——

It all started on our farm in Montana.

Something was different about this place and by living here; it was obvious to all of us. First of all, it was beautiful. To the north, we could see mountains. The mountains were almost always snow covered, at least the tops. Our land went for miles to the base of those mountains. To the south, our land dropped off into miles and miles of thick, low, swampy forest. In fact, the edge of that forest came pretty close to our house, and at night, sometimes it was creepy. This forest was called the Southern Forest, and we all knew it was spooky in there. I often felt something was watching us from within those woods. I learned later that some-times something was watching, and it wasn’t always a good thing.

To the east past the barns and pastures, the land was a mix of open meadows and grassy parks surrounded by deep patches of tall timber. I have seen buffalo out there and antelope, too. It was that kind of place. Along with a lot of other grizzlies and black bears, it was also Goliath’s home. Farther to the east, there were more mountains, but they were a long way off. We called this the Eastern Wilderness.

The western part of the farm was the part I knew best. We had a driveway that was almost six miles long.

Starting from our house and barns and for about two miles, our driveway made the southern edge of our fields. Then, the fields gave way to what we call the Western Forest. This part of our farm was open forest with tall trees and frequent rock outcroppings. Our driveway snaked its way through the beautiful forest until it finally reached the Road. That’s what we called it.

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It was just the Road.

Go to the left about forty miles and you get to the town of Radford, Montana. Go to the right and the Road heads north into the mountains, towards Canada.

Our mailbox was right at the Road. My friends from town would complain about them having to go get the mail. From my point of view, that sounded whiny. They had no idea. Just getting the mail for us took some real time. 

But the horses loved getting the mail. My parents did not want me driving our four-wheelers or the UTV, even though they were easier and faster. Our UTV looked like a mix between a big four-seat golf cart and a small pickup. We all loved it. We had a few four-wheelers, too, but Dad and Mom never thought of them as very safe. We didn’t use them nearly as much as the UTV. As for getting the mail, Dad said the horses needed the exercise (which was true) and no four-wheeler or UTV would ever warn us of danger. Dad was sure right on that one. 

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———

Sometimes, the horses would come to a quick stop and swing their ears forward and stare in a certain direction.

We knew some-thing was there. Sometimes it was a deer or elk, and we would move on. Other times, it was a bear or a cougar, and we would keep our eyes on them. They usually moved away pretty fast when we would come into view. Other times, we would know there was something watching us, but it wouldn’t show itself. That was usually a little scary.

All of our horses were of good, strong stock, and I was fond of all of them. I rode several horses, but Jet was my favorite. She was black with a white star on her face and she was fast as the wind. It was Jet who was with me when we saw Goliath. 

 My parents farmed and ranched about six sections. A section is one square mile or 630 square acres. Some of the fields were for crops, and some of the land was pasture for cattle, horses, pigs, and alpacas. The fields were a mix of round fields and squared off fields depending on how much water they got.

We also had chickens and some guinea fowl. Dad would rotate the crops from field to field, and every year, he would leave a different part of the land alone—no crops, no animals. He taught us how the land needed to rest, just like us. God told the ancient Hebrews to give the land a rest once every seven years. My dad often chuckled that if God thought it was a good idea, it probably was. It made sense to me.

My mom Susan McLeod was amazing. She was my dad’s equal, and he knew it. He liked it that way. For an older woman in her mid thirties, she was also really pretty. He liked that, too. Mom could ride and shoot well, and she could also hunt if necessary. She could dance, too, and she saw beauty whenever it showed itself. For her, beauty was everywhere. I think beauty followed her around like a puppy. She had a way of looking at things that was different than Dad’s way. They respected each other, and they both sought each other’s advice.

Best of all, Mom understood me. She never seemed to forget she was a kid and a teenager once, too.

I have a little brother, Dean, and a little sister named Grace. Everybody called her Gracie. Dean is two years younger than me. Gracie is five years younger than Dean. I think my parents weren’t the best planners in the world.

