Friday, August 20, 2010

Where the Wind Blows Free

Coyote in Yellowstone National ParkNow, let's see, what was that I said about not usually writing about politics? I must have gotten on a roll the past four days -- surprised even myself. Well, enough of that. Time to turn this young man's fancy toward something else for a change. Oh, I heard coyotes last night in the wee hours before dawn, a whole pack from the sound of them, yipping and yowling in the trees behind my house like a group of college students at a frat party.

You'd think, coming from the West, I'd have seen a lot of them "out on the lone prairie, where the coyotes howl and the wind blows free," as the old ballad goes, but I haven't. I only recall seeing one and while our acquaintance was brief, it was also deeply personal. I was living in Southern Colorado at the time, and driving home one afternoon a gray-brown streak on four legs darted across the highway in front of the car ahead. The driver swerved and tried to miss, but it was too late.

I pulled onto the shoulder and approached on foot, then took her by the legs and pulled her from the traffic lane. She was unconscious, breathing shallowly, and it didn't seem right to leave her to die alone. There wasn't anything I could do -- as far as we were from town, she'd have been gone before we reached the emergency vet clinic. She had a head injury and though it didn't appear severely traumatic, they'd have likely put her down, anyway. So, I waited with my hand on her side the few minutes until the end.

I'm soft-hearted where animals are concerned, I know, but I think of her when I hear distant relatives in the forest. Most human-coyote contacts aren't so intimate as the one that afternoon along the highway. They're a nuisance to some and a threat to those who raise small animals for a living. And, honestly, had she been conscious, I doubt my company would have all that welcome. But she didn't have much choice in the matter and neither did I. It was one of those times when all you can do is wait and offer comfort in those places where the wind blows free.

(GNU Free Documentation image via Wikipedia; Lyrics to Bury Me Not On the Lone Prairie are in the public domain.)
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