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- Baree, Son of Kazan - 1/33 -
Etext prepared by Dianne Bean, Prescott Valley, Arizona.
Baree, Son of Kazan. James Oliver Curwood.
Since the publication of my two animal books, "Kazan, the Wolf Dog" and "The Grizzly King," I have received so many hundreds of letters from friends of wild animal life, all of which were more or less of an inquiring nature, that I have been encouraged to incorporate in this preface of the third of my series--"Baree, Son of Kazan"--something more of my desire and hope in writing of wild life, and something of the foundation of fact whereupon this and its companion books have been written.
I have always disliked the preaching of sermons in the pages of romance. It is like placing a halter about an unsuspecting reader's neck and dragging him into paths for which he may have no liking. But if fact and truth produce in the reader's mind a message for himself, then a work has been done. That is what I hope for in my nature books. The American people are not and never have been lovers of wild life. As a nation we have gone after Nature with a gun.
And what right, you may ask, has a confessed slaughterer of wild life such as I have been to complain? None at all, I assure you. I have twenty-seven guns--and I have used them all. I stand condemned as having done more than my share toward extermination. But that does not lessen the fact that I have learned; and in learning I have come to believe that if boys and girls and men and women could be brought into the homes and lives of wild birds and animals as their homes are made and their lives are lived we would all understand at last that wherever a heart beats it is very much like our own in the final analysis of things. To see a bird singing on a twig means but little; but to live a season with that bird, to be with it in courting days, in matehood and motherhood, to understand its griefs as well as its gladness means a great deal. And in my books it is my desire to tell of the lives of the wild things which I know as they are actually lived. It is not my desire to humanize them. If we are to love wild animals so much that we do not want to kill them we MUST KNOW THEM AS THEY ACTUALLY LIVE. And in their lives, in the facts of their lives, there is so much of real and honest romance and tragedy, so much that makes them akin to ourselves that the animal biographer need not step aside from the paths of actuality to hold one's interest.
Perhaps rather tediously I have come to the few words I want to say about Baree, the hero of this book. Baree, after all, is only another Kazan. For it was Kazan I found in the way I have described--a bad dog, a killer about to be shot to death by his master when chance, and my own faith in him, gave him to me.
We traveled together for many thousands of miles through the northland--on trails to the Barren Lands, to Hudson's Bay and to the Arctic. Kazan--the bad dog, the half-wolf, the killer--was the best four-legged friend I ever had. He died near Fort MacPherson, on the Peel River, and is buried there. And Kazan was the father of Baree; Gray Wolf, the full-blooded wolf, was his mother. Nepeese, the Willow, still lives near God's Lake; and it was in the country of Nepeese and her father that for three lazy months I watched the doings at Beaver Town, and went on fishing trips with Wakayoo, the bear. Sometimes I have wondered if old Beaver Tooth himself did not in some way understand that I had made his colony safe for his people. It was Pierrot's trapping ground; and to Pierrot--father of Nepeese-I gave my best rifle on his word that he would not harm my beaver friends for two years. And the people of Pierrot's breed keep their word. Wakayoo, Baree's big bear friend, is dead. He was killed as I have described, in that "pocket" among the ridges, while I was on a jaunt to Beaver Town. We were becoming good friends and I missed him a great deal. The story of Pierrot and of his princess wife, Wyola, is true; they are buried side by side under the tall spruce that stood near their cabin. Pierrot's murderer, instead of dying as I have told it, was killed in his attempt to escape the Royal Mounted farther west. When I last saw Baree he was at Lac Seul House, where I was the guest of Mr. William Patterson, the factor; and the last word I heard from him was through my good friend Frank Aldous, factor at White Dog Post, who wrote me only a few weeks ago that he had recently seen Nepeese and Baree and the husband of Nepeese, and that the happiness he found in their far wilderness home made him regret that he was a bachelor. I feel sorry for Aldous. He is a splendid young Englishman, unattached, and some day I am going to try and marry him off. I have in mind someone at the present moment--a fox-trapper's daughter up near the Barren, very pretty, and educated at a missioner's school; and as Aldous is going with me on my next trip I may have something to say about them in the book that is to follow "Baree, Son of Kazan."
James Oliver Curwood
To Baree, for many days after he was born, the world was a vast gloomy cavern.
