Shepherd’s Winter – Part 21


Cold settles in like an enormous hand pressing down. All secrets, desires, hopes, and aspirations are frozen into the barren cold landscape. It is like being held in a prison; not only a physical restraint, but the haltering of the spirit.

“You must either be strong mentally or a complete imbecile to withstand the wilderness,” Shepherd said. “And I mean this with no disrespect I hold you in the highest regard, but you are equipped to withstand this on one end of the spectrum and I on the other.”

“I know that hurts,” Shepherd said. “But I think it’s time for honesty, and you know it. I’m the one feeding you.”

“I remember walking to work one day,” Shepherd said. “It was bitter cold. I had to walk two blocks, from the subway to my office building. It was maybe 30 degrees. That’s about 65 degrees warmer than now, but it was a damp cold. You know what they say it’s the humidity not the temperature… get it! These guys up here don‘t know how good they got it.”

Pal leaped to his feet and went to the door. He stood poised, ready to go out. Shepherd opened the door. Pal stepped just beyond the door. He turned to Shepherd and let out a sharp short bark.

“What is it, Pal?” Shepherd said.

He barked again.

Shepherd quickly dressed. He grabbed his rifle and stepped out on the porch. Pal ran down the steps and to the right beyond the chopping block and split wood. There between two pines was a majestic timber wolf. Pal lowered his head and sniffed along the snow until he was right up next to the wolf. The wolf stood as if frozen.

Shepherd jumped down from the porch and held his rifle at his waste. The wolf stood motionless. Shepherd moved slowly toward it. Around its back leg pressed a trap.

“We got to get that off you, my friend,” Shepherd said.

He moved slowly toward the wolf.

Pal stood head to head with the wolf.

Shepherd pried the trap open and lifted the leg out.

“Come with me, boy,” Shepherd said. “You are going to need some tending to.”

Shepherd walked toward the cabin. The wolf stood motionless with Pal by its side. Shepherd stood his rifle against the steps and walked back to the wolf.

“You’re afraid to move aren’t you, boy,” Shepherd said. “I’m going to get you inside and tend to that wound.”

He looked at Pal. “Pal! Rag!”

Pal bolted for the cabin, nosed the door open, and returned with a rag. Shepherd tied it around the wound. “Now easy, boy, I’m going to lift you up.” Shepherd hoisted the wolf in his arms and walked toward the cabin. “You have lost some weight. Your catch can hear you coming with the trap dangling from your leg. If you had all your weight I’d have to struggle some to get you inside.”

Shepherd laid him in front of the fire. He examined the wound closely. “I’m no vet, but that needs stitches. It’s going to sting a little, but nothing what you have had to endure so far. After we do that we’ll get some food in you.”

Shepherd went into a drawer in the kitchen and got a first aid kit. In it was thread and needle.

“Not recommended, but we have to close it up,” Shepherd said. “It will leave a nice looking scar you can tell all the ladies about.”

As he kneeled down Shepherd said, “We must give you a name. We all have names around here. Mine is Shepherd. One friendly growl followed by a sharp bark will do. This is Pal, you’ve met. We shall call you Trap. One more time, you, Trap.”

Shepherd sewed the wound with six stitches and dressed it. Trap never so much as flinched.

Shepherd held Trap’s head and pet him. “You must be very hurt and ill. You rest a while. Just lay there and I’ll get you something to eat. You are exhausted and perhaps closer to death than what we know.”

Shepherd heated a broth from a moose roast.

He rolled Trap onto his stomach and placed the bowl of broth in front of him. Trap lapped a couple of times and rested his head.

“You rest, Trap, I’ll wake you in a while and we’ll have some more broth. I’m not going to give up on you, but you got to help me.”

Shepherd and Pal laid on the floor with Trap. Shepherd laid his hand on Trap’s side to feel his breathing.

After an hour Shepherd woke trap and had him drink more broth. Trap immediately fell back to sleep.

Shepherd sat in his chair and read. He looked up from his book with the turn of each page to see if Trap was still breathing.

“You have infection, Trap. I’ve done all I know how to do, It’s up to you. I know the longer you live the more your body will fight the infection. It is your will against the infection. You had the will to drag that trap with you for who knows how long. That fight is over; the other fight is still ahead of you. Pal and I are here with you.”

Pal would walk around Trap and then around the cabin. He’d look out the widow and then sit protectively poised over Trap.

Every hour Shepherd woke Trap to feed him. At the end of twelve feedings Trap wakened on his own and lapped the broth.

“That’s improvement.” Shepherd laid beside Trap and petted his weary head. “Just be at ease. You will be fine.”

Shepherd fell asleep and Pal stood watch.



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