I was blessed. I was born with wolves! If not in our house, then wandering about our orchards and our barns and through our few fields. We had a home in the wilderness of Central Ontario: no electricity, no running water, no indoor toilet. We did have running wolves and ambling bears. And I loved that place. On late summer evenings and fortunate winter nights, silver forms would sing from the hills and valleys. On these occasions, somewhere in our rambling old house with two staircases, under warm blankets, a child would lie transfixed in mystery and enchantment. Here was another nation, a different civilization, who needed nothing from us, distrusted us, even hated us. And rightly so. To all the adults I knew, nature was the enemy, something to be subdued. They had little interest or knowledge of the world outside. Our evenings around the flickering lanterns were filled with tall tales about the big, bad wolf. It was all fear and fearmongering. And I believed none of it. Those early years shaped all the ones that followed. Much of my adult life has been spent photographing the creatures I saw on the farm as a boy. And I have liberally sprinkled 292 of these throughout the book. It is here I learned about the Algonquin wolves. My parents left the farm because of the physical hardships: no central heating and outhouses without toilet paper just a ragged Eaton s catalog. But we children were unmindful of this adversity for the adults never complained, never! They dealt with each problem and moved on. Years later, the old house was sold for its logs. The happy rooms where I ran and played on rainy days were now valued only as a means of income that the buyer never paid. Nothing remains. No colossal wreck. Just weeds and wire bush. The barns were sold as well, and where horses and cows once held sway, fields of wild raspberry canes now hold court. And when the berries ripen, bears roam where the horses stalls once stood. No one would know humans had ever lived here. No one knows how green was our valley. As well as all the buildings and barns that have disappeared, many of the attitudes and fears of those times are gone as well. In August, a strange pilgrimage occurs in Algonquin Park. In the late evening, hundreds of cars line the Park s only highway. The people get out of their vehicles and huddle close to a few Park rangers who howl into the darkening wilderness. On rare occasions, wolves answer. Their electrifying songs fill the fresh night air only to let us know who owns this place and you best not forget it. Wolves do not perform on demand, nor do they negotiate, and you do not get your money back. Yet, when they do sing your spine tingles to the sound of their transfixing arias, and for an instant, you can touch that ancient time when we roamed the forest with them. The Nation of the Wolf is not at war with man. Whether we can learn to live near these incredible creatures is an open question. If the past is prologue for the future, the answer is grim. This book is the story of a wolf who was never at a loss during his journey home across Algonquin Park. I call him Big Red. He travels during the day to avoid the wolves on whose land he is trespassing. His future will not be like his past. Tomorrow will not be like today. Every day is different. Big Red knows he must catch the apple when it falls and, sweet or sour, bite it hard! When he sleeps, he dreams of all things wolfen: warrahs, dingoes, coyotes, gray wolves, painted wolves, and so on. His mother gave birth to him in an ancient den at the base of the plateau on which my home stands. In decades past, one of his ancestors sang for me on winter evenings as I snuggled under warm blankets. This book was born on those nights. This enchantment with the land and the wolves is still fresh in my memory. This happiness is still felt in my heart.
Gordon Harrison (Author)
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When I was in primary school, we were always lining up for one reason or another. We wiggled and squirmed and the line wavered as we attempted to contain the irrepressible energy of youth. In one particularly long lineup leading to an elderly man seated behind a school table, I could overhear him asking each boy a few personal questions. One of these disturbed me greatly. “What’s your religion, son?” he asked repeatedly. My extended family was neither religious nor irreligious and despite my abortive Sunday school career, I was clueless. So embarrassingly, I was stuck for an answer. At that time I didn’t realize that in Canada Catholics had their own school system, and almost all the families in my neighborhood were Protestants–a word I had rarely heard. I decided on the spot that that’s what I would be. Never was a boy so quickly and easily converted. As I stepped forward, he asked me, “What’s your religion, son?” “I’m a pro-tes’-tant, sir.” He looked at me kindly and smiled at my mispronunciation and said, “I bet you are.”