By Gordon Ebenezer Gourd
First printed in Explosion-Proof issue number two: Winter 2010
[Whereas] The prevailing view of a wolf (Canis lupus) pack is that of a group of individuals ever vying for dominance but held in check by the “alpha” pair, the alpha male and the alpha female…I conclude that the typical wolf pack is a family.
– L. David Mech Canadian Journal of Zoology May 2000
All right. It’s about a year ago. Tim Droste carries the limp wolf across the cabin. This is the moment. This is precisely when—if that’s what you’re asking. There was nothing we could’ve done about it then, at least I don’t think there was. I don’t tend think about things like that, although I do dream about them. In the dream, I never see Tim. I’m racing around in a maze of roads and valleys. I can’t get my bearings. I’m about to find him, but all I can see is snowstorm and tail lights.
He’d been doing his wolf study for three winters at that point, living out in a trailer on the northwest corner. He gave up everything to watch them—which is not aberrant—that is what field biologists do. Plenty of marriages have been lost to wolves.
Now, one thing I must tell you is that there is no such thing as an impartial observer in the field of wolf studies. Of all the kinds of animal-people, none can truly know the animal. There is the urban dog owner, with his romantic notions of wilderness; the rural dog owner, unable to think about animals abstractly; the environmentalist, saving the world; the veterinarian, in it for emotional reasons; the wolf sanctuary intern, straight out of college; the wolf pack handler, delirious from an inhuman work week; the novelist, imagining his own life refashioned through a fur pelt; the documentarian, bullied by audiences to produce an entertaining story.
The biologist is biased, too. I won’t go into it, but usually, we get particularly jazzed about a species of animal from a very young age, and that enthusiasm never goes away. The biologist is not perfect, but he has one thing the others do not—numbers. We number the animals we observe, in order to stay impartial, so we don’t find ourselves showing up in our own field notes. Tim Droste, while knowing better, gave them names.
The Field Journal of Timothy Droste (pronounced Drowst)
Jan 2 2002 / I am seeing exciting behaviors today. Wolf nine marked the base of a tree in a flexed-leg stance at 11:02 a.m., one hour into my shift. This is the female version of the classic raised-leg urination that is so common during mating season. So far, the literature has sought to answer why male marking goes up around mating season, but I think a better question would be why does female marking remain constant? What is its purpose? There is the surmisal that it is an advertisement of the female’s reproductive status, but why would a wolf want to advertise when she is not receptive?
Wolf nine’s marking was fairly typical—a brief urine stream lasting under 2 s, preceded by a sniff in one spot and a sniff of the spot she would mark. It was the left leg that was flexed, lifted a little and bent to direct the pelvis to mark the tree vertically. She then scratched five to seven times with all four paws. It was left front paw first, then right back, and then a coordinated dance of alternate sides much more rapidly. Only the front claws were raked over the tree itself. The back paws dug up the dirt and snow on the ground. It is -12ºC, and the snow comes up to the middle of her radius. There were two other wolves present, a father and a brother. There was no reaction by the other wolves to the marking. It is possible that not all of this is relevant.
It is an interesting tree she has marked, the exposed roots of a mammoth Sitka spruce. There are in fact two fantastically-old spruces, each about four meters wide, each with fat knobby-legged roots, and the roots, once they get down close to ground level are folded into the other’s roots in a weave—over/under/over/under. A couple of the roots are tangled like this, as someone might make a cradle with their fingers.
I’ve written a letter to L. David Mech, telling him about my project. I think there is a chance he will write back, or even stop by for a visit. I told him he didn’t need to call ahead—I’m here all winter, every winter. I found a tactful way to tell him that my research is just one wave in the sea change he started with his refutation of hierarchy in 1999. That was the year when all the journals had wolves on their covers, after the first long-term studies had come out on the Great Relocation. Wolves had been flown in from Canada in the late winter of ’95-’96. Then you had the hero of it all, Bud West, overseeing the process and providing crucial data to show it had been a success. Bud was in all the documentaries with that crawler-mustache that comes down over the sides of his mouth. His words come out lackadaisically, but he’s riding a horse or a helicopter and explaining practically everything there is to know about wolves. This is the man I report to in the park. I hesitate to call him my boss.
The true hero was Mech. He was the hero that inspired all others. The photograph in his bio had him all bundled up, a fleece hat and ear warmer and snow clinging to his beard. He looked like Santa Claus, smiling a gritty and benevolent smile. The two of them were everywhere that year, and they are still probably the two biggest names in wolf circles. And so it took a lot of nerve for Mech to publish “Alpha Status,” when he did. In it, one man quietly and reasonably questioned the Dominance Myth.
Since the 1950s, scientists have been describing wolf behavior in the terms of an outdated worldview—and we still use these terms today—alpha, beta, and omega. They seem like an innocent system for counting until you carry them to their rational conclusion, as I have. I have spent years studying wolves, mostly captive ones, and when it all starts to click for you—that is, when you can understand what they are doing on an intuitive level, something else starts to happen. You can understand people, too. When we know that evolutionarily, wolves form status hierarchies—a male leader at the top, and a lowly pathetic omega at the bottom, kept in check by aggression and forced to roll over on his belly and submit—we begin to see it in people.
Then we see it in places one shouldn’t, in places no one would want to. It explains everything. Your girlfriend’s love, your father’s praise, your friend’s kind words—it all starts to look like aggression. And that is the problem with the dominance model. It cannot possibly be true, because if it is, it is soul-crushing. Is all of life simply a zero-sum game? A competition of who is the cruelest? Can those of us who want more beauty and peace out of life be nothing more than the game’s losers? Social Darwinism starts to look like the whole earth itself. And then LDM showed us a new way.
He did this by observing wild wolves, instead of wolves in captivity. In captivity, aggressive wolves use aggression to suppress the aggression of less aggressive wolves. In the wild, there isn’t as much conflict, because wolves form families. When the male and female live together, Mech says, the male is not dominant over the female, rather, the two share responsibilities—the male hunts while the female cares for pups. When the pups are grown, both hunt. Dominance is redundant in a family, because a father is clearly dominant to his son, by way of age and caretaking. Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” is in fact a mistranslation. He meant something more akin to “survival of the fit enough,” meaning there is no select group of “fittest” individuals; everyone can survive if they are fit enough. Of course that’s redundant as well—because fitness is determined by who survives. But I would go further, and say that “alpha” is not only redundant, it is imbecilic. To call the act of “mothering” an act of dominance is absurd. There isn’t a mother on earth would see it that way.
