The Wolves

Hank awoke with a start. He could hear the howling all around the cabin. It was the long, mournful cry of a wolf pack. Every night they came to his cabin in the Alaska wilderness. He knew they were hungry. It had been one of the most brutal winters he could remember with lots of snow and the temperature never rising above 15 below zero. Game was almost non-existent, and in desperation, the wolves were getting bolder. His main concern was his dogs. He ran a large trapline and needed them to pull his sled. The wolves had gotten one of them. Ruby had been kenneled at the outside edge of the camp and somehow they got to her without the other dogs raising a ruckus. They were barking now.

Rising from his bunk, he grabbed his rifle and went to the door. Opening it, the cold slammed into him like an icy sledgehammer.

“Must be 40 below,” he muttered as he peered into the night, “where are they?”

In the moon’s glow, he could see them on the edge of his camp, darting here and there, looking for an opening.

“Oh, no you don’t!” he shouted while taking aim at one.

Pulling the trigger, he jacked another shell into the chamber, wanting to get another shot, but they were gone, disappearing into the darkness. He stood there for a few minutes, gave up, and went back to his bunk.

This became a nightly ordeal. They always came and he had to do the same thing over and over again. It was beginning to tell on him. Lack of sleep, worry, and the rigors of the trapline were getting the best of him. He had to have his dogs. He was 136 miles from the nearest town. It was too far to walk, especially in the winter.

One by one the wolves picked off his dogs until he had just barely enough to pull his sled. He worried about it constantly and it was making him a nervous wreck.

Once again he was awakened by howling and then what sounded like a dog fight. Jumping from his bunk, he ran to the door, opened it, and saw a fight going on. They were after Rambo, his lead dog, and the best dog he had.

Throwing caution to the wind, he raced out the door wearing only his moccasins and long johns. Running toward the fight, he fired a shot into the air. The wolf separated from Rambo and he got off another quick shot, wounding it, it whimpered and limped away on three legs.

“Gotta kill that wolf!” he muttered as he began following it. His adrenaline was so high he didn’t pay any attention to the numbing cold.

The wolf had headed for the treelike. Stumbling through the heavy snow, he ran after it. Cautious, he entered the trees and began picking his way through some fallen aspens. The snow was deep and covered the ground. As he took a step he felt his footing give away and his leg went deep into some aspen branches. While trying to pull free something shifted and caught his ankle. Desperate, he began frantically yanking his leg, trying to free himself. He dug down to where he was caught but it was of no use. His hands froze and he couldn’t do anything with them.

Slumping down, grim reality hit him hard in the face. It was forty below, he was trapped wearing only his moccasins and long johns. He knew he was a dead man. There was no way around it. Shivering, he thought about his family and how stupid he had been as hypothermia began to settle in. Becoming sleepy, so sleepy he could hardly keep his eyes open, the last thing he heard was the wolf pack killing his dogs.

April 1, 2022