Mom was the type to do things now. Dad didn’t like to procrastinate much either, but he tended to take more time getting to things. They were the very best of friends. They loved us, and we all knew it. We were also pretty sure they loved each other more than they loved us. We were okay with that, too.

Remember the bear cub we were talking about right at first?

His name is Kaiyo,

and this is where the story begins.

RESCUE — LIBBY

At the time we first met Kaiyo, he was running for his life and he wasn’t running fast enough. He was terrified. His mother had just been killed and he had just a few seconds to live. He knew it, too, and he was bawling at the top of his lungs.

Goliath was just a dozen or so yards from catching and killing the cub when he saw me and my dad riding hard right at him. We had problems with him in the past, and we knew he hated us. Seeing my dad here was confusing to him, too. Goliath had learned the hard way to steer clear of the farm, at least during the day. Goliath rarely saw us way out here. Dad’s first shot was a warning. Goliath quit the chase and stood to check us out. Standing about ten feet tall, Goliath had a good view. I turned Jet toward the running cub. Dad sat on his favorite horse, Hershel, and he placed himself and Hershel between me and the big bear. Dad gave his horses names that reminded him of his favorite football players. Hershel was smart, fast, and powerful. Hershel was also fearless, and he trusted Dad when it came to situations like this. Staring down a ferocious bear was something he and Dad had done before.

In his evil brain, Goliath knew Dad was dangerous and that Dad must have wanted the cub, too. He also knew the smell of guns. Goliath could see Dad’s gun pointed right at him, and he could smell two others. He didn’t like guns, and he probably knew Dad had two and I had one. By the way he acted, he probably thought that was a few guns too many. We also had bear spray which could cripple Goliath in searing pain. Goliath was a brutal bully, but he had been checked and he knew it. The big bear fell to his feet, roared at my dad, turned, and walked away from us. Slowly. Goliath was not scared. It was just time to leave.

I turned to chase the cub. He was too young to survive out here without his mother. The cub saw me coming, and he did something that astonished me. He stopped and waited. Wild animals don’t do things like that. As he kept an eye on the drama of my dad dealing with his mom’s killer, he came right at me. Even though he was very young, he was big enough to make Jet a little nervous. She didn’t know yet they were about to be friends for life. I comforted Jet while the little bear climbed on a low stump and waited. When I came close, he hopped right on the saddle and into my lap. Jet shuddered. Both Jet and I were certain we would be clawed or bitten. What I got instead was a baby bear hug. He buried his head in my coat and seemed to cry. And he didn’t let go.

I watched Dad ride up to the mother bear and take a few pictures on his cell phone. I thought that was a little odd. Then, Dad wheeled around and trotted up, smiled at the little bear, and said, “Let’s get going before Goliath changes his mind. He’s grumpy and can’t be trusted.” 

I was a fifteen-year-old girl, and that’s how it started.

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DEVELOPMENTS— TRACKER

I could tell well before I got there she was probably dead. The circling vultures helped me figure that out. The smell confirmed it. That was not good because I was sent to bring her back. I am known as Tracker. That’s not my real name, of course, but it is what I have become accustomed to. I am a hunter and a tracker. I find the lost, and I’m good at it. Some of my ability is because of the way I am made, some of it is just trying to think ahead. I’m also lucky some-times, too. But this time, I was late, not lucky. 

Why she decided to leave was not my concern. Some say it was grief. I understood, though, why she wanted to come back home. I don’t know why some want to leave. Most understand leaving usually doesn’t end well. Still, it’s better not to ask too many questions. I do what I am told to do. 