In my opinion, Mech did not go far enough. After the paper, he co-authored papers that still used the term—with the explanation that dominance can be observed in families with more than one breeding pair. And yes, some families are incestuous ones, and sometimes they are all kinds of nontraditional. But if you let “alpha” back in, all the implications come creeping back, too. It’s all political. Mech knows too many people who he doesn’t want to offend, people for whom he will compromise his terms. If I were in his position, I would probably compromise, too, but I’m in a position to do what he can’t. I don’t know a lot of people yet. I can cut nature at the joints. I can see it the way it really is. And when I publish my findings, I will change the way people see wolves, and L. David Mech will get the credit he deserves for turning the tide.
The real problem was not with Tim’s methods. It was with his goal. His research grant had the expressly stated goal of “Identifying New Models beyond the Dominance Myth.” He was studying marking behavior—urinating and scratching—but he was trying to use that data to come up with a radical new framework. Mech had already come along and upset the dominance model. So OK, where you used to call wolves “dominant” and “subordinate,” so now we just called them “parent” and “pup.” But that wasn’t good enough for Doctor Droste, because the remnants were still there, in his mind.
In Tim’s mind, “dominance” was a fire to be stomped out, because it was inextricable from his feelings of his own low status. It was an egotistical and damaging equation that he himself made. So every time he would hear the word “subordinate,” he would think of his own place on the totem pole. It’s never good to think about the totem pole—if you’re high, you fear getting low, and if you’re low, well, no one likes to be low. It’s a lose-lose kind of game, so it’s best to stay out of it.
Jan 4 2002 / It is mating season, and the whole pack seems to radiate possibility. Male marking always goes up around this time, and in the literature, female marking does not. The databases don’t contain everything—although they do seem to contain an inordinate number of authors by the name of Wolf or Mark—but I wonder if this lack of female marking is simply the bias of the observers. In other words, it might just be due to the conspicuous nature of the male urination—you can’t miss a raised leg. Moreover, studies have shown that wolves themselves are less interested in female markings than male ones. The male wolves don’t over-mark them as often as they do other males’ markings, and the females don’t investigate them as much. It could be that biologically, no one is wired to receive the information I am looking for. I keep thinking I would know more if only I could get a snowmobile to observe the hunt. Since marking is mostly observed with investigative and exploratory actions, I it could be incredibly useful to my understanding of why females mark.
I went up to the old buffalo ranch this morning to communicate the female marking priority to Bud. When I pulled into the compound, I passed a herd of bison with tags in their ears doing a whole lot of upright nothing. Strangely, on my way back, they were on the other side of the road, although they never seemed to move in a forwardly direction.
Bud was finishing a lecture for tourists in one of the old log cabins. He was standing in front of a dry erase board with an overhead projector shining the park’s name on his face. The tourists had about two dozen Poland Spring plastic bottles sitting on the table—mini ones, the eight-ounce size. Bud was saying, “The way to really learn about wolves is to go off on your own, leave your ideas behind, forget everything you know, and just watch. Watch dispassionately, without judgment, because whatever they are doing, they are being wolves, and wolves are what we are here to watch.”
I skipped the pleasantries because Bud does not “get” me. We walked out of the cabin together toward his office without talking. On the way, he sucked in air over his thick gray mustache. I sniffed it too, to be polite. The air was dry, smelled like manure-soaked hay.
I had never been inside Bud’s office before. He led me in though a rickety storm door and a narrow foyer. Inside, there was a couch and a folding table with two folding chairs. A shotgun lay on top of a couple of inked-up maps, and a there was a box of bullets the size of a man’s fingers. On the wall, two wolf pelts hung by the nose, framing a photo of a geyser. I have no idea why a conservationist would have them, and I didn’t ask. Of course, I am not very good at ignoring things, and I couldn’t stop myself from scrutinizing.
They may have been quite old, but even so they were plush. Everywhere the fur seemed to stick out more than usual, except the faces, which were flattened out and elongated, and the eye sockets were all puffy. There they were, hanging from the paneling, as normal as can be, as though this was just what happened to wolves when they reached a certain age, not the gruesome reality—that someone had shampooed their fur, combed them out, and fit glass eyes into spots they’d scooped out.
I turned to look into Bud’s moustache where the spider-leg hairs hung down over the sides of his mouth. I tried to find his eyes. I managed, “It is important that I can observe the maximum amount of marking behaviors, Doctor West. A snowmobile would allow me to have a broader picture of female marking.”
“What’s wrong with the observation tower, Tim?” He asked. Indeed.
I told him that I needed to be mobile to follow the pack when they went on the hunt. That would put the rest of the marking into context, especially if there is marking during the hunt.
He just said, “Well, I wouldn’t worry too much about the hunt, Tim. I’m already taking care of that with my study. And I can tell you they don’t mark while they’re hunting. They mark when they’re just starting to leave the home range, and they mark when they get home. When they hunt, they’re not marking. They’re hunting. I’m a sharp observer, Tim. I’m not too concerned about missing something out there.”
I couldn’t tell him that it made a huge difference who was watching and why. I aimed at his downward-sloping eyebrows, which in-my-mind visually rhymed with each other and with the mustache, and repeated, “Are you saying I can’t use the snowmobile?”
“We have to make do with what we’ve got, Tim. I’m sorry. Why don’t you get one of the interns to help you with your shifts? You don’t need to be out there by yourself for five hours every day. You could have help.” His implication was that I needed help, couldn’t do it by myself.
He said this as he held the door open for me. He may have been motioning to me that there were interns outside that could assist me, but it felt more like he was shooing me back to my trailer. I trod through the snow back to my truck, and tried my damnedest not to look at any of the interns, although one was standing on top of the lodge, plowing three feet of snow with an aluminum shovel. He seemed thrilled to be doing it.
A group of girls were all sitting around a picnic table, six of them, three on each side, just sitting there, staring at one another being perfectly still. They were all pretty, I think. All at once, they all hooked their fingers over their eyes like glasses, as if in a race. The last girl to do it got up and started to walk towards me. She had this expression as though I were a mannequin she was about to start dressing. Later, I put it together that this was the punishment for losing the race, but at the last minute, she turned away, and instead veered toward a woman with frizzy gray hair in a UCSD sweatshirt, Velcro shoes, and faded denim pants. She smiled at her and said, “Are you following any wolf in particular or are you just here to see the whole pack?”
