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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Hum (06/06/13)

TITLE: Humming Balm
By Sheldon Bass


From a utopian life with someone he loved, to heartache and privation, on the run from false accusations. Smoke Dog was a wolf, raised from a wee pup by the kind man who meant the world to him. But now he was gone—dead—killed by a marauding bear. Smoke had arrived on the scene seconds too late to save the old Lakota Indian, Wankan Tehoa, his companion.

As the bear was exiting Wankan's cabin, the tame wolf was coming up the trail. The scent of Wankan's blood on the grizzly's muzzle dispatched Smoke Dog into a rampaging attack, wounding and driving the bear off.

When a neighboring rancher came to visit, he found the mauled body of Wankan and saw the bear's blood on Smoke's snout. He assumed...
Smoke protectively stayed by Wankan's side, growling at anyone coming near, creating a verisimilitude of guilt in the minds of the community folks.

Prejudices die hard for many ranchers, who'd lost much livestock to wolves in by-gone days. Ever since Wankan brought the wolf pup home, several had ranted against Smoke, saying he'd turn on the old man, and complaining, "That wild beast shouldn't be allowed in town!" They'd blame the gentle giant for attacks by other predators. But each time Smoke had been vindicated, and the real culprit discovered.

Wankan reared this clever canine with loving discipline. Smoke understood the way of love, was good with children, and some folks in town had grown to trust him. He had overcome his wild instincts. But now, it may be that very fact, which would cause him to starve to death. He was hungry and alone in the forested wilderness of grief and despair, an outcast from the wild, and from the world of people.

Miles to the south, near Shiloh, Smoke lay in a meadow strewn with wildflowers, much like the one he and Wankan frequented. Shafts of warmth beat down from above, with colors of vibrant blooms blazing. Birds cheered him in song; abating stress. Smoke drifted off to sleep, but was aroused by a mellifluous humming.

Tilting his head as canines do, he cocked an ear to listen. Comfortable familiarity! He recognized the tune. Bitter-sweet memories flooded his heart of Wankan intoning the same melody.

"Just a closer walk with thee, grant it Jesus is my plea..."

Smoke stalked the humming voice, and found the little girl down by the river, splashing both feet in the cool water as she sat on a smooth rock. His heart leapt. Having been reared with doting affection, he was ravenous for it now; and yearned for the children of Spearville. Yet he knew he could never go back there. He'd lost their trust. Perhaps there would be an opportunity to begin again, in another place.

Smoke stepped from concealment, revealing himself, laid down, and whimpered. Her head jerked up.

"Why hello doggy."

Smoke was good with this sort of thing. He'd converted many doubting folks with his sweet antics. Belly crawling, the whining wolf inched closer, wagging that big bushy tail.

If the ten year-old's parents had seen this situation they might have run for a gun. But she was alone and knew no difference between a wolf and a domestic dog. Jumping to her feet, she skipped over to Smoke; her sandy colored pigtails flying, and plopped down next to him on the dirt bank of the gurgling river. Extending a frail hand she patted Smoke on the back, who turned up his head to lick her hand—a wet wolf kiss.

Before long the two were romping through the meadow, playing tag, ending up back in the river to cool off. Approaching steps crunched.

From an obscured trail, appeared a boy of ten. Smoke reacted. Muscular legs let loose like steel springs, launching the beast ten feet through the air, knocking the lad to the ground. A facial tongue bath ensued.

"SMOKE DOG! I thought you were gone forever!"

It was Billy, Wankan Tehoa's grandson and second best friend to Smoke. The youngster would normally visit Grandpa and Smoke on weekends.

When Billy's family had learned of Wankan's death, they knew the impossibility of Smoke doing what others said. He would have a home, in a new town. And he'd now learned about prejudice, and the heartbreak of loss.

Regardless of people's hatred of wolves, which Smoke was certain to face again: two small children, accompanied by a ninety pound wolf, hummed, skipping into the Shiloh community.

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This article has been read 842 times
Member Comments
Member Date
harvestgal Ndaguba06/15/13
This story drew me into smoke dog. I felt sorry for him but was happy to see him end up with another family who loved him. Nice writing.
Ellen Carr 06/18/13
I enjoyed your well-written story a lot. It was a creative take on the topic. Just one 'red ink' comment: As I read the first paragraph I thought that the dog, rather than its owner, had died because the 'he' in the third sentence seemed to refer back to the 2nd sentence. Just something to watch out for. But overall, you've done a great job with this.
Margaret Kearley 06/18/13
This is a good story, well told, and enjoyable to read. (It reminded me of the tragic Welsh tale of the hound Gelert and Prince Llywelyn.) Good ending to the story too. One small point, I would guard against is using over-complicated words (eg verisimilitude and mellifluous) when a more undestandable word would do just as well. It might just be me, but it interrupted the story for me, although it did persuade me to go and look up their meaning! A great story though, thankyou.
lynn gipson 06/18/13
Smoke Dog rides again! This is even better than the first, and that one was excellent. Being an animal lover of all sorts, this touched my heart deeply. I loved that he found the children. Just a lovely story and sure to be up there on the board! I hope there are sequels to this.
lynn gipson 06/20/13
I knew this one was gonna rank high. (Should have been higher in my opinion).

Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 06/20/13
Congratulations for placing 4th in your level and 22 overall!