To Protect Their Young
As the sun began to sink behind the mountain peaks, it shot brilliant rays of reds, blues, and purple in all directions. Two headlights slowly made their way up a long gravel driveway and parked in front of a lone farmhouse nestled at the base of the mountains. A young couple got out of the truck and stared at the beautiful scenery in awe. The woman cradled a tiny baby in her arms and the man put his arm around her shoulders as they took in all the beauty of the new home they would now call their own.
Their soft silhouettes walked towards the front door of the house, and the couple committed every smell, sight, and feeling to memory so they would never forget that moment. Their dream had come true. Their little Jarod would grow up on that farm, and their life would be full of love and laughter. Amy and Derek smiled at each other with utter joy and contentment as they opened the door to their new life, and as they closed it behind them, they heard the faint howl of a lone wolf in the distance.
The house was quaint, but large enough to make the small family very comfortable. The warm tones of wood were revealed throughout, giving the home a feeling of being part of nature. The entire upstairs was a good-sized loft for Jarod to grow up in and enjoy. His crib had been set up in front of a large picture window with stunning views of the mountains. Every morning when he awoke, their little boy would be greeted with stunning scenery. He slipped quietly into sleep as his parents put him down to sleep in that crib for the first time.
As Jarod grew to walk and talk, he became more and more enchanted by the animals that were accumulating on the farm. He hated any harm to come to any of them and would become quite distressed if a calf or a horse became ill. He wouldn't leave an animal's side until the vet came and took care of it. He seemed to know that something was wrong with an animal well before anyone else could tell. His mother and father were always in awe of the empathy that such a young child seemed to have for all living creatures. It was beyond any definition of a normal relationship between man and animal, and to them it was a thing of beauty.
When Derek woke up before the sun came out to milk the cows, Jarod would be right there with his father, doing what chores he could right alongside him. He could milk cows by himself by the time he was three years old. He fed the chickens with his mother, inspected the fence lines with his father and knew quite a lot about farm life for someone so young.
Every evening Jarod would listen through his open window as the wind blew, the trees rustled, and the wolves howled. They seemed to talk to him at night, the wolves; or maybe they were singing a song to him. Jarod did not care, because their songs at night brought him peace and comfort, like a lullaby for him to drift to sleep to.
One night, there was quite a loud commotion outside as one of their chickens began to squawk loudly in pain. The awful noise woke Jarod as he was sleeping by the open window that overlooked the chicken coop outside. Without a second thought, he ran down the stairs as fast as his little legs could take him, burst through the back door, and ran toward the coop. He never thought for an instant that he would be risking his own life, because all he could think about was helping an animal that was in distress.
As Jarod ran outside toward the chicken coop, he found himself face to face with a large wolf with a chicken hanging lifelessly from its powerful jaws. The wolf growled in a low and threatening tone and lowered its head. Jarod, who was only four years old at the time, had not a sliver of a chance if the wolf would have decided to trade the small meal for him. The boy could see uncertainty and desperation in the wolf's eyes. The wolf seemed very gaunt, as the ribs were quite visibly showing through the skin. In an instant, his eyes locked onto the yellow gaze of the wolf’s eyes. The two stood completely still, with neither attempting to make any move.
So entranced was he by the sight of the wolf, Jarod did not hear the door of the house open, nor did he hear the footsteps quickly moving behind him. He did, however, hear the clicking of the shotgun as his father aimed it directly at the wolf, and at that moment, the spell that had held the two gazes engaged was broken.
“Don’t move a muscle, Jarod”, his father said quietly.
“Daddy, please don’t do it!” Jarod pleaded as he whispered back.
The wolf had turned its gaze from the boy to his father. Fear became evident as it seemed to know it was in danger. As it turned and began to run away with the chicken still in its mouth, Derek adjusted his aim and began to squeeze the trigger.
“No!” Jarod shouted as the tiny boy tried to tackle his big father while the trigger was being pulled. As Derek was thrown slightly off balance, his shot ended up in the trees. Jarod looked back at the wolf as it jumped the perimeter fence and began to run. He saw two small wolf pups running after the large wolf. For a split second, before disappearing in the trees, the mother wolf turned and looked back at Jarod and their eyes briefly met again. Then in an instant, she was gone.
Derek began to pace furiously as his adrenaline levels began to die down and his emotions began to kick in.
