Shepherd’s Winter – Part 34 – The Final Part

thP0CIL3KDTrap’s Revenge

Two weeks later over that same knoll walked an old man. Shepherd could tell he was old by his gait and stoop. Something was strapped to his back. As he drew closer he looked familiar to Shepherd.

“How are you doing? I am Ivan, head of the council. We met last winter.”

“Yes,” Shepherd said, “I remember you.”

“I wanted to speak to you about something,” Ivan said.

“Sure,” Shepherd said. “You have walked a long way. Have you eaten?”

Ivan said nothing.

“Come inside and let me feed you,” Shepherd said.

“It is not necessary,” Ivan said.

“Please come in,” Shepherd said.

Ivan placed his back pack on the porch as Shepherd showed him in. Shepherd quickly warmed elk and sliced potatoes.

“We will eat together,” Shepherd said as he placed the food on the table.

Ivan was quiet.

They began eating. Shepherd was curious.

“Tell me what happened between you and Dennis,” Ivan said.

“What ever he told you is the truth,” Shepherd said.

“Dennis and truth are strangers,” Ivan said.

“If Dennis killed my dog I would kill Dennis,” Ivan said. “And it is said you grieved heavily over your dog. He was a gift from a friend and the dog became a friend.”

“Yes,” Shepherd said. “The wolf stopped me.”

“The wolf stopped you?” Ivan said.

“Yes,” Shepherd said. “He pulled the rifle away.”

“Smart wolf,” Ivan said. “I have come to tell you that no one will ever bother you again. There will be no more Amarok.”

“That’s good to hear,” Shepherd said. “I hold nothing against anyone. I’m a stranger. I understand.”

“That is good you understand our ways,” Ivan said. “Our ways are changing.”

“And I’m not here to change them,” Shepherd said.

“But, Daniel told me about an idea you had for a radio station,” Ivan said.

“Maybe not such a good idea,” Shepherd said.

“I was hoping you would go though with it,” Ivan said. “It would be a good thing. It would be one way to tell the valley about who we are and our culture. It would be a good thing.”

Shepherd smiled. “To tell you the truth I have it all worked out.”

Ivan stood. “This has been a most enjoyable meal.”

“You are invited back anytime,” Shepherd said.

“And you to my home as well,” Ivan said.

They passed through the door. Ivan stooped down and opened his pack back. He pulled out a husky pump. “A gift from the council, my friend.” He handed the pup to Shepherd.

Shepherd held him up. “He looks like a good dog. Thank you and thank the council.”

Ivan smiled and strapped the back pack on. He walked a few steps away and turned. “A strange thing happened to Dennis a few days ago. He was killed by what appeared to be a wolf.”

“That is strange,” Shepherd said.

“It really uncomplicates things, doesn’t it,” Ivan said.

“I guess he wanted him for himself,” Shepherd said.

Ivan smiled, waved, and walked away.

The End

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Shepherd’s Winter – Part 33

Gone

Daniel and his family were with Shepherd and Trap when Pal was buried.

At the grave Shepherd spoke. “It is a terrible thing to lose a friend. They take a part of you with them. There are things that only Pal and I know about each other that no one else will know. What a good memory. I will miss what could have been. I suppose most importantly to me there is a part of him still with me.”

“He was a good dog,” Daniel said passing by Shepherd and hugging him.

The rest of the family hugged Shepherd.

Nan wiped a tear from Shepherd’s cheek and kissed where the tear was.

Daniel and his family drove off and left Shepherd and Trap alone.

“It would have been a good spring,” Shepherd said to Trap as they watched the snow machines dip into the stream bed. “I was hoping to have it with Pal. You were a good friend to him also, Trap. He looked up to you.”

The snow of winter quickly gave way to rain and mud. And one day while Shepherd staked out a garden he looked up and saw Trap disappear over a small knoll in the meadow.

He was now gone. In Shepherd’s mind that was good. It was who Trap was. He smiled and said quietly, “Remember us well, ole friend and stay away from anything steel.”

 

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Shepherd’s Winter – Part 32

th[3]No Revenge

Days were becoming longer, nights still bitter cold, and loneliness was not so bad. Shepherd’s thoughts were dominated by Nan, a radio station for the valley, and Amarok.