I remember having the sense that Tim desperately wanted something he couldn’t have. I am doing a study for the Institute on hunting. So I watch wolf kills from a helicopter and take pictures. I don’t notice any marking. Marking is more of a scavenging and investigatory activity that requires a more leisurely mental state. When they hunt, they are focused, thinking of only one thing—kill.
Tim didn’t need a snowmobile. We need snowmobiles for teaching activities and studies that would benefit from mobile ground observation. The reason that most wolf studies are done in the winter is because the packs stay in a relatively small area when it’s cold. Their range decreases, and they stick mainly to the valleys where the water is. This makes them easier to make out, especially against the white snow. You don’t need snowmobiles. Tim wanted to do more than watch from a kilometer away. He wanted to get closer figuratively, too. I could recognize that instinct, because everyone’s felt it at one point or another.
Back when I was younger, I would name the wolves with Indian words and dogs’ names, but that practice has fallen out of favor, because it’s a slippery slope. It makes it easier to feel other things for the wolves. I remember one year I was watching a mother wolf and her pups. It’s hard to see such tiny little creatures and not want to hold them, put them on your shoulder, juggle them—that’s an innate instinct. There’s no sense in running from it or pushing it away, but you shouldn’t tempt it either, or give it what it wants, because it’s not really on your side.
Jan 5 2002 / Observation tower: glorified wooden box with a ladder and a hole to see out of. Smells like cut wood, my space heater, and peeling latex paint, which forms new animal-themed patterns every week. I have a bottle of Gatorade and a thermos of coffee. Five hours goes by very quickly now. My eyes still get a little more fatigued at the end of the five hours than they are at the beginning, and I probably see fewer markings than are really occurring. My scope is 100x the magnification from this distance, and it’s easy to watch the wolves’ every movement if they are in the scope. If they go out of the scope, it sometimes takes me a minute to find them again, even though I know where they are. I have come to use a particularly tall tree in the background as my point of reference for all things. I call it Lakshmi Singh, whose voice is usually still in my head from a morning of stimulating YPR.
The only light in the little room comes from a narrow window that is five feet long and one foot high. It makes a nice shelter from the snow, but it also makes it hard to write. My scope is totally enclosed within the tree house, so the wolves won’t have any idea I am here. However, after today I can’t possibly believe that is true.
I had my scope fixed on Ladybird (009) because she is of the age this year where she might possibly mate, and I have previously observed her exhibiting FLU. She was sleeping for most of the morning due to a kill that came in yesterday, collecting a light frosting on her back from the January flurry. She has always seemed less playful than her brothers and sisters, and if I might humor anthropomorphosis just a bit, more serious. Even in sleep.
Around 12:36 p.m., Ladybird was startled by some shouting from the road—tourists who were there specifically to watch wolves in their natural habitat. They were people who specifically chose not to go to a zoo or another place where the wolves are already compromised, but opted instead to pay one-thousand-six-hundred-ninety-dollars, fly thousands of miles, and take a snow-coach—a small school bus for adults that is raised on skis—and wait in subfreezing temperatures in order to witness unmolested nature. I believe the wolf watcher was shouting “Hey Boo-Boo!” It woke her up, and she exhibited resting behavior, extended herself in a bow stretch, aft-to front, tail high. She trotted around the tree line and sniffed the big cradle of Sitka roots. And then she looked at me.
She made eye contact with me.
I know it sounds crazy, because I was looking through a powerful scope, and wolves can’t see more than a hundred feet in front of them, but she did. I ducked behind the boards. I thought I must be seeing things. Maybe, if I take a break and come back to it, I thought, she will return to her normal activities. I counted all the land-mammals I could make out in the peeling paint and all the ones I couldn’t. I ate a chicken sandwich. I did not enjoy that sandwich. Finally I couldn’t help myself any longer and I checked. She was still staring at me.
I stared through the scope. She was standing tall, tail up, staring at me, not in my direction at ground level, but up at my box in the trees, fifty feet off the ground. I could see it all perfectly, the expression of rapt awareness, her yellow eyes green in the sun. I took her picture, and she moved. It seems impossible that she could hear me or see me, but it is possible she can smell me, and if that is the case, I am no longer an invisible observer.
I wonder if LDM ever felt this dilemma on Ellesmere Island. Certainly, we know about Farley Mowatt’s little foray into field biology, although that was not his purpose. According to his book, he would not be alive today if it weren’t for the wolves’ interacting with him. But as for science, and my study, I have apprehensions about watching the wolves through a glass that is transparent both ways. Still, I wonder, is it ever possible to remain apart in this world? The bias of the observer is something to be minimized, but it can never be completely eliminated.
I am writing this because I believe in my study, and I want my results to be as accurate as possible. Perhaps, in recognizing the biases in our experiments, we can understand the system as a whole. I will not tell Bud West about it, though. Bud was young once. He has some kind of Native American trinket around his neck to commemorate those days, but I think he is grown all the way up now, in all the right and wrong ways. I think he already does not think I play by the rules, and I think he might be correct in thinking that.
I do want to create usable data, but I am feeling constrained by his ethography. The behaviors already come pre-assembled. I feel like I am constantly looking at butts and hindquarters, butts and hindquarters, and there are so few actual markings, that most of the time, I just see legs stepping, constantly stepping. I try to notice their faces and the interactions that go on, but I’m always worried I’ll miss a crucial urination and throw off my data. It seems like science might tell us more if it sought more qualitative information and required less counting.
He calls her Ladybird. What does that mean to you? She’s not a bird or a lady, but to Droste, she is both. She is flighty and unpossessable. He falls under the same charming spell that has caught the wolf watchers by the side of the road. They spend hours glassing the immensity, and they don’t find it boring. On the contrary, they are invigorated. Their legs pulse with excitement at the chance to see one of these wolves, and maybe even snap a photo, a photo of a teeny-weeny wolf off in the distance. Their friends won’t understand, but if you sit there for hours on end and finally get to see a real live wolf, you’ll know what I mean. Wolves have an odd pull on our human hearts.
I don’t think the wolf ever looked at him, or in the direction of the smell of him. I think he had scope fatigue. You get it from looking through a scope for hours. You rub your eyes and say I can’t see anything! The scope isn’t broken, but you have to take a break or else you can’t see anything in it that’s really happening.
