Raised by Wolves

June 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

“I was raised by wolves,” our oldest daughter likes to say, referring to her unorthodox early years. Well, not quite, but she was raised near them. When she was six months of age our family of three spent part of the winter in Yellowknife, NT and then moved to Cambridge Bay, NT to fill in at the mission station there, eventually ending up in Tuktoyaktuk.

Tucked in her pink blanket under a canvas cover on a freight canoe with water splashing over the side she survived a summer excursion  from Reindeer Station to Tuktoyaktuk. Earlier in the spring we ventured out from Tuk by snowmobile, pulling a komatik (wooden sled) to join Inuit friends ice fishing at Husky Lakes. We came to a patch where the patches of tundra got larger than the patches of snow. The only way we were going to get back on snow was to go as fast as that yellow and black machine could go. Afraid she would be jolted off the back of the sled, we took our sleeping baby off the back, laid her on the frozen tundra in her muskrat parka. Dave pushed the sled from the back and I drove as we galloped ahead. I turned my head back but couldn’t see her on the frozen ground. As soon as we got back on snow, I ran back to get her, still peacefully asleep. Thankfully no wolves in the vicinity that day.

Our daughters were frequent fliers in the scheduled Beech 18 that came to the hamlet of Sachs Harbour, NT, where we had returned to live, or our 1942 Stinson Voyageur airplane. They and I learned the value of a coffee can as an in-flight comfort station as we came and went the 375 miles from Inuvik where we shopped and saw the doctor.

One spring Sunday the entire village of Sachs had decamped the hamlet to hunt snow geese at Fish Lakes. My husband was away and I wanted to be with everyone else enjoying the spring hunt out on the land.  I wonder if I can start the snowmobile? I thought.  I pulled and pulled on the starter exhausting my arm until finally it roared to life. Then I went back in the house to get the girls I tied our four- and one-year old girls to the back of the snowmobile with a strap and we set off over the sea ice with its shimmering puddles of overflow. I wonder if the ice is strong enough to hold us? I thought, trying to avoid the wettest patches. The next question was, I wonder if I can find Fish Lakes? I followed wet tracks in the ice that led me miles in the right direction. When I saw the white wall tents of my friends in the distance, I knew I had made it. Goose soup filled our stomachs before we happily traveled back with the caravan heading home.

One day I did see a wolf. An arctic wolf with white hair with black tips who had been hanging around the village, he was young and curious. I stood looking out our window and there he was in the snowbank right in front of the house staring back at me. I held his direct, blazing stare for what seemed to be a minute, separated only by glass and a couple of feet. When he ambled on, I shivered, and looked at the girls safely playing around me.

Raised by wolves. Not quite, but certainly raised around them. And none the worse for it, except for patches of frostbite. Although I thought many times, I won’t write my mother about this just yet.

ⓒ Inger Logelin 2011


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