Trap’s mind seemed to be elsewhere, mating, with the pack, hunting, killing, and eating. Pal’s mind seemed to be on guarding the camp, playing, and wondering what it might be like to have Trap’s instincts.

A day came, near the end of the harsh winter. It was the day Shepherd wished would never happen. It was an average day filled with the usual chores and play times with Pal and Trap.

At the end of the day the sun’s glow could still be seen like a fire in another room. Pal and Trap became restless and stood by the door begging to be let out. Shepherd let them out and they stood on the porch looking to the west beyond the meadow and into the woods.

Shepherd went back inside, slung on his parka, and grabbed his rifle.

He stepped onto the porch. Pal and Trap sprung toward the open meadow. They leaped and sprinted through the snow like chasing a rabbit. Shepherd saw a large imposing figure in the meadow. It slowly moved toward the cabin. He heard Pal and Trap growl angrily. They circled it like stocking a kill. The figure dropped a huge bear-like covering. Shepherd ran towards it. The figure hoisted a rifle to its shoulder and fired one round at Pal. Trap charged furiously and pounced on the figure.

“Trap!” Shepherd bellowed. “Stop! Heel!”

Trap retreated to Shepherd’s side. He walked over to Pal laying in the snow.

Blood oozed from a wound in Pal’s chest. He lifted his head and forced a whimper.

Shepherd laid beside Pal and stroked his head. His instincts felt death was near. “Does it hurt, boy? It will be over ole Pal. I love you ole Pal. Just sleep for me, just sleep.”

Pal moved his head close to Shepherd’s. Pal licked his forehead. His head dropped.

Shepherd let out a terrible cry and Trap howled like he was the last wolf remaining on earth.

Shepherd grabbed his rifle and held it to the mysterious figure that shot Pal. Shepherd’s eyes widened with surprise – it was Dennis.

“You killed my dog,” Shepherd said. He aimed the rifle at Dennis.

“No, no,” Dennis begged and fell to his knees. “Please don’t kill me. I will get you another dog.”

“There is no other dog,” Shepherd said.

“You will go to prison,” Dennis said.

“On whose word, Trap’s?” Shepherd said. “You came out here to the kill me or frighten me away with the Amarok stuff, we fought, you and Pal lost. Score one for you and score one for me.”

“Dear god, please, no,” Dennis cried.

Shepherd aimed. “One to the head. You won’t know it. That’s all the pity I can give you.”

Shepherd was about to squeeze the trigger and Trap latched on to the barrel of the rifle with his teeth and pulled it a away.

Shepherd fell to his knees and cried profusely.

“Shepherd,” Dennis said. “I’m sorry.”

“Just go,” Shepherd said. “Leave before either me or Trap has a change of heart.”

 

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Shepherd’s Winter – Part 31

thFPNOXJWXNan

Shepherd pressed his lips tight.

“You said some things,” Daniel said. “Amarok was one thing.”

“Perhaps what I will say now will end our friendship or at least distance it,” Shepherd said.

“You have thought long about this?’ Daniel said.

“Yes,” Shepherd said.

“Friends can overcome many adversities,” Daniel said.

“It is Nan,” Shepherd said.

Daniel stiffened his jaw and raised his chin. He appeared suspicious.

“You and her mother know her best,” Shepherd said. “When you see her look at me does she see a brother, an uncle, or another man?”

“You have learned to set your words like traps,” Daniel said. “They are well placed.”

“It is a delicate thing in a strange land,” Shepherd said. “I’m not used to your ways.”

“Her mother and I have spent many hours taking about her future,” Daniel said. “We have talked to her about what kind of man she should settle with. She has never shown any interest in the men around here. All of her friends are married and have children. Many boys come around. Her mother tells her calves are easy to find. The bulls are deep among the trees.”

Shepherd paused to reflect; quickly as if calculating a stock transaction.

“Your question seems to indicate there is something else that troubles you,” Daniel said.

“I am thirty and she is twenty,” Shepherd said. “And you are forty. We are friends.”

“The only ones it should matter is you and Nan,” Daniel said.

