Wolf Child

written by Frances Wosmek

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  Joshua Moody was a hunter. He lived with his wife, Bella, in a log cabin set in the deep, deep woods. Joshua loved the woods and the hunting life, but Bella longed for the prairie that had been her childhood home.
"The woods are cold and damp, and eerie with night sounds, " again and again she complained. "I belong to the prairie where the sky is open and the sun is warm."

But each time Joshua thought to himself, Someday she will understand the mystery of the woods and its creatures. Then she will see that the prairie is bare and parched from the heat.

So, each watched and waited for the other to see and admit the obvious truth.

Every night, when the sun had slipped away to the other side of the earth, the wild, untamed music of the wolves began, sending a queer, shivery feeling up Bella's spine.

"When our child is born," she told Joshua, "if it is a boy, he will be a hunter and hunt wild animals with you. But if it is a girl-child, I will plan for the day when she and I can go back to the prairie and live in a sod house with fields of grain, and cattle."

Though Joshua said nothing, for the first time he felt uneasy. If the day ever came, there would be nothing he could do. It would be lonely in the deep woods without his wife and daughter. But, after all, he thought, the child might just as well be a boy. Then, together they would live and hunt just as he and his father had so long ago.

The night the child was born was bitter cold and bright with the mysterious glow of a silver moon. The still, crisp air shimmered with the wild cries of howling wolves. Their songs echoed from the hillsides and rang in the valleys. Night came alive with the sound, and hackles rose on the necks of everyone for miles - everyone, that is, but Joshua who was jubilant.

"The song of the wolves is the first sound our daughter is hearing," he said. "There will be a wolf in her heart. She will be a wild one, and never satisfied with life on the prairie. She will love the woods as I do, and she will stay with me."

"You talk crazy," Bella replied. "How could you know what it is to be a girl, or how one thinks?"

Bella named the girl-child Felicity, but Joshua called her Wolf Child.
"She will love the prairie," Bella insisted. "When she is old enough to know the value, you will see. She will love living on the prairie, just as I did."

"We shall see," said Joshua.

Wolf Child grew healthy and strong on the forest roots and berries gathered by her mother, and the fresh animal meat brought home by her father. But she was awkward and ill at ease in the calico skirts her mother made for her, preferring a buckskin jacket and deerskin leggings.
"Felicity does not look like me or anyone in my family," Bella said, frowning. "She is - different." And even Joshua had to agree that she was.

The child's face was intense and sharp with light-filled eyes. A loner, she appeared to float on her long, spindley legs - like movement of water, or shadows. She rested with hands folded like wilted flowers, and disappeared from company like fog.

Every night at bedtime Bella told stories of the prairie. "The wind ripples the fields of grain like molten gold," she said. "The sky is deep and blue and filled with sun. The nights are still, and sweet with the scent of prairie flowers."

But Wolf Child did not hear, listening, as she was, for the first sound of the wolves to begin their nightly singing.

"They are talking with the spirit world," Joshua explained each time - but Wolf Child had known, without being told, that they were.
Nearly every day in winter, Joshua, with a rifle over his shoulder, shuffled away into the deep woods on snowshoes. As often as she could, Wolf Child was at his side, moving smooth as liquid, without effort but with purpose. Head erect, aimed forward, she took care to notice the type of snow underfoot, direction and sound of the wind, smells in the air, the lay of the landscape and movement of animals.
"If you were looking for wolves, where would you find them?" she asked - even though, at the time, their concentration was on following the tracks of a deer.

"You find wolves by spotting the sky for ravens, because ravens looking for wolf-kills follow them around," Joshua replied.

"If you were looking for dens, where would you look?" Wolf Child wanted to know.

"You watch how fast a wolf is walking, in what direction, and at what time of day in June," Joshua replied. "That tells you where the den might be."

He looked again with pride at his young daughter. She holds her head in that special way a wolf holds his when he smells a caribou, he thought to himself. There is nothing of the prairie about her.

They stalked their deer with stealth and patience. In and out among the bowers of thick branches, through drifts of deep snow, and around boulders they followed signs and tracks of the elusive deer.

"What if he gets away?" Wolf Child asked. "What will we do for food if we bring home no animal?"



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