The two trucks rolled out from Selah Ranch an hour after sunrise, while the cool air still carried the moistness of night. The newer blue truck rumbled as it led the way down the road, gobbling its tank of bio-fuel. The older red truck left a plume of sooty smoke in its wake.
Jed shook his head. If he had his way, the trucks would be much newer, though his Dad insisted they needed older trucks with carburetors rather than electronic controls. This wasn't what his Dad envisioned, though. He shrugged and went to do chores. It is what it is, he thought.
The sun was high in the sky as Fae fed the chickens and gathered some eggs, then headed to the outside pen where the female goats spent some of their time. Jed and Linda were getting the buckets ready to milk the goats.
A wolf howled in the distance.
"I heard them earlier too." Fae cringed against the sound as another wolf howl echoed from the forest.
"Yeah, it's making the goats nervous, which doesn't make milking any easier, so grab a bucket, Fae."
Fae picked up one of the empty pails and looked around. "No more stools." She grinned at Jed and Linda, who were busy milking. "Guess you two are on your own."
Jed laughed shortly. "Not a chance. It's not like they're cows, Fae. Kneel down next to Lottie over there and milk her, then we're done."
Fae did so, whispering to the small, brown-furred goat with the white front stocking. "I hate milking," she muttered. "It takes me forever."
Jed laughed. "It takes about five minutes with practice, so maybe..."
"I get it, Jed, I need to..."
A wolf howled again, louder and closer. Fae jumped up and stared into the distance across the hillside.
Jed tapped Fae on the shoulder. "You and Linda get the goats into the south barn. I'll finish with Lottie."
Ten minutes later the three does were nervously milling about in the pen in the south barn. Another howl emanated from close by.
"What about Jethro?" Fae stood close to Linda, holding her hand.
"Yeah, I didn't think to check on him. Stupid buck hates me anyway." Jed frowned. "But we need him or we can't get any goatlings."
"Kids." Linda grinned at him. "They're called kids."
Jed laughed. "I know, but goatlings sounds better to me." He stepped outside, followed by the two women. "I'll get him and bring him in the barn, too."
"Why do we keep him in a separate pen?" Fae whispered to Linda as they walked to the main house.
Linda answered. "Because he's dirty and smelly and mean, Fae."
Fae giggled. "But we let the guys live in our bunkhouse."
Linda chuckled and glanced at Jed.
"Why the wolves? It seems odd, doesn't it?" She stood next to Jed, the three of them staring toward the source of the howls.
"It's like they sense some threat here, but I don't understand that. Wolves avoid trouble and rarely come here, though I think they snatch a few chickens occasionally." Jed paused, scratching his stubbled chin, "I'm told the Alphas will hunt and kill non-pack members in their territory, so maybe they are chasing another wolf."
"So we have a wolf trespassing on the property?" Fae looked around, checking the shadows of the buildings.
Jed shrugged. "I don't know. I haven't seen signs of any."
Linda tugged Fae's arm and headed for the main house again. "Well, if they're chasing something, we don't want to get in their way. If they're hunting another wolf, we definitely don't want in the middle of that."
Fae shivered as she walked with Linda, Jed close behind. "So what do we do? Wait them out?"
"I don't know," said Jed, a frown crossing his face.
Jed was in the main house for a half hour when the howls got louder. He stood at the window and watched five wolves trot into the yard, sniffing at the doors. They growled when they crossed the street and smelled the door of the bunkhouse.
"Well, that's fascinating." Linda watched the wolves, a look of peace on her face. "I love the way they move. I never thought I'd see a real, live wolf. They aren't common in the swamps."
"I don't suppose so." Jed cleared his throat when he realized he was whispering. His next words were at normal volume. "What do you think they want at the bunkhouse? They seem fascinated by the doorway."
Fae looked out the window. "They are a lot bigger than I thought they'd be."
Jed watched the wolves prowl around the outside of the bunkhouse, sniffing and scratching at the walls. "Don't worry, Fae. They can't get through any of the bars on the windows and they can't get through these walls. They look agitated, not angry. And they look sleek, not starving, so I don't think we have any worries."
"I wish they'd go away..." Fae whispered, rolled into a small ball on the couch. Linda sat next to her and wrapped her arms around her.
"It'll be okay, darlin'. They aren't here to hurt us. I'm sure of it." Linda stroked Fae's red hair as she spoke in a low, soothing voice. "And they aren't huffing and puffing, either. That's a good sign," she whispered, a smile in her voice.
The lead wolf raised his head, ears forward, looking toward the path to the woods.
A low singsong voice echoed along the street and the wolves stood still. Lone Wolf walked into the street, singing in a language none of them understood. The wolves stood enraptured, tongues lolling from their mouths, as Lone Wolf approached them.
He stopped in front of the alpha male of the small pack, still rhythmically singing the low-pitched song. He squatted down on his heels, the tone of his song changing, the rhythm slowing. Each of the wolves crowded close to him and Lone Wolf touched each one briefly, the song changing to something more subdued and quieter. Lone Wolf stood and raised his arms, the song changing in pitch. He closed his eyes as the song reached a final note. The wolves raised their muzzles and howled in unison. The alpha male licked the back of Lone Wolf's hand and trotted past him. Lone Wolf touched each of their smooth coats as they went by.
Jed moved to the door of the main house, opening it for Lone Wolf. The tall Indian grinned at him. "That was exciting, wasn't it?" he said, his eyes sparkling. "They think there is an intruder here." Lone Wolf looked at the small yard between the buildings. "I'm inclined to think they're right."
"I don't know what that means, Lone Wolf. I'm not sure what I would have done if you hadn't come." Jed motioned for Lone Wolf to come into the house.
Lone Wolf stopped and looked into Jed's eyes. "You would have done the right thing, Jed. It is what you do." He grinned. "In this case, you would have stayed inside and waited for them to leave. But now, of course, you have a greater purpose. And I'm here to help."
Jed looked at him, puzzled. "I'm still not sure what you mean."
Lone Wolf laughed, deep laughter that shook his entire body. "Why, I'm here to help you prepare for a feast tomorrow! I hear you have venison!"