Jan 9 2002 / I left the observation tower and moved instead to the little overlook where the wolf watchers sit, figuring that the wolves never seem to interact with them. The wolf watchers all congregate at a pull out up at the northeast road. Next to the parking spaces, there is a long slab of pavement enclosed in a wooden railing, from which one can look down on a valley which is enormous, and for the most part, boring.
I pulled up next to some all-terrain vehicles filled with sleeping bags, prominently stickered with various badges for having been at Grand Teton, Joshua Tree, and Zion National Park. Coolly, I throw the catches on my scope, slide the flimsy little aluminum legs down, bracing it against the rail, set up my folding chair, and give a brief smile in the direction of the watchers. One man gives me a nod in the direction of my scope, and I notice that he has one of the models that list in catalogs for one to two thousand dollars. And true to form, the more expensive a scope, the clunkier.
The pack of them spoke in code, firing off numbers of wolves and names of packs. I had never been to one of these gatherings, and I was surprised that they used same jargon, the same doublespeak that we do when describing simple concepts. But they seemed to bring it back down to an unpretentious level of gossip and common sense. One teenage girl seemed to know the whole history of the Slip Stream pack and her favorite was 442, who was killed by a rancher. This trip was her tribute to 442. She kept calling her the alpha, and I kept hearing “beta gray” and “white alpha female.” I was able to tune it out, but I don’t think this lookout site is going to work out.
If I’m being perfectly honest, my job was a lot easier with the wolf watchers, because one of the older women called out everything that was happening like a theater program. She had a fringe of white bangs and a winter hat that looked like a muffin growing out of the back of her head. She seemed OK, but I still didn’t want to be there any longer than I had to. As soon as my gear was set up, I flipped my hood up over my cap and disappeared into the scope. I was all alone in the window of my little scope, just me and miles of snow. I was down on the mudflat.
At about 8:02am, a male lone wolf appeared from the tree line. He investigated the Sitka Spruce, lifted his left hind leg, melted the new layer of snowfall, and then scratched up the ground in a quick flurry of motion like an itching fit.
FASD is the most common sequence when a female wolf interacts with a male wolf from another pack. F: She smells the intruder’s scent marking. A: She faces the direction she believes the intruder to have gone. S: She rolls her back and side against mark. D: She urinates in the same spot in a flexed-leg squat.
We are not sure what any of this is for. There are theories, but no comprehension.
There was some body language between the intruder and Ladybird as he approached. It looked like bouncing. Then there was a minute of copulation. Afterward, the two were stuck together in the canid coital lock. They were surprised, but not exactly alarmed. In my experience, one of the pair is always more upset about their condition, and the other remains a little more level-headed. The male fell belly-up underneath Ladybird, and she started dragging him around in the snow as he looked up at her. Since I watch butts, I will say that their tales hid any of the “action” one might look for, they were crossed like the roots of the Spruce. Some of the other wolves tried to get between them, as if to help out, but it’s just a biological fact—they have to wait.
When the lock finally gave, they were both on their feet and they catapulted away from one another. Then everyone in the pack tussled together and bounced. I did not look up from my scope for fear of having to share camaraderie with one of my cohorts, so I scanned the pack for any signs of marking. At 9:30ish, the pack started to retreat behind the tree cover, and on the way, Ladybird sniffed the yellow snow on the Sitka Spruce for over three seconds. Then she marked in FLU for less than one second. Although it was out of character, I called out what I saw. “Flexed leg urination! First one of the night—I’m at the Sitka Spruce!” No one answered me, and when I looked around, I saw that the others had all gone to their cars, leaving their empty hunter green folding chairs to face the valley.
Watching with the tourists got me musing on the artificiality of our wolf projects. I am currently sitting in my silver trailer which has sat in the park for thirty years. It’s an original Yellowstone model outfitted with a tiny kitchenette and a family dinner table, and in many ways it is more natural than the wolves we study, who have only been in here for six years. The wolves we study have bright yellow GPS collars on them, and they are not dogs, but can we can’t really call them wild. In the long view, we have been playing a kind of god with them, first killing them off and then shipping in more from Canada to put it back the way it was. But this isn’t the way it was.
And the result of our efforts in publicizing their conservation—the net effect—is that today, school children all over the country play a wolf questing computer game where they run around the valleys of the park as a wolf, seeing visual representations of scent trails that look like puffs of pink smoke, and every year more and more of them come to experience the real thing, with their sweatshirts toting an artistic rendering of a wolf’s face, hyperbolically majestic and prettied-up with pastel colored pencils.
I think he was pulled toward the wolf at the same time that he was repulsed by people. That is, I think the forces were one and the same. The tourists who encountered him found him cold and aloof. And he never had the appropriate social graces or courtesies when he interacted with me. Something about him was always off, and it reminded me of myself at that age. I’ve never really been much of a socialite, but I was lucky. When I entered the field, I had a strong support system, and I was humble enough to become a part of it.
And you know, I can meet you here at this bar to talk to you about Droste, because it’s important to me to set the record straight, so that it doesn’t seem that I shut him out, but in general, I don’t have time to even reflect on my own life for the most part. I’m doing studies, writing papers, coordinating my people, doing interviews, teaching classes. So, what I’m saying is I was mad that Droste was a making my life difficult. I thought, “I don’t have time for this!” And that might’ve colored my feelings a bit toward him.
Droste was a young man doing his first major study. He was twenty-seven when he started. I have a wife and children and I am more or less in charge of the wolves and all the people dealing with wolves out here. It’s a pretty awesome responsibility. Tim was so uncompromising, and in a way, I respected that. When I first read his grant application, I thought, “Wow, this kid might actually find a new model, and how great would that be?” But it’s easy to get wrapped up in dreams when you haven’t been at it for very long, and after a while, you see that everything has consequences.
Jan 12 2002 / This morning, something amazing happened. I was sitting in front of my campfire drinking coffee, kind of zoning out to the light shining off my trailer—yellow and blue. No matter how lonely and cold and arduous it gets, I am always grateful that I’m not staring at a computer screen. It was perfectly quiet except for the drip of icicles and the pleasant hum of YPR when I heard a rustling in the sage brush. I thought it was a talkative chipmunk that I had been arguing with earlier, and I said, “Sorry, Alvin, no nuts here,” but it wasn’t Alvin, it was Ladybird coming out of the bush toward me with her head hung low and a bison calf dangling from her jaws. I considered backing away slowly, but for some instinctual reason I just sat there. She approached me. She got as close as a meter in front of me and dropped the hollow carcass, as if presenting it. I ducked my head down a bit to meet her eyes, and she came even closer.