“What were you thinking, Jarod! You could have gotten yourself killed out here!” Tears were streaming down Derek’s face as just the mere thought of losing Jarod crossed his mind. “There are dangerous things out here, and you can’t just go running out like that! I could have lost you!”
Derek fell to his knees and embraced Jarod as more tears trickled down his face. Amy ran outside after hearing the shotgun blast. She saw Derek fall to his knees and hold Jarod. Her hands flew to her face as she attempted to grasp the situation.
“What happened?” said Amy as panic was rising in her voice when she saw how distressed Derek was.
“Everything is ok, hun. There was a wild animal going after the chickens and I scared it off. I didn’t mean to scare you.” Derek stood up and hugged his wife tightly.
Amy decided not to ask any more questions, although there were dozens of them floating around in her mind. She was happy that her men were safe and they all walked back into the house holding onto each other tightly. After Derek and Jarod were treated to some steaming hot chocolate, everyone went back to sleep in the warmth and the safety of their little home.
Not much was mentioned of the wolf incident in the following months. Derek and Amy were extra protective over Jarod, but he never complained. He had never seen his father so scared and he never wanted to see that look on his face again. Sometimes Jarod thought he caught glimpses of the mother wolf on the other side of the fence, but he could never tell for certain because he would only see a flash of grey that would quickly disappear.
Another year passed and the region began to suffer from some severe drought conditions. Once flowing green grass turned brown and brittle, flowers wilted in the sun, and it became excruciatingly hot outside. During one particularly oppressive day, Jarod decided to take a large bowl of water and place it outside the fence at the edge of their property. The water sources in the area had been drying up and he was concerned for the wolf just in case she was still around and suffering from dehydration. For some reason, Jarod felt an odd connection with her since that night. When he heard the wolf songs at night, he would imagine she was singing to him to sleep.
The next day when Jarod checked the water bowl, it was completely empty. At least one animal found it and gained a little relief, which made him happy to be able to help. After a week of finding the bowl empty, he began covertly digging scraps of meat from the trash and putting them beside the bowl as well. Every morning, the food and water would be gone. Jarod’s ritual continued throughout the hot summer months.
Fall finally arrived and with it came relief from the drought. The nights grew cooler and the rains finally fell and quenched the thirsty land once again. On one particularly cool day as the sun had begun to go down, Jarod made his regular trip to the fence with some food. As he was turning around to head back to the house, he heard a faint rustling sound in the nearby bushes. He turned back to look and suddenly, right in front of him, was the same mother wolf he had seen just over a year before. He recognized the face instantly, because he had dreamt of those same yellow eyes so many times. She looked much healthier than she did that night, her ribs were not so clearly pronounced and her coat had a glossy sheen to it.
As she kept her eyes on him, Jarod calmly began to hold her gaze. He knew he should be afraid, but somehow fear had given way to fascination, and he couldn’t help but smile at her. The wolf slowly lowered her head and carefully took the food into her mouth. She paused for just a few seconds as their eyes remained locked on each other, and then she disappeared back into the bushes like a phantom. Jarod was astonished and remained still for several minutes. His heart was pounding in his chest and he was completely filled with awe. It was as though she had just acknowledged her appreciation for the small offerings had been leaving for her.
After a few more minutes of reliving his encounter over and over again in his head, the little boy ran back into the house with his little secret. When he went to bed that evening, he heard the wolf song in the distance. In his innocent thoughts, he imagined it was a song of gratitude. Jarod woke up with a huge smile on his face the next day. He had dreamt about the mother wolf all night, and in his dreams, she was smiling at him.
About a week later as Jarod went outside to put some food scraps by the fence, he watched the trees swaying in the breeze. The colors were amazing as fall had fully set in and the trees all looked like they were on fire with brilliant tones of yellows, oranges, and reds. Jarod thought he heard a wolf howling in the distance, and it all just seemed so inviting. He had always stayed on the safe side of the fence, away from the woods, and the mountains, but his curiousity was beginning to get the better of him. He took a tentative step into the same bushes he had seen the wolf appear from not too long ago. As he took a few steps into the woods, it grew a little darker, and the sun danced between the leaves of the canopy above, making the trees truly look as if they were on fire.
