A true Story
I was the first to see the wolf. I noticed him even before he saw us. But I think perhaps I am getting ahead of myself; let's start from the beginning.
It was April 2001, and my beautiful wife and I had driven over 700km (435 miles) to spend the night at the home of my father's sister, Jeanne-Berthe, in the town of Saint-Quentin, New Brunswick.
My employer, in a brief moment of insanity, had seen fit to allow me the choice of a Ford Mustang as my company fleet vehicle. I had been driving it for almost six months by then, enough to have learned to respect its loose, tail-happy road handling characteristics, and even to embrace them as somewhat endearing. Armed with four new Blizzak ice tires and the confidence of a recently completed advanced driving class, the snow covered rural highways were my playground.
We left Saint-Quentin early Sunday morning, heading for Halifax to visit my cousin. We could have taken the safe route, back along the well traveled National Highway 2, or through Campbellton and then down though Bathurst, but I prefer driving when there are no other cars around (other drivers scare me far more than bad roads!) and wanted to take the back roads.
My wife is a bit of an adrenalin junkie, so convincing her that we should take the dirt logging road locally known as "chemin des resources" was an easy sell, although we hid the plan from my aunt who all but forbade it. Since the road mainly saw heavy logging trucks (which wouldn't be on the road on Sundays), it was well packed and practically an ice rink, a great opportunity to test out the Blizzaks!
We tore down the road, unaware of any speed limits, for if there were any signs, they were buried under mountainous snow drifts and well hidden from us. The Mustang seemed to be enjoying itself, growling happily as we oversteered around corners and roared up and down innumerable hills. My wife, strapped tightly into a well contoured bucket seat that only occasionally called for her to grab the "oh sh*t" handle conveniently hung near the top of her window, was laughing and egging me on. We had the road entirely to ourselves, and sang along with Billy Joel as he lamented his job playing the piano in a bar.
We were a few minutes past the Mount Carleton entrance for the Provincial Park that is its namesake, rounding sweeping corners with the nose practically to the snowbank as I steered with the throttle, and we came upon a long, straight, level stretch of road. Seeing a Bullett opportunity, I accelerated; McQueen would have been proud, as we straightened out and apexed the last corner in the far lane. I gently coaxed the Mustang back, momentum and a depressed gas pedal causing the speedometer needle to leap as we fishtailed into our proper place. I could easily see for more than a kilometre, and atop the right bank noticed what I thought to be a large dog. As we approached, it climbed down from the two and a half metre snowbank and out into the road, trotting slowly as if it didn't have a concern in the world.
The Mustang came equipped with standard antilock brakes, but anyone who has learned to drive in black ice conditions will confirm that while ABS is great in snow, it will not help you on sheer ice. That was the situation we were in, the morning sun had melted the surface of the ice just enough to leave a smooth finish. Threshold braking the Mustang would have probably stopped us faster, but the car had been hugging the road quite well (I blame the Blizzaks) and I mistakenly thought we were on a good packed snow surface, so I floored the brake pedal and threw myself into the arms of Ford technology. Needless to say, we didn't stop, or even slow down very much, though to Ford's credit we did keep going in a relatively straight line. The ABS was pumping like a jackhammer, the noise akin to an automatic weapon, as we skated down the road. By the time we reached the wolf he had climbed part-way up the snowbank, putting his eyes at the same level as mine. As we passed, the car shuddering noisily from the pumping brakes, we locked eyes and both turned our heads. The look in his sky blue eyes was uncanny, and I defy anyone who claims that wolves aren't sentient to observe one in similar circumstances. I still, to this day, believe that that wolf looked at me with an expression that clearly proclaimed: "You're such an idiot!"
We eventually came to a stop, maybe thirty meters away, and the wolf was still on the snowbank, his head twisted around, looking at us over his shoulder as if we were creatures from another world. My wife and I both burst out of the car and faced the wolf, who suddenly seemed to decide that getting up that morning had been a bad idea, or perhaps he simply couldn't remember if he had shut off the gas before leaving. I know that humans are supposed to be programmed to be afraid of wolves, but this one was comparatively small and seemed disinclined to eat us; as well, neither my wife nor I can lay claims to great wisdom when it comes to wild animals. In any case, he trotted back across the road and, with a quick glance towards us at the top of the snowbank, disappeared back the way he had come. Neither of us was fast enough to take a picture, but subsequent research taught us that it was a Grey Wolf, and likely only a few months old, as their eyes rarely remain blue into adulthood.
My wife and I took a moment to hug, exclaim to each other how amazing its eyes were, and wonder aloud if it might come back. Eventually the cold got the better of us, and we retreated to the relative warmth of the Mustang, but not before my wife took a picture of me displaying how big the wolf had been. Actually, that is a lie; I was really telling her how much I love her. I'm pretty sure the wolf has forgotten the incident by now, but rest assured that I never will. And my wife carried that picture around in her wallet for years,
until my son was born and still does to this day save for a brief period where her wallet had no room for photos