When I saw her up close, I realized she had dark eyebrows, like a woman, angled, and long lashes. She narrowed her eyes and then opened them. I don’t know why, but I did the same. She squinted again, and so I did, too. We kept like this for about thirty seconds. No idea what this blinking means—it was musical whatever it was.
Then she leaned in, sniffed my face, and ran away.
Darwin said, “If we are witnesses to a profound excitement, our sympathy is so strongly aroused, that we forget, or it becomes almost impossible for us to make a careful observation.” But it’s weird. Memory, if not reason, seems enhanced by emotional encounters.
I looked down to the emptied-out calf she had left. It still had the same orange and white wooly fluff on it, like a stuffed toy, but its ribs had been opened like a clamshell. It sent me very contradictory impulses. Its big, round eyes and its puggish nose were still a very deep, rich obsidian. But there was absolutely nothing left between the ribs. Like an empty room, the chest contained only the ribs on the other side of it, and what I at first thought was a clump of withered grass thrown inside it turned out to be a hole in the calf, and the grass was showing through from the dirt beneath.
I had a vision of Trinket Necklace then—of his narrow, drawn face. He would look troubled by the news of this behavior, a wolf kill so close to the tourist lodge, regardless of where the kill actually took place. He would mark it down on his map as discovered one mile from the lodge. Yes, the tourists pay to come see wolves, but they don’t want to feel in danger. And the truth is that Ladybird probably could not have dragged this body much more than a half-mile, which means the hunt probably did take place too close to the lodge.
Trinket Necklace would frown at this, because it would mean wolves are becoming accustomed to humans. And if that is the case, they might start exploring outside the park in search of commercial cattle. When they go outside the park, anything can happen. Last year, one wolf—442—was tracked down by an angry rancher using her GPS collar. As soon as she left the park, he was waiting for her and shot her dead with two shots.
I put the carcass in my truck and took it about three miles south of here. I don’t want any of the wolves to get shot, but I don’t want Bud West to butt in to my project, either, especially when I think I am getting so close to understanding scent marking. I don’t know what Darwin or Mech would say about this, and truthfully, if she hadn’t presented the calf to me in this manner, I probably would’ve told West. If I ever get to talk to Mech, I would tell him about it, especially the sniff.
The first thing Ladybird did was sniff my face, and this is traditionally theorized as a “greeting” among wolves. But a sniff is also a form of investigation, and I wonder, what can be discovered by getting up close to another’s face? We humans do this with a kiss on the cheek. I have smelled elderly skin and strange perfumes, and I have not thought too much about it, but this is knowledge. We often theorize that wolves are reading one another’s biological condition when they sniff scent markings—pregnancy, receptivity to mating, and perhaps general fitness. Researchers have found hormones in the markings that suppress the androgens of other wolves, and so this is thought of as a way of maintaining dominance of the alpha pair. I might say this is a way of allowing one’s offspring to experience a longer childhood. Even the chemistry is open to interpretation. So I think we are missing something when it comes to sniffing.
He moved a kill! It would be like if I started interfering with your interview, editing your words without telling you. I don’t really get angry very often. I usually stand at a healthy distance from that kind of feeling, and most people don’t ever see it, but Tim tested my patience.
One morning, I cataloged a couple kill spots. I arrived after the take-down in both cases, but I was circling above by helicopter and I could see the hunting groups tearing up the flesh and other normal feeding behavior. One of the kills was close to the ranch, which was troubling, but when we decided to replenish the wolf population out here, we knew it would be impossible to completely stop that from happening. When the pack abandoned the first kill, we landed so I could make close observations.
Later that day, I am back in my office doing data entry, and I get a call from one of the hiking groups saying they can’t find the carrion. I had told them exactly where to look and the guide was there, and he didn’t see it. It was down by one of the mud pots, so there wasn’t going to be red blood on snow for them, but I knew if it were there, the guide should have been able to see it. He was about to abandon the search and take the tourists down to the geysers, but I told him I could find the kill. I thought maybe the wolves moved it, and if so, I could track it.
The tourists had been snowshoeing for an hour and a half looking for this spot, so I drove out to them with a bunch of snowmobiles in tow and we all took off on a hunt for carrion. I could’ve used the GPS collars, but instead, we followed the ravens, who will lead you to a carcass ten times out of ten. They’re that good.
There is a bear jam on the northeast road, so we take a park-only corridor. When we get to a break in the trees, we can see down in the valley where the ravens are gliding around in tight circles. Half the tourists are more interested in a frozen waterfall at this point, but we head into the valley once they have taken their fill of video.
Now, I have a great show I put on for these field seminars, which is a real part of my study as well. I pick up a leg shank, show them that the hoof’s been chewed up by wolf teeth. I let the femur knock around at the joint. Then I take a hacksaw and split it, almost all the way, but not quite. A final snap of the wrist will break it in two. Then I say the bone marrow in a healthy ungulate looks like molasses. I show them the marrow, how it doesn’t ooze out. Instead, it’s red and caked up. I say, “This is old bone” if the animal is old or if it’s a calf, I’ll show them how the marrow is white and say “immature bone—probably the runt of the litter.” You see wolves don’t kill healthy members of the herd. They weed out the sick, the old, and the defenseless. Wolves actually tend the herd, like shepherds. They’re a good model for us to follow. This leads into my motto for how we should be good shepherds to the animals in the park. We are not here to tame nature, I say, but to tend the wilderness so it can continue to thrive. It’s a performance, and I feel like a broken record sometimes, but conservation is important. I’d rather be laughed at for overdoing it than be remembered for not going far enough.
So I am doing this show, and I am just happy as pie that I finally found a carcass, but something about it doesn’t feel right. I recognize the carcass. It’s the same one I cataloged earlier in the day. How do I know? Because when I go to take one of the femurs, it’s already been split open.
When I got home, I looked at the GPS tracking data, and found the new alpha female from the Slip Stream pack had gone right to Droste’s trailer. Well I was livid! I don’t really get “mad” like most people, but at the time, I was thinking, you know, “Eff this” and “Screw that jerk,” and other sentences I won’t finish. I think the worst part was that I had been duped. But it was more than that. If my data is off, then our understanding of wolf hunting is off. The National Science Foundation and donors I had worked very hard to court had paid tens of thousands of dollars for data that was off. And maybe I should’ve been more worried for Droste, but I wasn’t worried. I was pissed off!