By the time I got there, she had been dead for most of a day. What a shame. I liked her, and she would be missed by so many. The area near her body was torn up. I had been following the tracks of a huge grizzly, and I could see where he had detected the presence of her. He was not a particularly thoughtful bear. It looked like he had simply caught her scent, and then broke into a run right at her. That seemed odd to me. Bears don’t usually act that way. This must be some brainless brute of a male bear. By the time I got to the scene, it looked like she had put up a valiant fight. She was never much of a fighter. We all knew that. Her mate was a big male grizzly and a fierce fighter, but he had been killed months before. She didn’t have a chance, but as I read the scene, I was proud of her. She fought as hard as she possibly could, and a lot harder than I thought she was capable of.

And then I knew why. There were the tracks of a cub. I didn’t know there was a cub. I doubt any of us knew. And it was obvious from his tracks he had been running fast.

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The bigger bear probably wanted to kill the cub.

Male bears do that sometimes.

Moving further away, I saw real trouble. Horses were part of the fight. That meant people were part of this, and I didn’t much like it when people got involved. It made things tricky.

Reading the track, it looked like the people were brave, too. There was a big one and a little one. The tracks of the big one sunk deeper into the soil. That’s just basic tracking. The little one was probably a child or a smallish female. He or she was at least a hun-dred pounds lighter. The tracks never lie, understanding what they say is the hard part. And those tracks told me the heavy one stood down the big grizzly and forced him to leave the scene. Those tracks also told me they probably had the cub. I would bet my life on it. They may have rescued it or captured the cub. It was hard to tell what they were doing.

I wouldn’t be bringing the mother back, but I would have to bring the cub back even if it didn’t want to go with me. The cub couldn’t be very big, so it ought to be somewhat easy. The truth is, that little bear isn’t made to live in ignorance. Nothing good could come out of lifelong captivity. It’s certainly not made for slavery or to live out his life in a cage. And I could not let the cub get too used to people. The little bear would only be confused. That wouldn’t do.

There were a couple of problems, though. First, I hate to deal with people. I prefer to work alone. Second, people are smart and arrogant, and they’re nearly always trouble. I would have to think this one through. I knew, though, I had to get involved sooner rather than later. I didn’t like to be forced into situations, but I was thinking that this time I had no choice.

On top of that, there was another problem. Those folks should have shot and killed that killer grizzly. It looked like he was following them. 

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CAN I KEEP HIM? — SAM

We made sure the cub was nestled into one of Jet’s saddlebags. The cub didn’t want to leave Libby, but I was afraid he would fall off the saddle and get trampled by the horses’ hooves. Also, I didn’t like the idea of Libby having just one hand on the reins. So, we put him in the saddlebag with a blanket, and we set out for home. The farm was a long way off, but Jet and Hershel were good for it. We set a pretty fast pace just to put some distance between us and Goliath. For some reason, Goliath wanted to kill the mother bear. He may be mean, but he has been out here for years, coexisting, more or less, with the other bears. I suspected there was a reason. 

Libby probably didn’t appreciate how close we came to getting killed. What I did was actually stupid on my part and mighty dangerous for both of us. It is almost always better to let nature take its course. Nature can be brutal and it often is. The English poet Tennyson once wrote that nature was “red in tooth and claw.” He was spot on right. 

Some people, especially those in the towns, tend to overlook that part. They think nature is something it is not. They think nature is sweet, but in reality, it’s brutal. Several times, I have been asked by Captain Hamby of the State Patrol or Sheriff Tuttle to search for hikers who haven’t come back. Hershel and I have found a number of those lost hikers. Several times, there wasn’t much left of them because either the weather killed them or some animal took them out.

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Of the ones I found alive, I was usually aghast at how ill prepared they were. They had enough food to eat, and around here, the creeks are clean enough to drink from, but all they usually had to protect themselves was a bell, a whistle, or a pocket knife. That is pure foolishness. The lands around here have grizzly bears and black bears, wolves, cougars, moose, elk, poisonous snakes, bad bugs, and some big coyotes. If people who come out here don’t like firearms, they ought to at least have a few cans of bear spray. Bear spray usually works a lot better than guns, and it doesn’t kill the bear. It works on other types of dangerous animals, too. To come out here poorly prepared invites tragedy. 

