The Winter Wolves and My Communist Christmas

Harry Drabik

The other morning I was out early sweeping a dust of snow (thank you Robert Frost) from the Chevy when sound of a siren rose suddenly. I live about a half mile off Highway 61 with a prominent ridge nearby to block noise from the west. All hell could be going on west of me and I’d not hear it because the hill blocks the sound. On the other hand when an emergency vehicle is headed east its siren hits suddenly and strong when the vehicle reaches the crest. So there I was poetically sweeping snow from the car and feeling content with world and being when the siren blasted the silence like a grenade going off.

For rural folk a siren rouses a sense of communal concern because the sound can signal a fire, health emergency or something else dire for a neighbor and concerning for the local community. We live separated on purpose but regardless are not without a strong sense of social connection which is there whether we want it or not. (Remember “Good fences make good neighbors”? See how this fits together?) People living in denser (or should I say dense-making) concentrations hear sirens often enough to disregard their direct impact unless the siren is on their street and the flash, flash, flash of reds, blues, and clear lights is being reflected all around them. Unless it is quite nearby (and even then the Millennial Mind with scarcely register beyond its own dermis) the urbanized response to a siren is to ignore and block it out. Of course some just don’t care. It’s not too unusual to see someone to have sirens approaching and keep driving along until someone tells them specifically that they should pull aside into a particular spot. Ignorance of that caliber is a grand thing indeed as it lets nothing intrude on the sacred ME-MINE.

So, you get the picture. When I hear a siren around here it’s somewhat unusual and a signal that someone I know in my community is having a serious time of something. I think that a reasonable explanation and I was alerted on that level when a new character joined with the siren sound. I didn’t sort it out immediately and kept sweeping snow until as the siren got nearer and grew louder the new sound stayed fixed and steady. Good grief, wolves, from four to six of them from the sound, had picked up the sound and formed a bigger chorus of warning and concern. Wolves are social creatures and whatever the meanings of howling are they wasted no time voicing their participation. It’s interesting to think wild wolves might be more constructively social than some of the people we see bee-lining along in narrow pursuit of a grail I have to wonder if they’ll recognize or know what to do with if found. I think I trust the wolves to be more honest about such matters.

I’ve known for long there are wolves nearby. A particularly lean and long legged specimen was walking by the front a few mornings ago when I looked out with coffee mug in hand. It was a surprise to see one close and suddenly, but it was not really unexpected. There are strings of tracks outside fairly regularly when the wolves do a food patrol away from the highway as this one was doing walking along using its nose to check at visible grass tufts to sniff if a sleepy vole was home for breakfast. The wolves’ easiest pantry is, however, along each side of Highway 61 where regular banquets are provided free by the owners of foreign and domestic cars that don’t obliterate a Bambi to mush the way a transport or logging truck does. Wolves have been taking advantage of the Highway ever since hunting and trapping of wolves fell into disfavor. It wasn’t that long ago when the borders of 61 in spring were marked with one fuzz blob of dead deer after another after the MHD stopped spending money having workers collect them. The wolves caught on and do it for free as volunteer State employees.

I know the wolves are on duty doing their job around the clock with no time off for holidays because I banged into a hurrying Bambi on Christmas Day. When a deer comes off the roadside at a run it gets in front of you awfully quickly, though I did slow enough to give it a good bounce into the other lane as it took out most of the front end plastic bumper and grill on its way. I certainly did not run over it and didn’t see it in the rear view when I stopped. No sign of it next day when I slowed down in the vicinity. But, if you’re a deer with a recent kiss to your hind quarter from a Chevrolet I doubt you’re in fine fettle for avoiding the wolves that will sniff you out and arrive with napkins ready for their Christmas feast.

My shadow side thinks wolves probably herd deer toward cars to get a free meal with the result and a bonus from the auto-body industry. I bet they do. I had a similar bet back in childhood when we were forewarned about the dire communist menace. The Reds could be anywhere and strike at any time. Mom and dad who had a relationship built around smoking Pall Mall and quarreling were great harmonizers with a seasonal favorite; “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.” Well there it was, obvious as day. Rudolph was a Red. Everyone but me was deceived, but I knew the score that Christmas. I got practical pants, shirt, socks and NO toys. My life depended on toys, but the evil Reds had crept in to corrupt my parents with godless, gleeless, and toyless Christmas for their worthy son. I didn’t see why dad losing his job from being the wrong side of a Union vs Labor squabble had anything to do with it. With conviction, I blamed the Reds.