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Howling in Yellowstone (3rd Prize, Category 1)

April, 2014
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To my dad Todd, who drove me to and across Yellowstone, and told me wonderful stories of Rose Creek Pack, Chief Washakie, and Sacajawea.

 

It was April 20, 2012, my last day in Yellowstone National Park. The clock struck 12. The rustic cabin by Old Faithful Geyser was bathed in full moonlight. On my cozy bed, I tossed and turned at Ranger Washakie’s haunting story of Rose Creek Pack in Yellowstone.

Yesterday afternoon, at the Education Center Ranger Washakie introduced Yellowstone’s Wolf Restoration Program, and finally told us: “Rose Creek Pack is in peril. After getting out of their acclimation pen, the alpha male got shot and killed but the alpha female #9 whelped a litter of eight pups nearly at the same time. Without a mate, she can’t raise them.”

“But why can’t she find one?” I asked.

“No, she is too weak to howl after giving birth. In fact there are only about one hundred wolves in Yellowstone since the program back in 1994, so it’s hard to find a lone male.”

The Old Faithful Geyser erupted outside my cabin. It also interrupted my train of thought.

But with something inside it, the geyser looked different. It seemed mysterious to me, so I crept out of my bed and slipped out of the cabin. Since my parents and my sister were sound asleep, they didn’t notice. 

When I got closer, I decided to step through. 

 

As soon as I got to the other side of the geyser, I could see the outline of a body on a horse with a feather-like headdress. 

At this moment, the horse noticed me. It neighed and charged towards me.

I quickly held up two fingers to show my friendship. The man on the horse did the same immediately. He nudged the horse so it trotted closer to me. The moon cast a light on him, so I saw clearly his red face, buckskin shirt, moccasin shoes, and most impressively, a war bonnet.    

“Hello, I am Chief of Shoshone Tribe. So please call me Chief Washakie,” he said. 

His kind voice immediately calmed me but his name astonished me.

He read the surprise on my face.

“Today is April, 20, 1875,” he said.

It filled me with wonder. The geyser brought me 138 years back.

“Hi, my name is Elena,” I replied.

“Why are you staying up so late?” asked Chief Washakie.

“I am trying to find a lone male wolf to join Rose Creek Pack since its alpha male was killed.” I answered.

“I think the wolves should be ubiquitous in Yellowstone,” Chief Washakie said,confused.

“No longer have the wolves roamed free in Yellowstone since 1930s when they were hunted and trapped as enemies of livestock.  Since then, biologists have come to understand that wolves are necessary to maintain the Yellowstone ecosystem.” I replied, “Rose Creek Pack is one of the first packs to restore.”

 “The Shoshones live in harmony with them,” said Chief Washakie, “so if you come with me, I will teach you how to track a wolf.”

Chief Washakie put me behind him on the horse. I held on tight to his buckskin shirt. The horse took off into the wilderness.

“Where do you live?” I asked.

“Shoshones used to live in Yellowstone together with the wolves, but the settlers forced us away and instead set up a reservation where we are going to.” he answered.

“Then why are you at Yellowstone now?”

“Because I miss my home, every full moon night I come back,” he answered.

The bumpy trail wound deeper into a forest until at last a circle of tepees appeared at the edge of the forest under the bright moonlight. When we approached close to the circle of tepees, Chief Washakie jumped off his horse and so did I.

“This is the reservation where my people live in now.” he said.

To my surprise, Chief Washakie took out a flute from his shirt.  It had five holes and a woodpecker-shaped head on an end.

“It is made out of cedar wood. Cedar grows where wind blows. When I blow it, our harmony will be in the melody. The wind will take the melody to wolves. With the music of the flute I can speak straight to wolves.” Chief Washakie explained.

He blew on the flute. A beautiful melody filled the air. 

“The melody is Home on the Range!” I muttered to myself.

When he played, some Shoshone children got out of their tepees and joined in the chorus. I realized that the lyrics weren’t exactly the same as I had learned, so I took out my notebook and jotted them down.

“Oh give me a home, where wolves can roam free,

Where elk and buffalo play,

That I would not exchange my home in Yellowstone,

Where Shoshones blow their flutes all day.”

Chief Washakie pointed to the hillside and told me, “look, there is a male wolf.” 