The grizzly bear has had a hard time of it. They have been hunted from the beginning of time, and most people have misunderstood them. Some folks believe they are sweet and kind, others think they are the devil incarnate. They are neither. Grizzly bears are bears, and they have bear thoughts. Some are more pleasant than others, some are cranky like Goliath. Most bear problems, though, would go away if people didn’t love them or hate them but just respected them. I always give them room, and they usually do the same for me. 

The big mistake people make is to think bears are like dogs and that feeding them is okay. It’s not. In fact, it’s just outright crazy. Why anyone would want an 800-pound animal to view them as a food source is beyond me. It breaks my heart when I see folks out here feed bears in their backyards, and then call the FWP when they keep coming back for food. Those poor bears just become dead bears.

I have hunted all my life and have decided bear hunting is not for me. Other people do and I cast no judgment on them. But as for me, I enjoy watching these smart beasts, though always from a distance. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had to shoot a few bears. I have. And I hated every second of it. But I preferred my life to theirs. 

After about an hour of hard riding, I looked over at Libby and at the little cub. He had managed to stick his head out of the saddlebag. There he was, cute as a speckled pup, standing in the saddle-bag with his head out in the wind. He was staring straight ahead with his ears perked up and his nose working the breeze. I would swear he felt he was safe. Then, I watched as he looked at Libby. He stared at her with his brown fur blowing around, and I saw her fall in love with that little grizzly. That’s going to be a problem, I said to myself. 

A few hours from home, we stopped in a nice setting called the Elk Pen. The Elk Pen was a beautiful meadow where elk would gather before winters. We crossed through a cold, crystal clear stream, and stopped to let the horses get some water and cool off and to give ourselves a rest. I hopped off and held the little bear, while Libby got off Jet. I thought he would try to bite me or to get away; that’s what wild animals do. This little guy was different, though. Even though he was young, he was still strong. But he didn’t fight me. In fact, he acted more like a puppy. I liked that. 

I walked around, glassed the area with my binoculars, and watched our back trail again. I watched the back trail because it was a smart thing to do. If something or somebody is tailing me, I need to know about it. As for our stopping place, I was looking for more bears, of course, but even an elk or a moose could ruin your day. They could also run off the horses. I don’t think Hershel would run off on me, but I didn’t want to be careless and find out. I would hate to have to walk home cradling a bear, even a little one. 

After a few minutes, we both felt safe enough to sit and relax for a while. Jet and Hershel drank their fill and moved out of the creek onto the bank close to us. They looked at us, and then started cropping the thick green grass that grew next to the creek. Libby and I stared at the cub. He was a good-looking little bear. Libby described him as adorable. She was right. He was a cutie.

He stayed very close to us and wouldn’t leave. Finally, he wandered over to the creek and got a drink, then he turned and ran right back to us. Even the horses seemed to like this little guy, and neither of them were fans of bears. Except for a few of our dogs, the horses were pretty biased against all meat eaters. All of a sudden, Libby gushed, “Dad. He is such an amazing bear. Can we keep him?”

There. She said it. I was waiting for it. It was out there now. How we could begin to keep and shelter a growing bear was some-thing I had no clue about. In fact, most people knew next to nothing about raising grizzly bear cubs. Even I knew very little about the care and feeding of grizzly bears.

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I didn’t answer. If we did keep him, we could probably only keep him for a few weeks. I just sat watching the little guy play at our feet. Finally, I looked at Libby and said, “You are right about him being an amazing bear. What about a name for him?”

Libby looked at me. I continued, “The pioneers and trappers of the old west called grizzlies by the name of Old Ephraim and Moccasin Joe. They would say something like ‘Moccasin Joe came by the creek this morning.’ Everyone would know what that meant. Blackfeet tribal lands used to be near here. They had a few words for bears. I remember the words kaiyi or kaiyo. Those words also meant ‘one who is lost,’ and that little guy is sure lost. I’m not wild about the names Old Ephraim or Moccasin Joe, but I like the Blackfoot names. Let’s call him one of those. What do you think?”

