A Walk on the Wild Side

(This column was first published in 2005. “Sand in my Sheets” columns are a regular feature in NorthernIslander.)

Many on the Island were quite excited about the possible wolf tracks discovered and cast late last spring by Jeff Powers, our island veterinarian and President of the Island’s Wildlife Club. A number of people have been intrigued by the $200 reward for a photo of the critter. I even heard of two little boys who devoted their vacation to the “hunt” for the gray wolf, armed with disposable cameras and great enthusiasm as they headed out into the woods each day. They weren’t successful in their endeavor but had a wonderful time playing explorers in the wilderness.

Although there have been credible sightings of a wolf, no one has yet captured the animal on film.  Jacque LaFreniere, who once worked at a wolf rehabilitation center, has a tape of wolves howling. She thought it would be a worthy attempt to spend an evening playing the tape in likely locations and listening for a reply. We could make a night of it, she said.

I was in. Any possibility of an outing with “the girls” always clears my calendar. I laid out the essentials – camera, box of Cheeze-Its (indispensable in a carload of women), bug spray, and soft drinks (and if you believe that last one, there’s a hippo living in the waters of Sand Bay that you should see).

Anyway, about an hour before we were to depart, I mentioned to hubby that he really ought to spray the small paper wasp nest on the side of our house. “The wasps are starting to get really annoying when I’m working in the garden,” I told him.

This former Marine takes on missions like this as though he were headed into the shores of Tripoli. Armed with his aerosol can of Bug-Be-Gone-Forever, he stalked about the perimeters of our home, blasting away at the wasps’ attempts to build condos on our roofline. I watched his attack from the safety of our living room window – encouraging him to look further for the source of the wasps bombarding my attempts to pick green beans.

My heart actually missed a beat or two as he picked up a lawn chair to get near the
the area. Underneath that chair was a HUGE paper wasp nest. And the angry insects that poured from the quarter-sized entrance hole looked like one of those clouds of bugs you see in cartoons going after Wily Coyote. I screamed an alarm, but by that point hubby was well aware that he’d encountered the enemy stronghold.

Suffice to say – although Marines never retreat – he quickly headed in another direction, followed by the relentless wasps. Eventually he was able to slide himself through the door and leave the hordes of attackers behind. Multiple stings were treated, and then I was dispatched to town to retrieve fresh supplies of canned Death-Spray that could be applied from the safe zone of our porch. He took great joy in blasting the barbed buggers and he hacked apart their headquarters with a shovel, happily noting the large numbers of casualties inside.

After all the excitement had died down and hubby was left to nurse his wounds, I finally headed off with ladies on our planned adventure. We never did hear a wolf reply to our howls. But we saw fawns skipping through the fields, laughed at a “Monarch Crossing” sign someone had posted on Barney’s lake road, marveled at the beauty of the evening and enjoyed a night of good old conversation – punctuated by munching on Cheeze-Its and Oreos. I recall thinking, “Life doesn’t get much better than this.”
  
 It’s wonderful to be able to immerse oneself in nature. Sometimes we go off into the Island’s wilds to experience it. Sometimes we can “walk on the wild side” in our own back yards.

And here’s a message for that elusive wolf: We’ll be back, armed with our tape and our cameras. Even if we don’t hear you or see you…we know we’ll have a “howling good time!”