white wolf - part 12

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waved them off, he knew it would be at least 6 months before they met up again and that prospect saddened him.

For the next month John was busy fixing rails inside the barn, bringing in hay supplies to last through the coming winter and building a fence across the narrow section of the valley entrance. He also built a stone entrance way through the fence and put a wooden set of gates on it. He had a sign made to go on top of the stone work which said ‘White Wolf Ranch - Secret Valley’. John found a blacksmith to design and forge a set of branding irons, each with a stylised wolf’s head above an intertwined SV which stood for Secret Valley. Other jobs he finished included cutting enough fire wood to last the winter, decorating some of the rooms and making a fenced home paddock where the stock would spend most of the winter months. John and his wife also made time to be together with the children and often enjoyed a picnic lunch at the far end of their valley.

During the cold months they built a small chicken coop behind the barn and finished off the stalls inside the barn. John and his wife did the finishing touches together and they loved be able to work alongside each other and have the children near them. Jewel had pride of place with his own stall which even had a small outside yard attached. The only other horses inside the barn were the buggy horse and Morning Light’s favourite mare. There was enough room inside for 4 separate horse stalls, a larger coral which would be used for the birth of foals and an open area where saddles, the buggy and a small wagon were kept.  One end of the barn featured a loft where much of the hay was stored. Even in the middle of winter the barn remained relatively warm and John was pleased he’d chosen to spend the extra money and use stone for the main walls.

Their house stayed warm right through winter; the thick stone walls gave protection from the cold and Hans’ suggestion to use double glazed windows, like they did in Germany was an excellent idea. So was the wide veranda all the way around the house which kept the snow and rain away. The centrally located fire place kept the entire house warm, sometimes too warm for the couple who weren’t used to such comforts and had learnt to live in tepees. The kitchen oven was alight most of the day and it gave plenty of heat too. It took them a while to get used to having so much space in their house and for the first few weeks they crammed into the lounge room, eating, sleeping and staying there.

Snowy didn’t really like to be inside for very long and preferred to stay out under the porch where he could see across his valley and patrol regularly around the house and out-buildings. John learnt from other ranchers in the district that wolves were still very much a problem for stock owners. Every season, particularly in spring when there were young calves and foals, wolves often struck, killing valuable animals. They could also be a problem in the winter when their normal food supply was scarce. That first winter John did not see another wolf anywhere in the valley, he suspected they were chased off by Snowy. Even in spring they didn’t lose a single calf or foal and Snowy was no doubt the reason. At night he patrolled the area around the house and home paddocks, keeping a watchful eye and ear on the livestock. He just seemed to know this valley was his now and it needed to be protected from wild predators. Early one morning John heard Snowy go racing off the porch growling at something nearby. When John arrived at the back of the barn he found the wolf had bailed up a black bear. The bear wanted to get away from the savage wolf but Snowy wasn’t about to let him escape so John had to call him off. He kept the rifle trained on the bear but all it wanted to do was flee, so he allowed it to run back to the hills or wherever it came from. John purposely made a big fuss of Snowy for doing such a good job and gave him the biggest, meatiest bone he could find. For the rest of the day Snowy munched on the bone but with he also kept a wary eye out just in case the bear returned.

During the spring they had 7 healthy calves born and 6 foals were also successfully reared. All the foals looked strong and sound, most inherited the splash of colour across their rumps and John was very pleased with their confirmation and muscle development. The 4 fillies he would keep but the 2 colts would eventually be sold off. The fillies would one day be mated to his other young stallion, the baldy faced Crow colt who had developed into a muscular looking horse and to John’s trained eye, it was evident the colt would be eventually develop into a powerhouse. Last summer John had taken his time breaking in the colt and it paid off because he was a very calm, friendly horse. If the mares were separated, he could even be kept in the same paddock as Jewel. John liked to ride the young horse he’d named Baldy around the valley and even into town on occasions. The colt proved to be a very good saddle horse and was also learning to work the cattle. He possessed an incredible turn of speed and his acceleration was stunning. John suspected even the fleet-footed Jewel would be no match for Baldy over a short distance, say up to a mile. This smaller Indian pony was also extremely sure footed and able to easily race across uneven and rough terrain.

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