Jarod went deeper into the woods, and then started to climb upwards onto the mountain. The views of the valley below were absolutely breathtaking, and Jarod felt a bond between himself and the world he had entered into. He smelled the musty smell of wood and mulch on the forest floor. He saw squirrels scampering as he walked by. After some time of wonderous exploration, Jarod decided he had better make his way back home, before his mother began to worry about him.
He stared at the trees as they towered above him, and as he began his descent, the sun flashed brightly from above as the leaves rustled in the wind. Jarod wished he had put his jacket on before going outside, as he tried to hug himself with his arms crossed. As he made his way back down from the mountain, he stepped on some loose stones and started to slide down the hill.
He fell on his back and kept sliding as the rocks accumulated underneath him causing a small avalanche with him riding on top. He reached out for weeds, roots, anything to slow himself down, but nothing worked, and then he screamed as he headed towards the cliffs. He felt the air around him as he was suddenly felt weightless for a split second before hurtling several feet and tumbling down towards a ledge. He kicked up dust and small pebbles on his way down. When his head suddenly hit a large exposed boulder, Jarod's world suddenly turned black. The only movement was that of a cloud of dust that gently floated off the mountain and onto the treetops below.
Dinnertime arrived and Jarod had not come back inside for his meal, so Amy asked Derek to find him and bring him back inside for dinner. She remembered him going outside right after lunch that day but she didn't recall seeing him again after that. Derek went outside and began to call for Jarod, but he didn't hear a reply.
Derek checked out the barn and the stables constantly calling out Jarod's name. After searching around the farm for quite some time, Derek began to panic and he ran back to the house. When he walked into the kitchen, Amy saw that his face was flushed and there was panic in his eyes.
"Where's Jarod?" She asked in a worried voice.
"I can't find him, Amy. I looked all over the farm. Are you sure he's not already in the house?"
"I haven't seen him since lunchtime," she answered. "Where could he have gone?"
The pair went through the house calling for Jarod, yet there was no answer. The gravity of the situation was slowly weighing on the hearts of Amy and Derek. They tried to remain calm, but a feeling of dread was beginning to overtake them, and they felt like the life was being sucked out of them. They both went back outside calling for Jarod and looked over every square inch of the property. As the sun was slowly going down, they went back into the house and called the local authorities to report their beloved son missing. It didn’t help matters when they found the boy’s coat and they realized that on such a cold night, their son was out there somewhere and he wasn’t wearing protection.
Amy and Derek held each other tightly as they waited for the deputies to arrive. The silence was ominous as they were afraid to speak of the possible fate of their son. Amy began to weep as her fears began to take hold. Derek held her even closer as he tried to comfort her. Things seemed surreal from that point on as if they were walking around inside of their own nightmare, and unable to wake up from it.
When the deputies arrived, they took their hats off and respectfully began to ask the distraught parents questions about Jarod and what may have happened to him. They answered calmly as they held onto each other for comfort. It was the belief of the officers that Jarod may have wandered into the woods and had gotten lost. The town alarm was immediately raised and volunteers started to make their way to the farmhouse with their flashlights, first aid kits and such to aid in the search for the missing boy.
Sheriff Johnson joined in the search for Jarod. He was very worried that the temperatures would drop so low that that Jarod could succumb to hypothermia before the morning sunrise. The prospects of finding him in good condition were not very good and he felt a great sadness for the mother and the father who would do anything for their little boy. In most cases, they would have waited until the morning to begin their search, but time was of the essence. For every degree that dropped, the chances of the child being found alive grew less. Those grim thoughts were kept to himself, as the sheriff began to comb the woods with the other volunteers. There were about 100 people out there in the night unselfishly taking risks. The terrain was very unforgiving even in broad daylight and at nighttime, it was much more so.
Jarod finally stirred somewhat back to consciousness. He was completely dazed and had no idea where he was. He was lying down and it felt like a fur coat was wrapped around him. He gasped loudly when he realized that the fur coat was moving. His head swam with dizziness as he desperately tried to figure out what was going on. In a haze, he saw that the coat belonged to the mother wolf as she stood up and put her nose to his face. Once again, he recognized that same face of the animal he had been helping. She began licking him like a mother would wash a cub. He groaned softly as his head felt like it was going to burst into a thousand pieces. He felt the stickiness of his own blood that had dried in his hair, and he felt a slow ooze as more was running down the side of his face.
