Friday, January 31, 2014

we are very brave...tracking the BBW

a post, in which I learn to do screen shots


We were at breakfast.  Well, Elliott and I were in the kitchen together while he took those last few bites of his oatmeal that I was forcing on him, and Julia and Nicholas were already upstairs brushing their teeth.  I walked over to the back door to let our two labradors in, both of them wagging their tails and waiting for me to let them inside and off the frozen tundra that is our backyard currently.  As I reached for the doorknob, Elliott said it.  Actually, shouted it.

Wolf!

It took me a few moments to register, jumbled thoughts running through my head, trying to make sense of his word based on what I could see.  No, dogs, silly.  Or woof doesn't have an L in it, love.  Or yes, please wolf that oatmeal down and stop complaining about it, my dear.  

But then I turned my head and looked over at Elliott and beyond him to where he was pointing.  And saw it.  A streak of grayish whitish reddish long and shaggy fur making a beeline from the apple orchard right up against the busy street, cars whizzing past during their early morning commute, and straight back to the woods on the bank of our river.  This flying fur ran into the woods, over our brush pile, and disappeared.

This is all I saw.  What I noticed.  Nothing more.  I stared after it.  And then thought of two things:  our dogs, and our chickens.

I ran back to the door and let our domesticated and protective -- but honestly useless in an emergency -- dogs inside.  And then I threw on my parka and boots and headed out the back door.

It was freeeezing out there.  And quiet, traces of the sunrise's colors still streaking the sky.  I headed toward the coop.  No squawking and rustling coming from there, as I had heard at other times when predators had gotten in.  The frigid temperatures had frozen the snow and ice hard and the crunching beneath my boots was loud and made me quite clumsy.  I made it to the coop.  Our chickens were fine and there was no sign of predator visits.

Then I turned toward the woods to reexamine the spot where I had seen this flash of wild fur disappear.  And realized something.  I was standing outside.  A long walk from the house.  Elliott looking frantic in the window up there, but definitely not following me out.  In the vicinity of some kind of wild canine.

I high tailed it back to the house.

I asked Elliott, realizing that in the seconds in which I had seen the creature, I had focused in on its fur -- and so I did not have enough information to identify it.

What made you think it was a wolf?  I asked.

Now, I hate to brag, and apparently there has long been some concern that I might have a tendency to do so,


but, I have to tell you now what Elliott said next.

Because it looked exaaaaaaactly like the wolf in Carmine.


Carmine: A Little More Red, by Melissa Sweet

wiping...tear...off...my...cheek.  Such a good boy.

And then after telling Nicholas and Julia about what had happened, we did what all 2014 urban dwellers do who have just had an unmistakably authentic Little House on the Prairie moment.  We brushed our teeth, put on our parkas, gathered up our backpacks, and got ourselves into our Subaru and headed to school.  The only change in our routine was that we decided that the kids should not, as they usually do, head out to the car before I joined them.  So we went out together, standing for a bit on the patio, looking off into the woods as though we might still see it.  Nicholas asked Elliott to describe what he had seen.  And then, they kicked it Pa Ingals style, throwing on his coveralls over his pjs, running outside in the middle of the night, grabbing the shot gun from above the door as he went.  Stay here he says to his girls, Ma bolting the door behind him.


We headed to school, running flashcards and last minute scheduling issues as we did so.

Julia asked if we could tell Daddy.  I handed them my cell phone in the back seat (just like they used to do on the prairie) and they texted this:


Ma's been teaching emojis again.  Writing them in the frost on the glass window panes Pa bought for her.

Jonathan's response was to call animal control.  Apparently, there is no animal control on Thursdays in the City of Portland.  Wild canines run amok on Thursdays.  Put it in your calendars.

So instead, he was patched through to the police.  After a man listened to his tale of woe, it was suggested that Jonathan either: 1) buy a big trap, 2) call again when the wild canine was actually still in the yard (dare I ask who would show up if animal control is not on duty?) or 3) call Mr. Spark.  Mr. Spark is the gentleman who comes to kids' birthday parties.  And lets children touch and hold the cute furry creatures he rescues from homeowners' chimneys.  I pictured images of five year old children in birthday hats snuggling with the Big Bad Wolf (BBW), and shut that image down.

We dropped Nicholas at middle school, parked and walked into Julia and Elliott's school building.  I gave Julia a kiss, adjusted her hopefully lice-deterring tight pony tail ('tis the season to be licey), and headed into Elliott's class.

He walked straight up to his teacher and announced: we saw a wolf this morning.

Now bless this gifted woman, she looked at him, gave him a shocked expression, and said, do you want to put your name on the board so you can share this with our class today?

Now, lest you think I am making this up all up, which I began to think I was, especially since I was given some pinched lip looks by the grownups in hearing range when Elliott made his announcement, please know this.  I have proof.

Elliott and I quietly conferred before I left.  Where did you see it?  I asked him.

It was running in the apple trees.

Okay.  Kiss on the head.  And I was off.

Once home, I headed off to the apple trees.  I felt like Kate on Lost, except I was in my Bogs and parka instead of a tank top while sweating gorgeously and running through a tropical rainforest after a black smokey metaphorical nebulousness.

(not me)

By the way, did you know she was hiding some serious ears under that flawlessly tousled, despite her lack of hair products on her not so deserted island, mane of hair?

  
I digress.  I poked around our orchard for a bit, thinking that perhaps I had made it all up.  Maybe this was like the day that the kids and I had returned home from guitar lessons and I had rounded the corner from the barn and looked into the garden.  And had seen a phoenix!

Once I got a closer look, it was actually clearly not a phoenix, but for a few moments there, all of us, fresh off a Harry Potter movie marathon the previous weekend?  We were sure it was.

Okay, so it was actually what I now believe to be a golden eagle who had swooped down to try to snatch Louise, our intrepid and plus sized model chicken, and the eagle had not been able to lift her off the ground because of her heft.  

So maybe this illusion is what had happened this morning, too.  I am, after all, on a bit of a fairy tale kick here.  

But, no.  I found the tracks.  Here they come into the orchard, straight after crossing the street.



They followed a pattern:  two in front of each other, then a long space, then two more in a line pattern.


They were this big.


And they led down the backyard and into the woods.



Yes, I did.  I did indeed return to the house and fetch the yardstick from its nail on the basement door.  Miraculously, for once, it was actually hanging on its proper hook.


This span makes me think that the creature was just as big as I thought it was.



I returned to the house.  To do some research.  I stood in the kitchen.  Glanced at my laptop.  And headed upstairs to Elliott's room.  Because all things animal make their way to his room.

I fetched these books:


And perused them for information.





And then, and only then, did I sit down at my laptop.

The first thing I read was this.


I found this website to be very informative:



The kids came home later and wanted to see the tracks.  They say this was a pacer gait.  Incidentally, being prepared to skate looks a lot like being prepared to hunt for the BBW.


And so I have decided.  Given that I apparently become fur centric in emergencies and therefore have very little information about the shape of snout, ears, and legs.  That I must return to that information which I trust most of all.

 Among this collection of hybrid animals -- the dreaded Broccolion for example -- it became clear I had most definitely seen a coyowolf.


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