Jan 14 2003 / Stepped outside to make the fire and found Ladybird lying on the ground. She’d been shot. I picked her up, hoisted her into the truck, and drove down the highway to the ranch. I didn’t want to see Bud—I kept picturing the eyebrows and the mustache—but the only medical aid for miles was at the ranch. I was navigating speed bumps of snow every couple yards, when I was passed by about fifteen snowmobiles, all tourists. They were all giddy with speed and shouting, “Whee!” as the tread wheel sent up a plume of snow behind them. It seemed like I was on another planet. Here I was, about to lose the main subject of my study, and there was an endless line of mechanical mosquitoes buzzing by my head. They were all buzzing the unpronounceable name of their maker—Yamaha, Yamaha, Yamaha, a laughing parka, Yamaha.
But as Bud says, we have to make do with what we’ve got.
When I got to the door of the log cabin, I was holding the wolf, and I got one of my hands free to knock. It seemed like I was standing there forever with dirt cutting up my fingernails and snow burning my ankles, and then a small figure appeared at the door in a nightgown. She was a fully-grown woman, but she seemed small, and intensely human, surreally human, almost like a doll or a clown, but even more absurd than that, like a doll dressed as a clown. I couldn’t look at her. I had to look at her house slippers. She had thick black socks with flecks of red in harness-like sandals.
It was striking. Mary is too young to be a vet or to be living in a pre-war cabin. She bandaged Ladybird’s shoulder on a thick wooden table while I sipped a mug of whiskey. She also gave me some leftover steak quesadillas from the gourmet chef they fly in for the tourists. Ladybird’s wounds were spread out and shallow, like she had got too close to a firecracker.
“Cracker shells,” Mary said. “It scares them away from tourists. Some of the rangers carry them when they do their rounds of the campsites.” I thought back to the gun I had seen on Bud’s folding-table desk. I mentioned I’d seen it.
Mary seemed hurt or else displeased by my suspicion. I suppose she was displeased. It was our newfound rapport that was hurt. “Bud’s gun has been on that desk all winter,” she said, “He never touches it.”
Mary told me that all she’s ever really wanted to do is work with wolves, just like Bud and me. At the Wolf Diplomacy Center back home, she got to hold a little pup and feed it through a baby bottle. She tried to describe to me what it felt like to have a little wolf suckle at your finger while giving it a glucosamine chondroitin supplement. While she was talking, I zoned out and listened to the strange husky tenor of her voice. It was almost as though she had none of the traditional female cadences, and if you closed your eyes, you could imagine you were talking to a very articulate fourteen-year-old boy.
Something she said set me off and I snapped back into the conversation. She was mentioning the dominance displays, and so I tried my best to explain the problem with dominance theory. It is for some reason very difficult to explain my position to most people. It seems fairly obvious to me. Dominance has absolutely no place in a peaceful society. It’s a perversion of the natural order, lurking in our minds, hindering everything, even my observations, and even in the way I want to “dominate” Dominance Theory or make it “submit” to a new theory!
Mary laughed at me in the way a woman always laughs at an expert. She said that she knew the term “dominance” held no place in natural wolf packs, but her pack wasn’t natural, it was captive. And any time you force grown adults to live together, you are going to get dominance. Take the interns, she said, it was the same as the diplomacy center. “It was a total soapie,” she said, “Just like the way you don’t get along with Bud. It’s not really about ideas. It’s biology.”
I want to live another way. I can’t ignore this part of my psyche. And maybe Mary is right. Maybe dominance is always going to be part of it. But it’s not all of it.
Mary said she wouldn’t tell Bud about what happened. We stayed up over Ladybird all night, talking. She told me all the stories about the interns, and which of the life-long learners they affectionately called tourotrash. The next morning I took Ladybird out to the mud flat where it is relatively warm. Before she came to, I smelled her face, to see if I could learn anything. I was overwhelmed with the stench of blood.
Well I guess you could say it riles me about Mary. We have a lot of really dedicated interns, and she was just a real sweat girl. He was going off on his own at that point. And that’s one thing. Go off and become a medicine man if you want and play by your own rules, but don’t take a kid—don’t take a sweet kid like that along with you.
She’d spend all of her day off with Tim, and she’d sneak off on days when there was nothing to do here—when someone else was dressing the road kill or chipping the trails. They formed a little duo, talking themselves into whatever they could think up. I don’t think anything was going on between them, in that sense, but even without that, there’s still a kind of chemistry that takes place between a man and woman going off together, even as friends. College kids are impressionable, and I know her heart was in the right place, but I’m not as sure about his.
I know she doesn’t want to work with wolves anymore.
Jan 24 2002 / Last night, Mary and I were sitting in front of the fire discussing the limits and definition of domestication. She was doing some yoga moves, stretching in an upside-down position, talking about pregnancy and pseudo-pregnancy. Ladybird is pregnant and so is one of her sisters, but Mary was saying that one of them, or both, might not really be. I am surprised that Mary is not pseudo-pregnant, the way she talks about wanting to take care of pups. Women seem unable to resist the impulse to mother.
And this is really at the heart of what I am studying. Of female wolves, only the mothers or soon-to-be mothers scent mark. The rest urinate, but only for elimination purposes, not the brief, directed streams we see after investigatory sniffing. And mothering is really the ax that can break apart the dominance myth. We know that wolves mother their cubs, but it is an irreducible concept, mothering. We can neither quantify nor qualify this behavior to any degree of satisfaction. And this inexplicability may be what makes it so good, or it may be that science has not, until now, focused its scopes on it.
Mary jumped up into what she calls a Sun Salutation and said, “I’d hate to see a wolf give birth with a collar around her neck.”
I admitted that I also found the collars questionable, even though Mech, who invented the radio collar, did so with good intentions. But if we were to take the collars off, wouldn’t we be the ones tampering with the animals?
Mary said she knew a way to do it that was minimally invasive. Ultimately it is counterinvasive. So this morning we did it. Mech forgive me, wherever you are. They are brilliant invention—certainly better than painting the animal blue—but we don’t need them. They add a certain predictability to the wolves’ behavior. Even LDM would agree that domestication is undesirable. It’s what made us think packs were dominance hierarchies in the first place.
Mary got some supplies from Bud’s office: tranquilizer darts, bear spray, protective vests—she wanted to take the cracker shell gun, but I talked her out of it. It was a ghost town up there with most of the interns up in Sheridan for a fundraising fun run.