He started to shiver again in a combination of being cold and being in shock. His lips were blue and his teeth were chattering. After the wolf had finished inspecting him and cleaning him, she resumed her position next to him, trying to cover as much of him as she could with her warm body heat. Jarod drifted back into unconsciousness as he listened to her steady breathing and felt her heart beating as she tried to keep him warm.
After combing the woods at the base of the mountain for several hours, it was getting to be very late in the evening. The search for Jarod had to be called off until after sunrise and all of the volunteers went home. Amy and Derek were wracked with grief at the prospect of their son staying out all night in the cold and not knowing where he could be. Sheriff Johnson stayed with the couple and tried to keep them comfortable in their misery. They would not eat or drink, and sleep was completely out of the question. He hoped at least his presence there would offer them some small bit of comfort.
Amy’s small frame would shudder occasionally as she could not stop crying. Everyone knew that the chances of Jarod being alive at that point were almost none. The sheriff remained with them until the morning, when the volunteers began to congregate outside. Many of the women came from town and brought food and coffee for everyone before they began their search again.
Sheriff Johnson went outside with Amy and Derek and he began to address the gathering crowd. “Thank you all for coming here on this chilly morning. Your support is greatly appreciated by all of us here at the sheriff’s department and especially by Derek and Amy here who are desperate to find little Jarod. He is out there somewhere and we have to find him today, folks. I know you all know how you would feel if he was your own child and I know you are going to do everything you can to find him. Now, I think we’ve covered the woods pretty well, so our next step is getting up that mountain. Time is of the essence, so let’s get going!”
Many of the volunteers stopped to shake hands or hug Amy and Derek and they set off once again to find Jarod. Slowly they formed a blanket search and began to make their way up the mountain behind the farm. Thankfully, the sun had begun to warm up the area a little bit and the chill wasn’t quite so pronounced as it had been. If Jarod had made it this long, then they would have some time to find him before things cooled down once more.
All day, the people searched relentlessly for Jarod. They called his out name, and they made as much noise as possible to try and get his attention. During certain intervals, they would all be quiet to see he was answering their calls, but they heard nothing. As time moved on, the temperature outside began to fall again.
Jarod had woken up again to the feeling of being surrounded by fur. His senses had returned enough for him to realize that the wolf was still there and that she had protected him all through the night. He slowly put his arms around her and nuzzled his head into her warm fur. She responded by washing him again. His shoulders would rise up when she licked his ears, because it tickled him. When it got warmer during the day, she stood beside him at a short distance but she never moved far away from him. He finally started to try and assess his situation.
He looked around and saw that he was on a tiny ledge and when he tried to stand up, he couldn’t. He was very weak, and it appeared that his leg was badly hurt from his tumble. He looked helplessly towards the top of the cliff. There was no way he would be able to climb back up even though it was only about ten feet to get back up from the ledge. As he was moving around, and trying desperately to grab for something to pull him up the ledge, the wolf paced below him as if she was worried for his safety. After snapping some limbs and almost tumbling off the ledge a few times, he eventually gave up and sat back down, leaning against the cliff wall.
Throughout the rest of the day, the wolf remained by his side. Jarod knew she had to be terribly hungry and thirsty, and she could have left him there at any time, but for some reason, she had chosen to stay and keep him safe from harm. The two remained on the ledge, forming a bizarre relationship that no human could ever believe to be possible. Jarod was so thankful for her presence and he enjoyed speaking to her just to watch her head turn from side to side in a confused, and curious expression.
Jarod alternated between periods of wakefulness and sleep as he was becoming very weak from his injuries and lack of food. As the temperatures began to dip again and he began to shiver, the wolf retook her position by his side to keep him warm. At some point between consciousness and sleep, Jarod thought he could hear someone calling his name. But he was too weak to even attempt an answer. He thought maybe he was just dreaming as he slipped away into darkness once more.
Derek walked with the volunteers as he continued calling Jarod’s name. His voice was beginning to get hoarse from all of the shouting, but he refused to give up looking. He trailed slightly behind the rest of the volunteers. As he began to feel defeated and helpless, he stopped walking and fell to the ground and began to shake as he cried uncontrollably and continued to call out for Jarod between his sobs. The other volunteers had moved further down the mountainside, and now he was all alone.
A very soft noise caught his attention, and Derek stood up and looked behind him. He saw the familiar shape of a wolf. She was standing no more than ten feet away from him, yet she didn’t seem threatening or even frightened of him. She just stood there, watching him closely. Angrily, Derek took a step towards the wolf and yelled for her to get away, but the wolf did not budge an inch.