Shepherd drew a slow deep breath.

“Can you be happy here?” Daniel said.

“Nan or not this is now my home,” Shepherd said.

“Nan or not you and I will always be friends,” Daniel said.

“I will give some time and thought,” Shepherd said. “I wanted to be certain where I stood.”

“If you are asking for permission,” Daniel said, “you have it.”

“I will do nothing to hurt her,” Shepherd said.

“I believe you are an honorable man,” Daniel said. “Think long and hard, my friend. You come from two different worlds.”

“I am aware and not blind to it,” Shepherd said, “That is why I wanted to speak with you first and I will never hurry Nan. And if she does not feel the same way that will be the end of the matter.”

“Her mother tells me she says much about you. It is Nan that will have to be slowed down.” Daniel said.

Daniel stood. He walked to a kitchen cabinet. He returned to the dinning room table with two glass and a bottle of Crown Royal.

After a drink Shepherd traveled back to the cabin so lost in thought he drove past the place in the stream bed where he usually turned to emerge into the meadow.

 

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Shepherd’s Winter – Part 30

thJ2RYF01PAmarok Again

The next day ice fog settled into the valley. Crystals of diamond dust seemed to fall from the sky like magical powder. It was a peculiar and inspiring scene. Shepherd wrestled with Pal and Trap in the snow. Later he filled their dishes and commanded Pal and Trap to stay at the cabin. He started his snow machine and drove toward Daniel’s.

Daniel greeted Shepherd from the porch as he stopped the engine.

“How are you, Shepherd?” Daniel said warmly and held out his hand.

Shepherd shook his hand and smiled. “I’m doing well. I wanted to get away from the cabin today.”

“How is you family?” Shepherd said.

“They are fine,” Daniel said. “They went into Ruby to pick up some supplies. I told them I would do it, but I think they wanted to get away from me for a while.”

“I can’t imagine that,” Shepherd chided, “but I’m glad they aren’t here there is some things on my mind and I wanted to talk to you privately.”

“Sure, Shepherd,” Daniel said. “This sounds serious. Let’s step inside and talk over some coffee or if you like tea.”

“Coffee will be fine,” Shepherd said.

Daniel brewed the coffee and they sat comfortably at the dinning room table.

“What is it, Shepherd?” Daniel said.

“Amarok,” Shepherd said. “Who is it?”

“Daniel smiled painfully. “There is a code, Shepherd; things we don’t’ speak about unless among our kind.”

“Daniel,” Shepherd said. “I have risk my life for you, I have put meat on your table, we have shared each other’s hospitality, you have given me a fine dog as a gift, I have carved a home in a godforsaken wilderness, and tamed a wolf, don‘t tell me I‘m not your kind.”

Daniel smiled proudly. “Yes, I knew from the moment I saw you, I knew. Amarok is our version of the KKK. There are a few, a tiny few, who want to scare you away.”

“Thanks, Daniel,” Shepherd said. “I don’t have to know who they are; I just know not to shoot.”

“Like we have said before, my friend,” Daniel said. “Frightened men, that’s all. In time they will tire.”

“But what about killing dogs?” Shepherd said.

“It is a warning to others,” Daniel smiled slowly. “Our ways are strange to some. They kill my dog and then they kill one of there’s. That way there is no revenge. They take care of it themselves. Once we start running short of dogs, it’s over.”

“That’s good to know these things,” Shepherd said.

“But you never heard it from me,” Daniel said.

Shepherd sipped his coffee.

“What else did you want to talk about?” Daniel said.

 

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Shepherd’s Winter Part – 29

thP9RHFH0PBen And Izzy Visit

The day after the blizzard abated Ben and Izzy drove to the cabin on their snow machines.

Shepherd stood on the porch with Pal and Trap.

They cut their engines.

“Dad wanted us to check on you,” Ben said climbing from his snow machine.

“I was safe,” Daniel said. “I thought of you guys too. How did you do.”

“We were fine,” Ben said.

“How is Trap doing?” Izzy said petting Trap.

“As you can see he’s doing well,” Shepherd said.

“Do you think he’ll stay with you,” Izzy said.

