(Southern Minnesota)

***The following is the prologue of the first novel, Legend, opening the way for the story that will follow.***

The story was passed by word of mouth for decades, how the large gray wolf, Ghost, and his mate, Moonlight, terrorized Minnesota ranchers for two years, closing leg-hold traps and killing livestock. The wolves were seldom seen, but their paw prints, one set larger than the other, were recognized across the state. Ranchers were enraged and uneasy, and a special five-hundred-dollar bounty was established for the pelt, paws and head of the two rogues.  

Thomas Cooper Brady, a famous trapper who worked two decades in the Dakotas trapping and killing wolves for bounty, arrived in Minneapolis by rail in the summer of 1909, claiming he could do the job and offering four times the original reward to anybody who would kill the wolves before he did. He brought a large cache of rifles and number ten traps, and for the next month he captured the imaginations of Minnesotans with his promise to do what no hunter in the state could, kill the two renegade wolves.

For three months he traveled with a hired posse of hand-picked hunters and trappers, following the trail of the wolves from one county to the next, using bloodhounds and making plaster casts of their paw prints. Yet he was always one step behind the pair, unable to find the right place to set his traps. In time, he grew frustrated by the chase, and the same city newspapers that once praised his skills were now running cartoons of his numerous failures. By the end of the year, he was ending each hunt with nights of heavy drinking and brawling.

During all this time, hunters still got together and killed off whole packs of wolves they found near their ranches, and more often than not, Ghost and Moonlight arrived like a fog in the night and killed animals in their herds. Brady was the first to figure that the wolves were acting on a vendetta uncommon to any other creature but humans. He began redoubling his efforts, only this time he watched and waited, hiring new hunters from back east and keeping a tight rein on them as he traveled to any county where wolf packs had recently been wiped out.  

He talked to the Ojibway Indians about creating new scent oils that had never been used before, bought more traps, and spent months doing nothing but being patient. At times he would be seen crawling on all fours through the woods, to think like a wolf, he told his men. And he waited. And waited.

On April fourteenth, 1910, he put his plan into effect. He arrived at a ranch in Cook County just hours after the latest wolf killings, setting traps around the ranch of the men who had recently wiped out a wolf pack, thousands of traps, more traps than all of Minnesota had ever known in the state. He sent his men back to the ranch house while he waited in the darkness, coated in the same scent oils he had used around the traps. He waited like that three nights in a row, sitting in the tall grasses. On the third night he never heard the trap snap shut, but he heard the brief whine. When he walked the mile across the field in the darkness, cautiously avoiding his own traps, he found her, Moonlight, her right forepaw held fast in steel jaws. He knew the other one was out there, watching him, but he wasn’t afraid. He had his rifle, and for once he finally had the upper hand.  

Instead of killing her, Brady got his men together and tied her up, then reset every trap as close to her as they could. The next night they were rewarded for their efforts. Ghost was finally captured trying to reach his mate. The wolf didn’t even care to avoid the traps any more. Each paw was held tight by a different device, and the fight had gone out of him. Brady eyed his prize, but he said later there was no victory in seeing him captured, and there was no glory in killing them both. He sent in the pelts, collected the money, and never hunted again. 

Decades later, a radio interviewer asked him about how it felt to end the brutal siege of the two famous wolves. He didn’t answer right away. He lit his pipe and drew his first puff. “I looked in their eyes,” he said. “I looked in their eyes before I killed them both. I doubt it ever ended.” For a few years after his death men debated what he meant by that. Some thought he was losing his mind after his retirement. Some thought he was trying to keep the legend alive.

Some thought he saw their cub.