In this issue of the Shopping News, check out our Sioux Empire Fair section. Plus, we have Road to Sturgis.
A WOLF STORYContinued from last week...
Becky named the injured wolf Ralph and carried food and water every day to the stump where he had been trapped. For 3 months he dragged his injured hindquarters. From the way Ralph lowered his eyelids when the vet massaged his atrophied limbs, they knew Ralph endured excruciating pain, but he never tried to bite the hands of those who cared for him.
Four months later, Ralph stood unaided. Everyone patted and praised him. But it was Becky to whom he turned for a gentle word, a kiss or a smile. He responded to these gestures of love by swinging his busy tail like a pendulum. As his strength grew, Ralph followed Becky all over the farm. Together they roamed the pastures, the golden-haired child often stooping low, sharing with the great lame wolf whispered secrets of nature’s wonders. When evening came, he returned like a silent shadow to his hollow stump that had surely become his special place.
As time went on his habits endeared him to everyone on the farm. His reaction to people other than Becky’s family was yet another story. Strangers terrified him, yet his affection for and protectiveness of Becky brought him out of the fields at the sight of every unknown pickup or car. He’d approach, lips taut, exposing a nervous smile full of chattering teeth. Or, he’d pace and finally skulk off to his tree stump, to worry alone.
Becky’s first day of school was sad for Ralph. After the bus left, he lay by the side of the road and waited. When Becky returned, he limped and tottered in wild, joyous circles around her. This welcoming ritual persisted throughout her school years. During spring mating season, he disappeared into the surrounding woods for several weeks, leaving them to worry about his safety. Spring was calving season, and fellow farmers watched for cougars, wild dogs and—the lone wolf. But Ralph was lucky.
During Ralph’s 12 years on the farm he kept his distance, but his love for Becky never wavered. Then the spring came when a neighbor told them he’d shot and killed a she-wolf and grazed her mate. Sure enough, Ralph returned home with a bullet wound. Becky, nearly 15 now, sat with Ralph’s head resting on her lap. As the bullet was removed, Becky’s mother remembered a 3-year-old girl stroking the head of a huge black wolf and heard her small voice murmuring, “It’s all right, boy. Don’t be afraid. That’s my mama, and she loves you, too.”
Although the wound wasn’t serious, this time Ralph didn’t get well. When night fell, he disappeared into the woods. By dawn his food was gone. The morning came when we found him dead. Stretched out in front of the oak stump, he appeared but a shadow of the proud beast he once had been. A lump choked Mom’s throat as she watched Becky stroke his shaggy neck, tears streaming down her face. “I’ll miss him so,” she cried.
Then as Mom covered him with a blanket, they were startled by a strange rustling sound from inside the stump. Becky looked inside. Two tiny yellow eyes peered back and puppy fangs glinted in the semidark-ness. Ralph’s pup! Had a dying instinct told him his motherless offspring would be safe here, as he had been, with those who loved him? Hot tears spilled on baby fur as Becky gathered the trembling bundle in her arms.
“It’s all right, little . . . Ralphie,” she murmured. “Don’t be afraid. That’s my mom, and she loves you, too.”