The little bear perked up when he heard me talking.

“Dad,” Libby stated as respectfully as possible. “How you know stuff like that is just weird. I’m not even sure you’re not making it up. But even if you’re right, those aren’t the right names. They’re okay, but they don’t mean much to me or probably to anybody but to you and the Blackfoot tribe. Do you remember my first teddy bear, the one I called Happy Bear? Well, I want to call him Happy Bear. Can we?”

I looked at my sweet daughter looking back at me. She was growing up so fast. If that was what she wanted, then it was okay by me, but it sure didn’t seem right. “It’s your call, Libby, but do you think that name will stick with him as he gets bigger? He’s a cute cub right now, but it won’t last. He’s still a grizzly, and they are pretty ferocious animals.”

Libby looked at him and said, “I like Happy Bear.”

I laughed and said, “Good thing he doesn’t understand English. I think he’d be insulted.”

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THE RIDE HOME — LIBBY

Nearly every farming family has rules about naming the farm animals. The first rule is never give a name to any of the farm animals you might end up eating. It’s weird and really sad when it happens. “Oh Libby, the hamburger you’re eating used to be Bessie.” That is just about as bad as it sounds.

The second rule is if you do name an animal, then they’re really hard to get rid of. So, if you raise a lamb to show in the county fair and give her a name and spend lots of time with her to make her ready to show, well, before long, you’re going to be pretty fond of her. At that point, eating her is out of the question, and selling her is just too hard. Watching them get carted away is heartbreaking.

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Best of all, Dad just named the bear. Well, he tried to. I named him. He didn’t say no about keeping it, either. He didn’t say yes, but things were definitely looking up.

When that little bear stood in the saddlebag and looked out, he was so cute. Watching him here play in the grass, he was even cuter. My mind raced. The Latin name for grizzly bears is Ursus arctos hor-ribilis. Dad taught us the grizzly bear is the same as the brown bears that live in Europe, Asia, and here in North America.

The European settlers who were only accustomed to black bears had a lot more trouble with the grizzlies. Grizzlies were bigger, stronger, faster, and didn’t always run. Lewis and Clark had trouble with a few of them, as well. Rightly or wrongly, the grizzly bears got a nasty reputation, and somebody added the word horribilis to describe grizzlies. I guess, if they ran into a bear like Goliath, it would make sense. But I’ve lived in grizzly country all my life and the name horribilis is, for the most part, undeserved.

 

I looked at the cub and he looked back at me. I laughed out loud. That was no horrible bear. Dad looked at me and smiled. It was like he knew what I was thinking. But I’ve lived in grizzly country all my life and the name horribilis is, for the most part, undeserved. I looked at the cub and he looked back at me. I laughed out loud. That was no horrible bear. Dad looked at me and smiled. It was like he knew what I was thinking.

The European settlers who were only accustomed to black bears had a lot more trouble with the grizzlies. Grizzlies were bigger, stronger, faster, and didn’t always run. Lewis and Clark had trouble with a few of them, as well. Rightly or wrongly, the grizzly bears got a nasty reputation, and somebody added the word horribilis to describe grizzlies. I guess, if they ran into a bear like Goliath, it would make sense. But I’ve lived in grizzly country all my life and the name horribilis is, for the most part, undeserved. I looked at the cub and he looked back at me. I laughed out loud. That was no horrible bear. Dad looked at me and smiled. It was like he knew what I was thinking.

