When I was a child, I remember my grandfather telling me the story of Sarah Greene. She was a young girl who lived on the outskirts of town on the wrong side of the tracks. “Man we had trouble with her.” Grandfather would say. She grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and there was rumor that she had Native blood in her. As far as I know it was just that. A rumor, and not even a good one. As if Native Americans were anymore or less “savage” than white people. Grandpa used to say, “People are people and part of people being people is people making up rumors about people to make it easier for people to treat people like they aren’t just people who are people.” Hence, the scurrilous rumor of her “savage blood.” Grandpa had the good sense to be chagrined of how ignorant people can be, but to his credit, he didn’t try to make history sound more enlightened by hiding that fact.
I remember my Grandfather telling me there was one thing strange about her he could remember. Sarah had yellow eyes just like a wolf. She acted like a wolf too! That is to say, she acted like people say wolves act. She snarled, and bit and bullied and fought with anyone who got close, no matter how big they are or how much trouble it would give her. She would never use her words when she could use her claws.
The situation was desperate. Finally, someone got her calm enough to talk one day and asked her what was going on. She said, “I hate all you weak people and when I grow up, I’m going to live with the wolves!” In those days, most people still thought it was a good idea to kill wolves (now only a few people who think they would lose money if wolves were around or are superstitious feel that way), so this was a very strange thing to say. Well all that changed after the summer of her fifth grade year.
She came back from summer, quiet. My grandfather was one of the few kids that she sometimes wouldn’t bite, so at recess, when they were alone he asked her what happened over summer break. She turned to him and he could see there were tears that threatened to fall.
“They wouldn’t take me!” she said.
“Who wouldn’t take you?” my grandfather asked
“The wolves.” Said Sarah.
“You found them?”
“I went to the zoo and I talked to one of them when no one was looking.”
“I even tried to prove myself by taking a bite at my mother to show I was loyal to them.”
“What happened?” he asked.
“It came up to the glass and spoke to me.
“It spoke to you?”
“Not with its mouth, stupid” she bared her teeth, and then caught herself, “The words just sort of appeared in my mind.”
“He told me I was too savage to join any wolf pack and that I was too human.”
“Then what happened?”
“He said only a stupid cub, or a rabid wolf would ever harm one of its pack mates- especially its mother! He said that no pack could afford to take in such a dangerous member because it would be a distraction and they have no time for distractions, especially when they’re hunting.”
“Yes really,” she said, “wolves aren’t guaranteed to get something every time they hunt. Otherwise, they’d be too fat to hunt and only the fastest deers would live and then they couldn’t catch them on account of being too fat! Then they’d all die. They have to stay in shape! Haven’t you ever heard of survival of the fittest?”
He hadn’t heard of it at that point, but it didn’t sound right. I mean, there were walruses and blubbery whales and stuff. It didn’t make sense that only the muscley ones would survive. Maybe fit meant something different there…
“What now?” asked my grandpa.
“They said that I could run with a pack when I get older if I work at being a better pack mate now.”
“What does that mean?”
“I guess it means behaving in a way that makes people want to be around me. Be part of my pack.” She looked dejected.
“Well that’s not too bad!” he said.
“What? Are you kidding? No one wants to hang out with me.
“Well, no one else.”
“Well you bit most of them before. Maybe apologizing would help?”
Sarah looked stricken. But then, she realized he might be right and she hung her head in shame. The next few weeks were hard. She asked every person in her class to forgive her and not all of them acted with charity. She took her punishment in stride and made an honest attempt to rejoin the pack. She was even the best and catching kids when she was “it” during games of tag.
Over the year, she taught some of the kids, techniques for flanking and separating the slower kids from the herd to get them out and our game of wolf pack grew and grew. It was amazing, some of the fastest kids never did get caught by the wolves. Just too fit, probably. By the time summer break came, she was just like any other girl. Except for the yellow eyes, of course.
What’s that you ask? Did she join the pack? Well, in a way. You see, she studied biology and became a wolf researcher who was out to prove that wolves weren’t the mindless killing machines that everyone said. One of the places that she worked was at a large mammal rehabilitation center, she worked training wolves that they rescued how to hunt and eat and build a pack out of wolves who had no place. Just like she had had no place. So in the end, Sarah got her wish. She ran with wolves.