I couldn’t believe my eyes. A wolf was climbing on a hillside. When he reached the top of the hill, he looked in our direction. Then he wagged his tail, threw back his head and started to howl. He howled eerily but beautifully. The howl echoed throughout the whole forest. 

“Now you know how to find a wolf, don’t you?” Chief Washakie smiled at me.

“Of course I do!” I exclaimed.

The dawn lit up on the horizon.

“Come up, I’m going to ride you back to the geyser,” Chief Washakie said.

So together, Chief Washakie and I rode back to the geyser as fast as the wind blew.

“ I have to go back to my cabin before my parents find out I’m out.  Thanks a lot!” I said.

“You’re welcome. Please don’t tell anybody we met.” he answered while waving to me.

“ I promise.”

Just then, the geyser erupted. When I was on the other side of it, I turned my head to wave goodbye to Chief Washakie, but he had dissolved into the mist of the geyser.  

 

Another erupting geyser awakened me out of my dream. My parents were preparing breakfast. It reminded me of the starving Rose Creek Pack, so I asked my parents to take me to the Education Center.

As soon as we arrived, I raced into Ranger Washakie’s room. Two items hanging on the wall caught my attention right away. One was a picture of Chief Washakie on his horse. The other was the same flute as Chief Washakie had blown.  It had five holes and a woodpecker-shaped head on an end.

“ Instead of howling, could we play a song to attract a male wolf?” I asked Ranger Washakie

“What a bright idea!” he responded.

“Can we try the song Home on the Range on that flute in the Shoshone National Forest,” I suggested while pointing to the flute.

“Excellent! My grandpa, Chief Washakie, taught me how to play it when I was young,” he said.   

After a while, we were in Ranger Washakie’s car riding on the same trail as Chief Washakie and I had rode on.

“This trail is called Trail of Tears.” Ranger Washakie told me.

“Why tears?” I asked.

“ Because this was the trail that Shoshones trekked on when they were forced to leave Yellowstone.”  

We stopped in front of the same hill as I had seen in the 1875, but I couldn’t find the circle of tepees.

The full moon rose high over the hill.

When Ranger Washakie played the beautiful melody of Home on the Range like Chief Washakie, my parents, my sister and I joined the chorus like Shoshone children:  

“Oh give me a home, where wolves can roam free,

Where elk and buffalo play,

That I would not exchange my home in Yellowstone,

Where Shoshones blow their flutes all day.”

“Look, a wolf!” my sister stood on tiptoe and shouted.

A male wolf emerged from the hill. When he reached the top, he looked in our direction. He wagged his tail up and held his head high in a leader’s manner. A sudden howl pierced the stillness. The male howled, lonely but magnificently.

Ranger Washakie immediately talked on the radio, “we found a lone male wolf at the end of Trail of Tears, so quickly come here on a copter and we will tranquilize him.”

He turned to me and said, “You are as courageous as Sacajawea, our Shoshone heroine. I would like to give you my fortune coin.”

He pressed a shiny golden coin into my hand. I looked at it. On the head side was Sacajawea and on the tail one was a howling wolf. 

 

One year later, I received a postcard from Yellowstone stamped on April 20, 2013.

“Thank you for helping us find Alpha Male #8. Eight pups have grown into yearlings. Now they add their voices to the song of Rose Creek Pack. Yellowstone is howling with life.

Cheers,

Ranger Washakie.”



 

Reference books and websites:

1.        Once a Wolf – How Wildlife Biologists Fought to Bring Back the Gray Wolf by Stephen R. Swinburne

2.        Howling Hill by Will Hobbs

3.        The Moon of the Gray Wolves by Jean Craighead George

4.        Love Flute by Paul Goble

5.        Our National Parks, California Treasures Grade 4, published by Macmillan/McGraw-Hill

6.        Buffalo Before Breakfast, Magic Tree House #18 by Mary Pope Osborne

7.        Yellowstone Wolf Project Biennial Report 1995-96, www.nps.gov/yell/naturescience/wolves.htm

8.        Sacagawea Dollar, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacagawea_dollar

9.        Home on the Range, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_on_the_Range‎

10.      The Shoshone Indians, http://www.shoshoneindian.com/default.htm

11.      Trail of Tears, http://www.history.com/topics/trail-of-tears

 

By Elena Jiang,

9 years, International School of Beijing 

 

 

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