“No,” Shepherd said. “He’s restless and wants to roam. It’s his nature to be in the wild. Someday he’ll leave. He’s waiting either for the right time or the right excuse.”

“Is that how you are?” Ben said.

“That’s a surprising question,” Shepherd said, “but it’s a good one. I like it here.”

“Aren’t you afraid of Amarok?” Izzy said.

“Are you?” Shepherd said.

“No,” Izzy said.

“Why?” Shepherd said.

“I don’t really want to talk about Amarok,” Izzy said.

Shepherd turned to Ben. “What about you?”

“No,” Ben said. “I don’t want to talk about him either.”

“That’s okay with me,” Shepherd said. “I’m not afraid of Amarok either.”

“Don’t you ever want to go out on the town, chase women, get loaded, or just hang out with your rich friends?” Ben chided.

“No,” Shepherd said seriously. “I’ll never go back to that. It is a vain empty life. You have it so much better here.”

“We watch movies and it looks fun and exciting,” Izzy said.

“Have you ever seen a movie about natives in Alaska?” Shepherd said.

“Sure,” Izzy said

“Is it really like that?” Shepherd said.

“They portray us as being slow and dull and uninformed,” Ben said.

“Believe me,” Shepherd said. “They are the slow, dull, and uniformed.”

The boys spent another hour at the cabin. Shepherd prepared a meal for them and the sped away; disappearing into the streambed.

 

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Shepherd’s Winter – Part 28

 

thNLX3S3XILonely Universe

The wind howled across the meadow like a pack of hungry wolves. Throughout the day and into the evening Shepherd listened to the radio drowning the evil sound. It was programming form Ft Worth or someplace; nothing relevant to the conditions outside the door.

In a light hearted moment Shepherd held a large wooden spoon to his mouth as if a microphone. “Well the conditions in the valley are bad. Ahem, ahem, very bad. They’re still bad and we don’t know when they’ll be getting better, but they’ll stay bad until they get better. Well that’s our live report.” Pensively he confessed. “It’s much harder than one thinks.”

“Well, let’s go to our man or dog on the street.” He walked over to Pal, bent down, and shoved the spoon in his face like a microphone. Pal licked it. “That’s your problem, Pal, you have no imagination. And Trap I’m not ever going to try to interview you. I can’t trust what will come out of your mouth. All those years hanging out with the pack being an alpha male, your speech is probably salty and unbridled. Some in our listening audience have sensitive ears and prudish ways.”

Shepherd rinsed the spoon at the kitchen sink by pouring water from pitcher over it. “Sorry, Pal, some of the things you do with that tongue…”

Shepherd’s mood turned serious as he heard the canvass that covered the wood shed flap like a beating drum.

Shepherd cracked the door and looked over the meadow. “No man could survive this,” Shepherd mumbled. He quickly shut the door. He retrieved an old blanket from the loft and stuffed it at the bottom of the door.

“There’s only one thing we can do boys,” Shepherd said to Pal and Trap, “Feed the fire and ride ‘er out.”

The snow pelted against the cabin like miniature meteorites from angry Inuit gods protesting the arrival of a man who does not belong. “Goooo baaaaack,” the angry wind seemed to say.

For three days there was no let up. At times the wind abated for a few minutes and then a burst was unleashed fiercer than anything previous. Pal and Trap took comfort being close to Shepherd as if they knew their existence was dependant on him.

There exist a feeling as if marooned on a far away planet light years from earth and human contact. It is like being alone and the only inhabitant of a far off galaxy forgotten by time. Within that little world called a cabin time does not exist, nothing lies beyond the doors. Shepherd imagined and felt as if he was alone in all the universe.

He thought of truth. All that existed beyond this cabin and wilderness was a lie. “Dogs don’t lie. With intellect comes deception. Anything that humans tamper with becomes a lie or a deliberate manipulation of nature.”

In time the coarseness and brutality of nature felt more like a shield from the world beyond.

Shepherd sat in his chair before the fire; on his right laid Pal and on his left was Trap. “We are safe here, boys, but I‘m afraid old Trap you will leave us when the time is right for you. You have been a good friend. If ever you are lonely, afraid, and hungry you‘ll know where to come.”

 

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