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HOME — SUSAN

Sam and Libby had been gone overnight, and I was a little nervous. That was not unusual. Mothers get nervous about things like that. Cell phones don’t work way out here yet, and not hearing from them for over twenty-four hours was just disconcerting. But it was certainly not a rare thing. Sam has had to leave overnight frequently. But Sam’s taking my firstborn with him was a relatively new thing. I wasn’t used to it and I didn’t know if I ever would be. Libby was mature for her age and she had always been extremely independent. Keeping her here at home with me just because was not going to hap-pen. I comforted myself knowing everything would be fine, and that this trip would not be any different than the others.

Dean came and had that look on his face. Dean was only thirteen, but he was as gifted as a lawyer at explaining why he should get his way. Conversations with him were nearly always interesting. I could usually see where he was headed and would prepare myself. I marveled that he was only thirteen. I could only imagine what he would be like as an older teenager. I just hoped I could hold my own.

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Dean was gone in a flash. I cleaned the kitchen, as Dean clomped around the house. This kitchen had been completely remodeled a few years back. Now it was big, open, friendly, and beautiful. I did love this place.

A little whimper broke my daydream. There before me was my eight-year-old, Gracie. Dean had awakened her from a nap and told her we were going fishing. I wasn’t pleased with his timing, but she looked so cute. There’s nothing like bedhead in the afternoon to make a mother’s heart skip a beat or two.

Gracie is best described as walking, talking, self-aware joy. She rarely whined, but she always managed, somehow, to get me, her dad, or her brother or sister to do her chores, or make her meals, or find her misplaced items. Sam and I saw this in her. We just marveled at how we crumbled under her good-natured assaults on our resolve to get her to be more self-sufficient. Sam would often chuckle that Gracie would be the most successful of all of us. I didn’t doubt that for a minute. While she was a pretty little girl, her gas tank was filled with pure, high-test personality.

“We goin’ fishin’?” she asked.

“Yep,” I said back to her. “We goin’ fishing. Go get dressed.” Gracie looked around, and then back at me. “Mom, can you help me find my boots?”

I laughed because I knew it was coming. Pretty soon thereafter, our two dogs Moose and Major, let me know that it was time to go. They saw Dean walking in and out of the barn, getting ready. Both dogs were powerfully built and they were made for this life. Moose was a mix between an Argentine Dogo and an Anatolian Shepherd. He looked like, and was, the perfect watchdog. Sam called Moose our designer dog. We needed a mix of size,

He started. “Hi Mom. Wow, you look great today.”

Uh oh, I thought. Here it comes.

He then said, “I know you are proud of me doing my chores and most of Dad’s, too.”

Hmmm. “Okay,” I replied. “I guess I’m proud of you.”

He continued, “And it’s only two o’clock and the cows don’t need milking until five. So that means I will be doing Libby’s chores, too, if she doesn’t get back in time. So in the next three hours, I can watch some TV or help you clean the house which would mean I have to work all day. I could also maybe play some violent video games. Or, I could go fishing. I’ll even catch our dinner.”

He looked at me for a second, but he didn’t let me respond. He rarely did.

“And even better, why don’t we all go? I can tell you are worried about Libby and Dad, and you and Gracie joining me would keep your mind off those unnecessary worries. They’ll get here, but your pacing around the house is no good.”

Oh, he was good. I smiled and congratulated his well-reasoned argument. I also didn’t comment on his flattery, but I did appreciate it.

Our family is as emotional as any other family, but Sam and I have learned that a reasoned argument is always less hurtful and more productive than arguments based on emotion. Appealing to reason was also like exercise for the brain. We also knew emotions can’t be trusted. So, if our children wanted something we were not inclined to give them, they knew getting mad or throw-ing a tantrum was going to get them nowhere and really fast at that. So, they have been taught the best way to get their way is via a reasoned argument. And Dean was a master of the reasoned presentation.

On top of that, a little outdoor time was actually a good idea, too. I needed to be distracted from thinking about Libby and Sam, and being with the kids fishing on this beautiful day would work nicely.