We took the truck and waited for Ladybird to go on an excursion out of the valley—up on Dead Puppy Hill. It was an appropriate name; when we blew the darts through the little straw, I felt just like the reaper. We cut off the GPS collar with wire cutters. She was out completely, or at least Mary claimed she was, but her eyes stared at me through the whole thing. When she breathed in and out, the moisture on the side of her eyes would pool a little as her nostrils crowded in, and when I got a little closer or farther away, the pupils themselves would get bigger and smaller. It was a little unnerving.
Mary felt Ladybird’s stomach and told me she was not pregnant.
“I wonder what that’s like,” I said. “To not be pregnant.”
Mary was quiet for a minute. “Just like my mom’s soapies,” she says. “Who’s doing who and who’s upset about it.”
Mary, wilderness vet: twenty-four years old, dishwater hair, about 165 lbs. Explains all the ways I should act. I can tell Mary wishes I were “doing” her, and part of me wishes that it could be that easy. We have a bond, but it is not sexual. Mary’s face is not ugly. She has long limp blonde hair that attractively frames her round face. The buttonlike nose and upper lip are very prominent, but it is pleasant to look into Mary’s face. Even though something about it still reminds me of a clown’s face.
He took off an expensive GPS collar. That didn’t just mess up my data—it was dangerous. We didn’t know where the wolf was anymore. She could just go off the map and never be found until she killed someone’s calf or worse. It hasn’t happened yet, here, a wolf taking someone’s child, but it has happened in India. I don’t know what I’d do if something like that were to happen. I try not to. I try to keep a “mind of winter.” That’s from Wallace Stevens’ “The Snowman.” He said one must have a mind of winter to see the boughs and hear the wind, and not feel sad, but just see it for what it is and what it isn’t. And one must have a mind of winter to do this job, but I don’t think a mind of winter would stop me from what I would feel if a wolf killed a child.
He had stopped reading journals at that point, under the false impression that he didn’t want to be corrupted. I know it sounds off topic, but this is a big part of it, because that was the only thing tethering Droste to the sensible world, that and “This American Life” on his radio. Other than that, he was literally on his own with a twenty-four year old kid.
Jan 30 2002 / Things with Mary are not going too good. I don’t think I want her around anymore since the attack. I should’ve seen it coming—the attack, that is. There were warning signs. I saw hackles one, two, and four, and her tail was at about three point five, which is making contact with her haunches.
It happened when I was approaching Ladybird with some cubes of cheese. I would get a little closer and she would look more relaxed. She even rolled on her belly. But every time I’d get too close, she’d exhibit an aggressive behavior—bite, grab, head shake, and pin, in some or all of that sequence of four. On one of my turns to move, I didn’t back away soon enough, and she caught my shoulder in her bite. I tried to get away, but wrestling made her shake harder, and at one point she pinned me with her two front paws on top of my sternum. It’s natural to underestimate the weight of a 125 lb wolf—from a distance, they look small, but she is actually the size of a person and her jaws can call upon all the muscles of her neck and back.
She didn’t look anything like the Ladybird I know. The muscles in her snout bulged, her ears were back, the brows tensed, and all the muscles of her face seemed to course with blood. I stopped moving at that point, but she wouldn’t let go. She still thought we were playing. Blood started to drip out from her fangs. I whimpered, “You win, I give up!” but I don’t think that had any effect on her. It was only due to some divine grace that she finally relented.
Mary bandaged me up in some impossibly itchy wrapping tape, and said, “Well, I guess you learned your lesson. You won’t go playing around with wild animals next time? Now you see aggression isn’t just a patriarchal concept. Tim,” she looked me in the eye, “You won’t do this again, will you?”
I said no and then looked away—had to look away—out of rage. I was outwardly placid, but inside, it was all rage. It seemed impossible to explain to her. I mean, yes, I have questioned my tactics. I could say that I was careless. But she came to where I lived and put her food in front of me. How could she forget that kindness so quickly and turn on me? Perhaps I am underestimating the effects of a pseudopregnancy on a female wolf. Or maybe I am underestimating the signals I myself am giving off. Right now, I can smell myself. I can smell Mary’s fabric softener and my cologned shave gel that I slather on faithfully for no one, like the faithful ol’ geyser. When you see pictures of Mech out on Ellesmere Island, he is the very picture of an outdoorsman. Not Trinket Necklace’s version—always riding around on horseback with a cowboy hat and his fake-western mustache like the Sundance Kid. Mech may look more like Phil Collins than Butch Cassidy, but he knows what it means to “tend the wilderness.” He tends the wilderness that’s inside him.
The next time I saw him, he acted like his appearance was the most reasonable thing in the world, but he had a birds-nest-thick beard all around with a few spindly little white hairs that came out like whiskers. He must have had to wax them out or trim around them with a scissor. I am not even sure it was real.
He was saying the most bizarre things. I think I had said, “Look at the time!” and he shot back, “I’m not a slave to time.” He said it was all the group think of nuclear physicists in Greenwich. “I’ve never seen an electron,” he said, “and I’ll be damned,” he said, “if I’m going to be told what to do by an atom.”
Feb 20 2002 / Today is my thirtieth birthday. I am alone, never married, and my parents live thousands of miles away. For my birthday, Mary set me up in a Bed and Breakfast, so I could convalesce. She brought me an assortment of library books to read, even though I told her I probably wasn’t going to work out the way she wanted me to. Something in Mary just wants to be kind for no reason.
I have spent most of the day in a long, white claw-foot tub, sweating in a pitch-black bathroom. I had never done this before. It felt as if I were not actually awake. I lowered my head into the water, hair first. The water rushed into my ears and then my head finally found the bottom. I didn’t feel my shoulder at all. I floated. At some point, I realized I had to get out and take a piss, but the thought of moving my shoulder kept me immobile. Whereas many people, when adequately cajoled, will admit to peeing in the shower, it is never OK to do so in the bath. In a bath in a dream, I didn’t care.
It was brief, lasting not longer than a couple seconds. No one was killed, and in fact nothing bad happened at all. Something in me relaxed. It was like a gear had slipped into place for me. I spent an hour savoring the fading warmth of the tub until it was no longer warm.
I started meditating on the sensation of touching Ladybird’s paw, which I have been fortunate to do only a couple of times. The pads of her paw are warm and responsive. She holds them there almost like she is grasping me, but without grasping. Hand to paw, I can feel each of us reacting to the other. That is what communication is, really, a dance—a dance of observation and reflection. I see what you do, and I do it back to you. That is FASD. That is bite, grab, shake, and pin.