During these first days of his life his home was in the heart of a great windfall where Gray Wolf, his blind mother, had found a safe nest for his babyhood, and to which Kazan, her mate, came only now and then, his eyes gleaming like strange balls of greenish fire in the darkness. It was Kazan's eyes that gave to Baree his first impression of something existing away from his mother's side, and they brought to him also his discovery of vision. He could feel, he could smell, he could hear--but in that black pit under the fallen timber he had never seen until the eyes came. At first they frightened him; then they puzzled him, and his fear changed to an immense curiosity. He would be looking straight at them, when all at once they would disappear. This was when Kazan turned his head. And then they would flash back at him again out of the darkness with such startling suddenness that Baree would involuntarily shrink closer to his mother, who always trembled and shivered in a strange sort of way when Kazan came in.
Baree, of course, would never know their story. He would never know that Gray Wolf, his mother, was a full-blooded wolf, and that Kazan, his father, was a dog. In him nature was already beginning its wonderful work, but it would never go beyond certain limitations. It would tell him, in time, that his beautiful wolf mother was blind, but he would never know of that terrible battle between Gray Wolf and the lynx in which his mother's sight had been destroyed. Nature could tell him nothing of Kazan's merciless vengeance, of the wonderful years of their matehood, of their loyalty, their strange adventures in the great Canadian wilderness--it could make him only a son of Kazan.
But at first, and for many days, it was all mother. Even after his eyes had opened wide and he had found his legs so that he could stumble about a little in the darkness, nothing existed for Baree but his mother. When he was old enough to be playing with sticks and moss out in the sunlight, he still did not know what she looked like. But to him she was big and soft and warm, and she licked his face with her tongue, and talked to him in a gentle, whimpering way that at last made him find his own voice in a faint, squeaky yap.
And then came that wonderful day when the greenish balls of fire that were Kazan's eyes came nearer and nearer, a little at a time, and very cautiously. Heretofore Gray Wolf had warned him back. To be alone was the first law of her wild breed during mothering time. A low snarl from her throat, and Kazan had always stopped. But on this day the snarl did not come. In Gray Wolf's throat it died away in a low, whimpering sound. A note of loneliness, of gladness, of a great yearning. "It is all right now," she was saying to Kazan; and Kazan--pausing for a moment to make sure--replied with an answering note deep in his throat.
Still slowly, as if not quite sure of what he would find, Kazan came to them, and Baree snuggled closer to his mother. He heard Kazan as he dropped down heavily on his belly close to Gray Wolf. He was unafraid--and mightily curious. And Kazan, too, was curious. He sniffed. In the gloom his ears were alert. After a little Baree began to move. An inch at a time he dragged himself away from Gray Wolf's side. Every muscle in her lithe body tensed. Again her wolf blood was warning her. There was danger for Baree. Her lips drew back, baring her fangs. Her throat trembled, but the note in it never came. Out of the darkness two yards away came a soft, puppyish whine, and the caressing sound of Kazan's tongue.
Baree had felt the thrill of his first great adventure. He had discovered his father.
This all happened in the third week of Baree's life. He was just eighteen days old when Gray Wolf allowed Kazan to make the acquaintance of his son. If it had not been for Gray Wolf's blindness and the memory of that day on the Sun Rock when the lynx had destroyed her eyes, she would have given birth to Baree in the open, and his legs would have been quite strong. He would have known the sun and the moon and the stars; he would have realized what the thunder meant, and would have seen the lightning flashing in the sky. But as it was, there had been nothing for him to do in that black cavern under the windfall but stumble about a little in the darkness, and lick with his tiny red tongue the raw bones that were strewn about them. Many times he had been left alone. He had heard his mother come and go, and nearly always it had been in response to a yelp from Kazan that came to them like a distant echo. He had never felt a very strong desire to follow until this day when Kazan's big, cool tongue caressed his face. In those wonderful seconds nature was at work. His instinct was not quite born until then. And when Kazan went away, leaving them alone in darkness, Baree whimpered for him to come back, just as he had cried for his mother when now and then she had left him in response to her mate's call.
The sun was straight above the forest when, an hour or two after Kazan's visit, Gray Wolf slipped away. Between Baree's nest and the top of the windfall were forty feet of jammed and broken timber through which not a ray of light could break. This blackness did not frighten him, for he had yet to learn the meaning of light. Day, and not night, was to fill him with his first great terror. So quite fearlessly, with a yelp for his mother to wait for him, he began to follow. If Gray Wolf heard him, she paid no attention to his call, and the sound of the scraping of her claws on the dead timber died swiftly away.
This time Baree did not stop at the eight-inch log which had always shut in his world in that particular direction. He clambered to the top of it and rolled over on the other side. Beyond this was vast adventure, and he plunged into it courageously.
It took him a long time to make the first twenty yards. Then he came to a log worn smooth by the feet of Gray Wolf and Kazan, and stopping
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