Childhood with wolves

Memories told by  Jüri v.Grauberg
Photo: Bert Rähni,
Translation: Liis

Photographed in Pärnumaa, January 2011
In the early 50ies of last century there were quite many wolves in Estonia. Hair-raising stories were told, such as wolves having slain a late party-leaver on the way home somewhere,  and more of the like. Because of that we school kids always found it interesting, and a little scary, to see fresh wolf tracks again and again next to the ski path when we were going to school on skis in the mornings. Sometimes several new tracks crossed the ski path. And of course many a dog from the farmsteads around disappeared in wolf jaws. Our Muri didn’t escape either. Later we found his skull and one paw on a field near home. I remember that several times we even found wolf tracks on the snow around our cow barn.
There were occasions when I and my sister started off in early morning to the bus stop, and a wolf pair regarded us from around the barn corner. Mother then used to call out loudly -  whooah, wolf! – whereupon the creatures lazily trotted away across the field towards the forest showing far away. I and my sister turned the other way, and excitedly shining at the shrubs on the roadsides with our flashlight, we scurried through the forest, towards the road where our school chums were already waiting at the bus stop. And the occasions were not rare when a pair of shining eyes glowed from the shrubs in the darkness, in answer to the beam from our flashlight. We didn’t know if the eyes belonged to a fox, a wolf or some other animal. A little frightening it was anyway.
Once I came across a wolf, face to face, coming from school and quite close to  home, in the densest part of the forest. I didn’t even realise at first that it was a wolf, and called – doggie, doggie, doggie – wondering whose dog this might be then? Such a handsome one! We stared eye to eye for a few minutes, only some ten paces away from each other, and then it suddenly jumped off the road and disappeared among the snowy spruces. I hurried to look at the tracks, and realised at once whom I had seen eye to eye just now! Frightened, I started to scream and ran as fast as I could towards home. I still remember the alert, yellowish-green eyes of the wolf ...
In the fifties hunters were paid a bonus for shooting wolves, and by and by the wolf population was brought under control. Towards the end of the fifties wolves were not talked of as much as before, but one more interesting story I would like to add.
Together with my sister we were herding the sheep flock of the kolkhoz near home, in a large field that had a coppice, about a hundred metres across and overgrown with brushwood, at one side. Stones from the fields had been brought there, and sometimes we went climbing on the stone piles that were overgrown with blackberry vines. The kolkhoz sheep were peacefully grazing in the field. We did hear, in the beginning of summer, wolf howls from that corner occasionally, but we couldn’t make sure where exactly the den might be. We never saw any of them, and no kolkhoz sheep were  killed. It was not until autumn that hunters discovered a wolf den in that coppice, but then the wolves had left long ago ...




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