It’s not just dominance to spray over someone’s marking. That’s reductionism and warrior-worship. Marking is memory, is compassion, is shared consciousness, is so many things. It’s not just territorial, saying this is my land. It’s expression, saying this is my life and I want to share it. Saying, I want you to feel how I feel and I want to feel how you feel. It might be seen as domination by some—by scientists, who have historically been men in competition with one another. But with the lone wolf, Ladybird made it more than dominance. By her gentleness she made it about love. She made it about connection. I may be a creature of dominance. I may never escape that instinct, but if I express it to her, she can accept it and change it into something else—something good.
We know he was issued three tickets that day for molesting wildlife. Two rangers found him down on his knees sniffing and scratching at trees and one ranger actually caught him urinating on a scent marking. Not all cases of yellow snow in the nation’s parks are ticketable offenses. Rangers use their discretion to determine what is and is not fair game. It was molestation because it was a site of scientific research—a study on marking that was being transferred to another biologist at the time. The ranger said Droste wasn’t really concerned with the ticket. He just sniffed it and rubbed it against his beard whiskers.
I am pissing, world! World, I am pissing! I am alive, and I am me, and I am pissing! The way in which I am pissing and the pissing is perfect and what is pissed is sublime and what is pissed shows and is sublime for showing that I was here, I was me, and I was pissing, scratching and pissing! No one can stop me from pissing! You don’t like my pissing, Trinket Necklace? I will piss you all over the place! Get out of town, you don’t like my pissing! You love my pissing! I am pissing with everything that pisses. Everything is geared up in the service of the pissing and the scratching that I can keep doing. Can you feel this, world? I am everything that I am! I am alive and I am pissing and scratching up this giant fucking tree.
Mary checked on him at the hotel in town and found him gone. It was one of those snowy days when no one should go exploring, but she went looking for him, anyway, taking one of our snowmobiles that she thought we wouldn’t miss. I did in fact happen to miss the snowmobile and so I went looking for Mary. And I take the cracker shell gun with me, because I suspect something crazy has happened, which it has. By this time, Droste had already got to the wolf’s marking spot—between two gargantuan Spruces—and after urinating all over it, he had fallen asleep.
When Mary found him, the wolf was there, curled up next to him like a house pet. She wakes him up, but of course she can’t wake him up without waking up the wolf too, and they both stare at her, frightened. No one is moving. She’s kind of hiding behind the greater part of her snowmobile. That’s when I show up on my horse. I realize that sounds ridiculous, but I have a horse on the ranch that likes to get exercise in the winter, and I honor that. I think my appearance must’ve scared the wolf, but she’s still not moving. Mary reaches over to saddle bag and unhooks the gun. She aims the rifle at the wolf and tells him, “Come with us.”
Of course, Mary has never shot an animal, or even shot anywhere near an animal, and he knows it, so he just smiles at her. He smiles at me too and says, “Riding in to save the day, Trinket Necklace?” It seemed like he was finally saying what he really thought, and you know, it wasn’t post-dominance, what he thought. He might’ve discovered something in his bizarre way, but with the way he looked at me, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a post-aggression model of behavior.
Then out of no where, he grabs the wolf’s neck—hard. He must’ve got his fingernails in there. I see all four hackles, and then the wolf eyes him for a second before she flies to his arm and clamps her jaws in. It looks like a tight vice grip, though there’s no blood yet. And instead of staying still—which is what he’s supposed to do—Droste fights it. He wrests his arm away, and the wolf’s head wrests from side to side along with him. Mary doesn’t pull the trigger right away. But when she has time to react, she pounds a bullet onto the tree next to them. Her face goes limp, because nothing happens, and then after a couple of seconds, there’s the loud bang of explosives that sprays their bodies, the two of them instantly recoiling as the crackers open up on their face and chest.
They both ran off into the cold. We could only see them for about fifty feet before they disappeared in the snow. We already know the cracker shell didn’t work on her, but he’s another matter. Even if he wanted to come back, in the snow, he might not find his way. I’ve seen many animals freeze to death out here—thin bison calves, and once a whole flock of bats that was disturbed during their hibernation. We make sure all of our winter employees purchase an appropriate warmth system with moisture wicking and heat panels. I have no idea if Tim was had the presence of mind to put on any of those things before leaving his hotel.
Mary wanted to go after them. But I thought it wouldn’t be worth it to come down with hypothermia ourselves trying to save Tim, so I radioed to the lodge and told them to come out with snowmobiles. And at the time, I thought the wolf still had the GPS collar, so I figured we could at least find where the wolf had gone, but when Mary turned to me, something in her face told me that was not the case. I thought back to the sight of them both, Droste in front of the wolf, and I couldn’t remember any yellow collar, and so I asked.
“It’s back at the trailer,” she says. “We took it off.” She was already crying, which is probably the only appropriate reaction to the whole situation. One of the search party brought her back to the ranch, and the rest of us tried to follow the trail. We had a fleet of these snorting snowmobiles, but of course it was snowing and any footprints out there got covered up immediately. I don’t know if I ever really believed we could find him. The helmets cut us off from any sound he might’ve made, even when the engines were turned off. I shouted the kind of things a swat team shouts at a man on a ledge. Told him there was a hot bath waiting for him at the lodge, and that we were worried for him. But of course, the tone of my voice did not have the warmth and reassurance I wanted, because I was pretty sure he didn’t want to come back.
He had wanted Mary to shoot him with the cracker shot. It may have been impulsive, but I think it had been a long time coming. He was cutting off the last ties. And it wouldn’t have been right to just say, “OK, this is what he wants, so we’ll leave him,” but at the same time, we couldn’t see anything at all once it got dark, and the next morning it snowed for three days. His parents back east asked me if it’s possible he’s alive out there, and it’s hard to say it, but the answer is no. I would’ve thought we were going to find him in that spring, but no one did. If I had to guess, I’d say we’ll know for sure this year, but then again, Tim never did take my opinion into account much. Maybe he’s curled up with a wolf somewhere in their own cozy little den. In his mind, maybe that’s what he thought he was running off to.
Dear Dr. Droste,
I’ve received your letter, and I’d like to talk with you about your findings. The next time I am in Yellowstone, I will ask my friend Bud West to arrange us a meeting.
Yours truly, LDM