Dean was as cute a boy as they come. He was intensely loyal to the family and very protective of his sisters. For a thirteen-year-old, he was tall, very strong, and mighty quick both in body and in mind. He did have an ornery streak, and sometimes he and his sisters fussed, but that was fully manageable. My one big concern was that he was also far too brave for a boy of his age. That was a tremendous concern to his father, too. Sam’s desire was to train the bravery while discouraging his foolhardy behavior. Well, that was sure easier said than done.

“Go get the poles,” I said.

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strength, and the desire to hunt and herd. Moose was ordered that way. He also was very protective. Several times, he kept Gracie from heading toward the forest just to the south of the house. It was here the forest stood closest to the house. All the children were told to stay clear of those woods. Sometimes I would watch Moose and Major catch a scent, and both would move quickly and stand between the house and the forest. There they would just look into the forest and growl. It didn’t happen much, but it was still creepy enough for Sam to lay down the rule that no one goes into the Southern Forest without an adult. In fact, leaving the farm at any place without an adult was not allowed.

Major was a different breed and he was equally tough, though not as big as Moose. Sam called Major the miracle mutt. Major was a rescue dog. They told us he was a shepherd mixed with something else. We had him tested, and they were right. Major was a mix between a large German Shepherd and a Carolina Dog. Carolina Dogs are also called American Dingoes. That part enabled Major to run for hours and trail the faintest scent trail. Major was a hunter first and a shepherd second. When Sam would leave the farm, it was Major who usually went with him. Moose protected us here, and Major protected Sam out there.

Within a few minutes, Dean had loaded the UTV and had pulled it around to the back door. Our UTV was like a golf cart on steroids. The dogs had already hopped in the back. It always looked funny when they rode the UTV side by side. It made me laugh. I looked back at Dean and marveled how he had started to look like a grown-up. “Gracie,” he yelled past me. “Don’t forget the duck food. The ducks will be waiting.”

“Okay,” she said. “But can you get them for me?”

“Of course!” he said. He looked at me and winked. We were all just bit players in Gracie’s world.

Living on a farm out here in the west was a delightful thing. But it was not necessarily a safe place. Along with the fishing gear, I packed bear spray and a rifle. We live in wild country, so we have to be aware of bears, cougars, and wolves. These lands can also have the most dangerous animal of all—people. Most people we see out here are generally okay. They’re usually oil company workers or lost hikers. We see hikers a lot in the summer. But some of the people are drifters, some are poachers, and some are worse. Sam had close call years ago with a couple who tried to ambush him while he was out hunting. So I am prepared for the worst. What else can I do? We are a safety first type of family. The closest policeman is usually more than thirty miles away, and that simply won’t do.

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About a mile and a half from the house is one of the three good-sized ponds we use to water the cattle, goats, and alpacas. Each pond is creek fed, and they are all deep and somewhat clean. I wouldn’t drink out of them, especially the pond the cattle use, but the fish that come out of them are big and good to eat. We also don’t swim in the cow ponds. Cows just aren’t particularly clean animals.

Anyway, we stocked the ponds with bass, bream, and catfish a few years back, and let nature take its course.

The minute the UTV pulled up to the pond, a short parade of wild ducks and our own farm ducks came waddling up. The wild ones know this farm is a safe place. Sam never, ever hunts on the part of the property that is within a mile radius of any of our cultivated fields or pastures. The dogs have been trained, so there is no chasing of bears, deer, moose, or elk unless they are in the fields. But the woods around us are thick with wildlife. For the most part, the wild animals have learned to avoid those places where they get harassed by the dogs. Wild animals will also move out of areas where they are hunted, if they have a choice. Sam said someday we may be bottled up here, and we may need to hunt here. I didn’t know what could possibly bottle us up out here, but if it mattered to him, it mattered to me. Also, I love the fact our place resembled a wild life sanctuary.

While I was enjoying the time with Gracie and Dean, in the back of my mind, I was worried. Where were Libby and Sam? They were already two hours late.

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