“Do you want me now? Huh? I’m all alone and I have no way of protecting myself! You can have me now!” He shouted at the wolf.
The wolf stared at Derek and no amount of flailing and shouting could make her take her gaze away from his. Even when he began to throw rocks at her, she remained steadfast and steady with her gaze. When Derek calmed down a little, the wolf began to slowly back away from him. And in the most earnest voice that a wild animal such as she could make, she whimpered at him. She turned her head to look behind her, then turned back to look at him.
Derek had had enough of this game, and began to walk away. To his astonishment the wolf growled and kneeled down as if she were going to lunge at him, until he stopped and turned back to look at her. As soon as he did so, she turned away and whimpered again. After this went on for some time, Derek finally figured out that this animal wanted him to follow her. As Derek took some tentative steps toward the wolf, she took some steps towards the opposite direction, towards the cliffs. If he stopped, she would stop. She would only continue to move if he was following.
As Derek was trying to wrap his mind around the significance of what was happening to him, there were no volunteers around, and there was also nobody to protect him from this wild animal if she decided to strike. In the face of such possible danger, Derek knew that he would have to risk such an attack as he kept matching her footsteps, with footsteps of his own. When the unlikely pair reached a clearing right at the edge of the cliff, the wolf disappeared as she jumped over the edge. Derek slowly approached the edge and looked down. He couldn’t see anything at all at first except for the outline of the wolf.
Jarod was lying in the shadows and was nestled up against the wall of the cliff. When the wolf jumped back down to the ledge, she quickly began licking Jarod again, and nudging him to try and stir him. As Jarod awoke, he began to groan slightly. He thought he heard his father’s voice saying his name, and it sounded so close. He wasn’t sure if he was dreaming or not, but it sounded so real to him.
“Daddy?” Jarod said in a weak voice.
The wind carried Jarod’s timid answer back up to where Derek was standing and he fell to his knees when he heard his son’s voice. He started yelling, “I’m coming to get you! I’m coming for you, Jarod!”
Jarod moaned softly in response. Derek quickly climbed down the small cliff to the ledge. When he landed softly, all he could see at first was the wolf. She had wrapped herself around the boy again. As he looked around desperately for his son, she stood up to reveal Jarod lying there. His breath caught in his chest as he finally saw Jarod, who began shivering from the cold. He took his own coat off to cover his son. As he stepped towards Jarod, the wolf let out a single yelp of finality and then she ran quickly by him and jumped back up from the ledge. She turned to look back down at him and he looked up at her and softly said “thank you”. Then she was gone.
Derek covered Jarod with his warm coat, and then used his walkie-talkie to call the search party over to the cliff. Several people came running within minutes to help Derek get Jarod back off of the ledge. Jarod looked into his father’s eyes and smiled as he was being carried down off the mountain.
“Did you see her, Daddy?” he asked.
“She came and got me, son. Otherwise, I would have never found you.” Derek said shakily. Jarod put his arms around his father’s neck. They slowly made their way to a waiting ATV that would carry them back to the farm and to a waiting ambulance. Everyone was cheering loudly all down the mountain, and t he cheers echoed throughout the valley below the cliffs. Derek thanked everyone he could see with many tears of appreciation.
Sheriff Johnson was sitting by the fire with Amy in the house when he received a message on his walkie-talkie. The boy had been found, and he was miraculously alive. Amy heard the message and dropped to her knees and cried. Then she ran to the ambulance to wait for Derek and her son to arrive.
When the ATV pulled up to the ambulance, Amy saw Derek get out and carry little Jarod in his arms. Jarod looked so frail, but his arms were wrapped tightly around his daddy’s neck and he was smiling weakly. When Amy and Derek looked at each other, all the desperation went away and they shook with relief. Jarod and his parents went into the waiting ambulance and it raced them to the hospital.
“They told me you found him,” said Amy. “How did you find him in the dark?”
Derek looked at Amy and couldn’t find the words to describe his experience up on the mountain. In so many ways, he felt like his life had been changed forever. He was given a second chance at happiness by an animal that he had once tried to kill. Why she had given him such a gift, he would never know. But between man and beast there is a commonality, and that is to protect their young. Perhaps since she had been given a second chance so long ago, she had decided to return the favor.
© 2016 LAMoore2