Friday, February 3, 2012

Wolverines: "Forget Michigan, We Prefer Minnesotans. They Taste Better!"

Watching the excellent PBS series Nature the other night reminded me how much I miss my parents. I would have loved to call them on the phone and tell them to turn on channel 2. The episode that aired locally the day before yesterday was entitled: "Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom".

The reason I wish my parents had lived to see this documentary on Wolverines is that it would have proven both my father and I correct. You see both my father and I are incredibly stubborn Germans. We are also bastions of useless information with good memories and we are rarely wrong. In other words, we are both insufferable to live with. Just ask my ex or my two children.

Flashback to the early 1990's and a cool but sunny spring day. I had stopped by my parents home just off West River Road in South Minneapolis for a visit and wound up taking the aging family dog, Max, a golden Retriever/German Shepherd mix, for one of our favorite pastimes, a walk along the banks of the Mississippi River.

Truly one of the greatest urban natural resources in the country, as Bob Dylan once wrote about ("I'm just sitting on this bank of sand and watching the river flow") and the great Minnesota party band, Lamont Cranston resurrected in spirit on its album "Upper Mississippi Shakedown", "...From the shores of the river you can't see the big city lights..." Max and I jumped the old decrepit WPA era chain link fence and raced down the steep banks of the wooded river gorge until we emerged from the woods and onto one of those banks of sand of which Bobby Zimmerman spoke.

After a nice walk along the shore, Max and I headed back up the steep river gorge near the sandstone cave by the big picnic area off West River Road. About half way up we were hit by a powerful, musky or funky smell, sort of a cross between a dead body and decaying fish smell. There in the trail in front of us was what looked like a flattened dead animal of some sort. It was dark brown with an outer ring of lighter hair which looked blondish grey.

Assuming from the smell and its flattened appearance that it was dead, but just to be sure, I kicked some of the wet muddy dirt of the trail onto the carcass. Much to Max's and my astonishment and terror, this "dead" animal leaped into the air and in one swift mover turned a 180 degree turn in mid air landing facing us snarling at us with gaping jaws.

Well Max and I did not have to be told twice. We high tailed it out of there taking a wide circle around the beast and fighting each other as to who would be first on the way up.

When we reached the old chain link fence demarking the lower trail, I picked up Max and hucked him over the fence and we ran back to my parent's house now about two and a half blocks away. Excited and out of breath I blurted the recent frightening developments to my parents who looked at me as if I was on drugs. Instead of joining in our excitement and enthusiasm, my father dismissed my story with a wave of his hand.

I'll never forget him yelling "there hasn't been a wolverine in these parts in 100 years!" About three days later Mom calls me laughing hysterically. I said what's up Mom and between gulps of air and laughter she manages to croak out, you'll never believe ..."your father is in his den with the encyclopedia out and shaking his head in disbelief, your and Max's Wolverine is in our back yard!" There must be something about Minnesotans that attract them. Watch the Nature documentary on PBS entitled "Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom"

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