I’d like to introduce you to Carolyn Hopper, of Wild By Nature who writes on the subject of wildlife and the great outdoors. This piece she sent me to post for this week’s Writer’s Wednesday.
TRACKING by Carolyn Hopper
The impression in the mud beneath my hand was still warm even as it began to fill with
melting snow. A heart-shaped pad and long nails that sank into the cold trail were all we
would see of the predator that day, but it was enough to raise a soft cry from person to person
in our class – “wolf!”
Thirteen people in the class “Raven and Coyote” were carrying scopes up a trail that was mud in some places and snow and dry dusty path in others through a bench landscape covered in sagebrush. On the last day in March in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park, the yellow petals of hardy buttercups were just testing the change of seasons. As our class headed for a hill overlooking the Yellowstone River, we saw the wolf tracks and forgot for a moment that
our quarry was a grizzly bear feasting on a winter kill about a mile and a half away on the other side of the river. Along the trail we had been discussing raven behavior and were going to see what the ravens were doing while the bear became satiated with fresh meat after his long hibernation.
I pulled my hand away from the paw print, gave a tug on my thick fleece hat against the burning cold wind at my back, and walked to the ridge to join classmates setting up scopes. I’ve participated in many classes sponsored by the Yellowstone Association Institute and each time there have been bonus experiences in the classes outside of the course subject. The Lamar Valley is a treasure chest of fauna in a setting that can be described by some as the “Lamar-vellous Valley.” More species of large mammals congregate there where all aspects of Nature come together in the perfect combination of food, water and shelter.
With my eye set straining through the scope, I nearly missed a coyote serenade and the shadow of Raven flying over me. Biology and lore whirled with a wind devil and connected us to stories
about how Raven brought light to the world that can be traced back 20,000 years to eastern
Siberia. The same stories attributed to coyote can’t be traced that far back, but he has been given credit for playing tricks on the other animals as readily as for stealing fire from an old medicine man who wanted to keep it for himself and giving it to the world.
Our class was fortunate that our instructor was not only well versed in the science around coyote and raven from many years spent studying them in the field, but a story teller as well.
In the evenings we begged him for “just one more story before we go to bed” at the end of a day that began with first light and finished up in the bunk house of Buffalo Ranch around supper.
We stifled yawns with one hand and shone flashlights around the circles of cabins while we walked “home” under stars turned crystal in the March winter-like night. Bison love to walk
through camp. It always pays to scan the path and spaces between buildings before setting out.
No extra pair of eyes reflected our light while we hurried back to the cabins and scuffled in sleeping bags to warm them. No one needed to count sheep to help with falling asleep. As I drifted off I heard the chorus of songsters. For me there’s little sweeter than a coyote serenade for a lullaby, with wolves carrying the base, unless it’s the susurrus of a river added to it.
I believe that Raven created the world and brought the light to it. Coyote probably did steal fire from an old medicine man. The trick is persuading some science-minded friends who only believe what they see or read in scientific journals to listen when a story begins, “once, upon a time, when all the world was dark, Coyote was walking along…” Maybe I can get Raven to help me.