Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lunching With Wolves, Part 2

Friday morning dawned quietly, but then rapidly picked up speed as a friend of one of my sons called to see if he and wife and child could drop by to see the place and say hi. We had met before he went to Iraq, I like them very much, so was happy to invite them over. Besides -- as I recalled, Jubal was a big, strapping Texas fella, and I knew that would come in handy.

We fed them some fresh strawberry shortcake, chortled the baby and chatted a bit, and then offhandedly asked if they wanted to see the animals and, oh, by the way, would he be willing to help out with moving a few? Yes? Oh good!

We first moved four ram lambs from the ewes' pen down to the boys' enclosure at the bottom of the property. Stuffing the little buggers into kennels in the back of the Escape was a piece of cake.

Then we caught Bubba, a huge rambouillet-cross ram, and led him back up to a pen where we added four of his favorite fine-wool ladies. By this time we were all breathing a bit hard, but we had just two more to go: the ailing ewe and a yearling goat who had been on my must-go list ever since she first started screaming at all hours of the day and night. They were to go to the wolves. Catching and loading them took just about all the juice we had, and left us all sweaty and panting. Jubal seemed, well, jubilant, and we were unspeakably happy to have his help for the morning. They left to continue their journey north, and we headed south to the knackers.

Talone's Meat Market doesn't look like it has changed much, if at all, in the past 60 or 70 years. With a small yet well-respected meat market in the front, the old slaughter house sits on several acres of undisturbed history in the middle of Escondido. In the back are clean cement pens of live hogs, goats and sheep with a few rebel roosters strutting in the back lots. A sign points to a small office where one goes to transact business. The usual question is, "How many pieces?" But for the wolf-bound ewe, we didn't want pieces, we just needed her to be dead. This was a difficult thing to explain, but eventually I managed to convey the idea. Pointer finger to the head, drop the thumb, just dead. "Nada mas." OK, fine, $20 anyway.

However, as we were discussing this, I began to wonder why we would feed a lovely, milk and grass-fed goat to the wolves when we could very well enjoy it ourselves. So when the question came, "How many pieces?" I thought a minute, pictured the smallish goat, and said, "Two." He shrugged; $40.

The animals were off loaded and led up a series of ramps and into the dark interior. The ewe was calm and submissive, even ready, while the goat dug in her heels, screaming and protesting every inch. By the time she finally disappeared into the building I was wondering if the wolf center would consider just throwing her into the pen alive and letting us watch the wolves eat her. After adding up the sleepless nights for the past year, we would have almost paid to see that. But as it was, the ensuing silence was payment enough.

After an hour or so, one of the fellas came out with a wheelbarrow containing the body of the ewe and several large, blue plastic bags. We loaded everything back into the car and headed off for Julian.

Although we were much later than anticipated, one of the kind people at the non-profit California Wolf Center waited for us. The facility is wonderfully isolated, perfect for its guests. We unloaded the ewe into their freezer, and then enjoyed an amazing up-close (well, through two much-appreciated chain link fences) visit with some of the wolves in residence.

Some of the wolves are scheduled for release in Arizona soon, so they will not be fed any domestic animals. But the others will enjoy the lamb, goat, horse, beef and chicken from the freezer. I think we were of particular interest to the Mexican Gray Wolves (which are normally very shy) because we were standing up wind of them, and had spent the last 3 hours wrestling sheep and waiting at the slaughter house. Several made repeat "drive-by" visits to check us out.

It had been a long, tiring and eminently fascinating day, so when we got home I just put the bags of goat into the spare fridge without paying much attention. I would deal with them later. Boy, would I.

No comments: