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THE GREY WOLF

The sun began to set over the summer forest of Algonquin Park as the older Grey Wolf walked up to the edge of the cliff overlooking Whitefish Lake. Three hundred feet below in the oncoming twilight a campfire was being lit, canoes crossed the lake from the small island to the far most shore and its small row of cabins, campers and hikers who have left the abandoned railway tracks for the Canoe Lake Campgrounds. Grey Wolf looked over the edge of the cliff at his world and sat down on his hind legs. He gazed out at the setting sun and felt at ease and in control of his life. Such is the life of a wolf.

      He shook his massive grey head in the breeze as the heat from the sun dissipated and its red/orange glow accented the forest like an old Tom Thompson or A.Y. Jackson painting. On the beach below the Junior Forest Rangers were building their last campfire for the month. They were heading into the distance to the new Expo '67 in Montreal for three days, in the morning. Three glorious days away from planting trees, mosquitoes, black flies, and clearing brush along the Algonquin Park highways and roads. But also three days away from the two cabins on the other side of the lake. Girls their own ages were there for the summer teasing and canoeing and just being girls. The tall lanky seventeen-year-old Junior Ranger threw some dead Spruce branches onto the fire which made his red hair look even redder. He was the one who would miss the girls across Whitefish Lake the most. Well, one girl in particular had caught his eye. The fire rose up enough to get Grey Wolf's attention and spark a memory of forest fires he did not want to remember. Farther away even still, the tall lanky Junior Forest Ranger's future ex-wife was born at that moment.

      With the receding sunset came the deepest royal blue sky in its wake and the stars came out and began to light up the land on a moon scale and pepper the lake with diamonds. Whitefish Lake sat there in the growing moonless darkness like a giant purse with the Ranger's road as its handle, the fire as its clasp and the island its only decoration. Each tree a neat skilled stitch around the perimeter sitting as if it were resting along the abandoned CNR rail road tracks.

       Grey Wolf took notice of the receding sun, the boys on the beach, the smells of the night air, and waited. He had been waiting, or at least returning to this cliff top every night for two weeks, waiting. He waited for his mate to return. She was off somewhere in the forest hunting or lost or chased away by Man or other forested beasts. Grey Wolf knew she would return and she had. She was just coming out of the brush that hides the underbelly of the forest on the edge of the clearing on top of the three hundred foot cliffs. . . one step at a time. She crept up close beside him in a small wolf way. Grey Wolf stood up on all fours and smelled the air. He knew she was there. She got down on her front paws and raised her tail and hind legs in the air hoping he would want her in a wolf-love way. Then she moved beside him so that she was with him finally. She sat down on her hind legs as he was now doing. The evening sun set. The sky was star black. The lake still and the air crisp and then . . . the howl.