SAM and the WOLF PACK

In the days before my sons came to be I still worked in the field surveying seismic lines for the oil and gas companies. We explored some of the most remote areas in Alberta, and the world, by constructing our own temporary roads, or lines. A 4x4 pick-up can go a long way into the back country with a D6 cat in front of it.

I should tell you about Sam. Or Samo or Cactus Sam, they are all the same dog. Sam was my traveling companion for some of these field years. Sam was a great white Samoyed. To have had an animal as gifted as him call me his was truly privileged. I could tell you why I called him Cactus Sam but that is a different story and, besides, he always thinks the joke is on him when I tell that one!

To the North and East was open wilderness and it was there throughout we traversed our lines. My job was to strike off the cats and control the line construction; A job with zero tolerance for error as the cats worked in pairs to cut and clean three to five kilometers of new line per day. Sam kept company all the way, unless he was off chasing squirrels, jack rabbits, or any of the variety of other animals which make the forest their home.

Our transportation this day was an Argo, an open topped six or eight wheeled ATV; Ours was a six-wheeled orange model. We were traveling in to strike some line off one morning when we saw them.

As we rounded a corner in the trail, we surprised a pack of wolves. Or maybe, I've thought, they were waiting there for us. For a moment, they all looked at us. There was a black one, a brown, some greys. Eight to ten in the pack that I saw. They looked at us with one mind, their intent unknown to me, or Sam, turned together and magically, seamlessly, vanished into the surrounding wilderness at the same time. The black is the one I remember most, but what impressed me about them was how they acted together.

That night, or perhaps the next, at the end of the day they saw us again. The reverse was not true, for we heard them this time but saw nothing. At dusk they began to howl in the valley before us. Such melancholy they sing. I sometimes believe their song is meant to lull their prey into standing still to appreciate it. One begins and another joins ... I had thought by the sound of it that they were miles away.

I took a step into the valley with Sam at my side. Something made me turn us back after that first step and call it a day’s work. Maybe, it was just common sense. Maybe, but I know the wolves were there, always watching.

FOOT & CHAIN