moving, mouth twisting, eyes darting.
Machines kept her alive, beating the heart, breathing the lungs, feeding the stomach. And she . . . well, where she was no one knew. Yet for a moment the spirit that lay within her struggled to escape. My ghostly visitor was right, I felt it.
“Don’t despair, set her free to run with the wolves.” He spoke from everywhere and nowhere.
I wanted to do just that. Oh, how I wanted to. Worse, I ached to follow her, let our spirits entwine forever.