Story by Morris. R. Pike; illustrations by Chris Sheets –
The spring flowers coated the meadow and hillside with an avalanche of colors. Foxgloves were Snap’s favorite, followed by beautiful Clarkia, which were bright, deep purple and looked to him something like moose antlers. He liked the looks of grassy death camas too, but had been taught by his mother to avoid tasting the inviting flower.
Remembering, Snap chuckled to himself. ‘Wolves don’t eat plants, mom, you know that.’
“You get hungry enough, you might eat anything,” mom had said.
“Berries maybe,” Snap said, “ . . . but not flowers.” Traveling Little Eagle Creek he didn’t have to worry about having to eat berries or dig up worms or munch on death camas. When he felt hungry, he was able to feed on the abundance of small animals the creek meadows nurtured. He spotted a field of flowers growing on the hill to his right. It was a field of white mule’s ears. ‘Looks like snow,’ Snap thought.
But when he walked into it, his large paws sank to the rocky ground below instead of riding on top like they would have in snow.
“You want to play?” Snap asked the mule’s ears. He swatted a cluster with his left paw. Of course, they didn’t say anything.
He was dozing, when a floppy eared rabbit hopped up.
The rabbit stared for a brief second, then, shot his strong hind legs into the ground scampering . . . his long ears flapping.
Hugging the ground, he disappeared into a nearby patch of woodland strawberries growing under a cluster of sagebrush.
“Do you live around here?” Snap asked, believing the rabbit could hear him. He stood up. He waited . . . no answer. “Do you know where the stream leads . . . where
the worn paths in the tall grasses go?” He took a step toward the strawberry patch.
“I might,” came a small voice from the thicket. “Who wants to know? Don’t come any closer! If you do, I’ll run.”
“Snap Wolf wants to know.”
“Never seen anything like you before . . . only dogs and coyotes . . . killer dogs and killer coyotes . . . you a coyote, a dog, or what?”
“I’m a wolf . . . like I said . . . Snap Wolf’s my name . . . you can come out. I won’t hurt you.”
“Who said I’m afraid?” Snap laughed.
“How do you know I won’t hurt YOU?” the rabbit continued with pathetic bravado.
“Sure,” Snap said warmly. “I won’t harm you . . . you’re pretty puny and I need your help.”
“You lost or something?
“Yah . . . lost . . . in a way . . . I’m looking for other wolves like me.”
Favoring his right leg, the rabbit limped from his hiding place. He stopped, squatting near the trunk of a ponderosa pine for a quick get-away if the wolf became hostile.
“What’s your name?” Snap asked, surveying the gangly creature.
“Chester Rabbit,” came the tentative reply.
“Chesta,” Snap said smiling . . . clipping the name with his teeth. “How come you limp, Chesta?”
Chester groaned. “I’d like to say a horse stepped on me, but that would be a lie. A big rock from up hill came loose . . . came rolling down and crushed it . . . Stupid! I’m fast . . . but didn’t get out of the way that time.”
“Sorry about that . . . not good,” Snap commiserated, looking more closely at the injured left leg.
“Well, Chesta, how about it? Have you seen any wolves around here?”
“You’re the first,” Chester said, monitoring the big creature’s eyes.
Snap squatted on his haunches and looked at the trickle of water dancing its way south. “Do you know what it’s like down there,” he asked looking down stream.
“Lots of grass . . . trees . . . well, not so many as here,” Chester said.
“No trees? Like the Zumwalt Prairie,” Snap responded with concern.
“You can’t eat trees. Down here there’s plenty of grass.” “Grass! Great!,” Snap said sarcastically. “ there’s a river, too . . . Bigs call it Powder River. I don’t know why . . . its just water as far as I can see.” “River huh?” Snap said stepping into the shallow water of Goose Creek and striding down stream. Chester, favoring his left rear leg, hopped along beside him.
“Where are you headed?” Chester asked.
“I don’t know,” Snap answered, “I had to leave Imnaha . . . I’m following an urge . . . an urge to be an alpha wolf . . . an urge to find a mate.”
“I like it here,” Chester said, hopping quickly to keep up. “I’ll bet a wild carrot you would like it too . . . It’s the best place . . . we’re close to groves of trees . . . Look at them!” Chester demanded, stopping under the low hanging branches of a large cottonwood tree.
Snap stopped too. “Look at them,” Chester repeated. “ They spread their branches out above the forest floor . . . shade and shelter for those like me who scamper for their lives. The only thing is . . . coyotes and cougars like it too . . . worse for me, but it is the way of our world.”
“ The way of our world,” Snap repeated, mulling the phrase.
Morning light roused the two sleepers. Chester didn’t want to get too far away from Snap, but he was hungry. Keeping his eyes alert for predators that might be lurking nearby, he hopped to a large patch of meadow grass and ate breakfast.
The nearly silent sound of beating wings alerted him that an owl had settled in a tree not a stone’s throw away. Chester shot lickety-split into a nearby hole.
“You don’t let that lame leg slow you down, do you?” Snap said. “When you need to go fast, you can move and you’re right to get out of the way.”
The owl’s fierce gaze met the soft strength of Snap’s eyes. “Don’t try it!” Snap’s eyes said.
“She won’t get me as long as you are around,” Chester said, studying the owl’s face.
“Learn from the deer,” Snap advised. “When I’m after a deer and they feint right and dash left or the other way around . . . I find myself left with only a mouth full of grass.”
“You settle down here in Powder River country . . . I wouldn’t have to worry,” Chester observed. “Living here is the best, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, it’s nice . . . You have everything a rabbit could want . . . but I have to . . . ” Snap paused looking north toward the distant peaks of the Wallowa’s. “ . . . I know. I know there are wolves somewhere. I have to move on and find them.”
“It’s not fair . . . screech owls, eagles, big birds . . . cougars after us small ones all the time . . . we just eat weeds . . . it’s not fair,” Chester concluded, his voice trailing off.
“It’s the way of the world . . . ” Snap mused. “Remember, feint right and go left.”
A Diary of Snap Wolf’s Journey to Find a Mate is available on both Kindle and in paperback at Amazon.com