For the Love of Wolves

For the Love of Wolves


Historical Fiction

The third and final story of the trilogy of novels based on the life of Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, who lived in remote Central Mine, Michigan, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The historic Maggie Harrington was found frozen in a snowdrift about two hundred feet east of the highway at the intersection of the Central and Eagle Harbor roads. She had been missing for several days.

The author dedicates this story to Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, who inspired this iconic character and three stand alone novels titled “Maggie Elizabeth Harrington,” “Alpha Wolves,” and this last one, “For the Love of Wolves.”

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The third and final story of the three book trilogy of novels based on the life of Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, who lived in remote Central Mine, Michigan, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The historic Maggie Harrington was found frozen in a snowdrift about two hundred feet east of the highway at the intersection of the Central and Eagle Harbor roads. She had been missing for several days.

The author dedicates this story to Maggie Elizabeth Harrington, who inspired this iconic character and three stand alone novels titled “Maggie Elizabeth Harrington,” “Alpha Wolves,” and this last one, “For the Love of Wolves.” A story that shows the deep love Maggie has for animals, especially wolves; and how it compares with the love she felt for Tommy Stetter, her teenage and first great love.

“For the Love of Wolves” is an imagined story featuring a historical person. Maggie Elizabeth Harrington is a recluse living alone in the ghost town of Central Mine, Michigan. Maggie is the previously thriving town’s only inhabitant. She passes her days mostly in memories of Tommie Stetter, her first great love, and a pack of young wolves they tried to save from Bernard Lemieux, a bounty hunter.

Maggie finds evidence of what she perceives is a wolf living in the back of her yard and believes the wolf has returned to bring joy and purpose back into her lonely life which has become routine and meaningless.

Maggie vows to protect this imaginary wolf from the son of the bounty hunter, Jackie Lemieux, who also shoots wolves for their bounty. Protecting her imaginary wolf is a promise Maggie has made to herself even if it means killing Jackie Lemieux.

Chapter 1

Chapter One – Reflection

I have always believed God had a plan for me. Always thought He meant for my life to be about something. Now I more often feel one of us has failed. Either I never understood His plan, or there never was one.

While I waited for His plan to appear I lived in two worlds. In the one I have to, and the one I want to. It’s how I’ve always lived. How most of us live.

My grandmother used to tell me life has three phases, ‘Learning in the beginning, experience in the middle and reflection at the end.”

It didn’t make much sense to me when I was thirteen, but it does now. It is at my ending where I have come to roost, time spent in memories of what I have learned and experienced. After all these years my life is now lived mostly in reflection. Still waiting for God’s plan to appear.

I sat on my porch this morning and pondered what to reflect on today. Although Central Mine has gone through many changes in the last few decades, I have not. I am the same young girl wondering about everything now as I did then, when I was truly young, not just young in my mind.

I have accepted two things about life, that I can’t live it backwards, and that it’s all in my head. If it wasn’t for what my eyes tell my mind I would know nothing. I could hear the sounds of life, but would be blind, without dreams. My vision of the world would be as unreal in my mind as it was real on the ground. Realizing that everything is in my head I sit each day on my porch and live in a world of my own choosing, not a world that has chosen me.

On this chilly October day, Tommie Stetter is in my head. Of my two worlds, the one that God has chosen, and the one of my choosing, I am reliving a day from my faraway past, recalling when Tommie left Central Mine for the last time. I remember my last sight of him as the carriage passed my living room window and I took a final glimpse of the love of my life as he left into the future, to a place I would no longer be a part of, where I could no longer stand and look into his brown eyes that drew me spirit and soul into him. The carriage passed as if the Grim Reaper himself was at its reins, taking Tommie, his wife Stephanie, their little girl and Tommie’s mother to a land so far away there is no light. Images of Tommie forever lost in the darkness distance creates.

I have not thought about Tommie for a long time. Life became busy, I was married, had my little girl Phebe to raise. Jeremy Paull was my husband, and if anyone else could elevate the beating of my heart, it was Jeremy. But on this day, I am going to set my family aside for another morning and dwell on my final thoughts of Tommie, the first great love of my life.

I loved Tommie Stetter from the first moment I saw him on a Sunday morning in the Central Mine Methodist Church. He made my heart flutter like the wings of a hummingbird. When I looked at him I became mindless, there was no room for another thought in my young head, not even of God, or my father, or Reverend White as he preached the need for redemption. I stood there in church, mouthing the words of the hymns Mrs. Daume played and I was a blank slate, erased, empty of thought, except for Tommie Stetter.

And this smothering love, this loving dark without light, except for the candlelight that was Tommie at the end of my tunnel, held me all through the summer of 1892. They were the darkest and brightest days of my young life, and for a decade after Tommie was sent away, I waited.

Now, here on my porch, in the fall of 1945, I have him with me once again. No, I cannot touch him, I cannot feel his strong arms pull me to him, he cannot hold me, but I can remember his beautiful brown eyes that glisten, and I can return in my head to a Sunday in church. I can feel the same twitching in my chest, the fluttering of the valves of my heart, and it is summer, 1892 again, I am young, and I am filled with love on a day that is otherwise a bit gloomy.

A young voice returns me to God’s world. “Good morning Miss Maggie.”
It’s young Joseph Marquardt whose father owns the house across the street. His father uses it for a hunting camp on weekends, and comes here with his youngest son Joseph, and his elder two, Louis and Julius. He also brings a couple of hounds, used to drive the rabbits they come here to hunt. I like the dogs more than the hunting, although a rabbit stew on a cold day like this does warm the belly and bones.

“Good morning to you, Joseph. Are you here to hunt?”

“Yes, my father and brothers are already out, went early this morning. Earlier than I wanted to get up and so they left me here with Poochie, the old hound.”

The black and tan, a bit wobbly on his legs, stood behind him and listened to the sound of our voices. Joseph and the hound stepped closer to my porch. “I’m not fond enough of shooting rabbits to get out of bed at dawn, not like my father and brothers.”

“Do you like the stew?” I asked.

Joseph’s eyes glistened, he blinked. My mind quickly recalled how Tommie would look at me. Joseph nodded. “Yes, I like it. I hope they get back soon, I’m kind of hungry.”

“Would you like some coffee and toast with thimbleberry jam?”
He took a step back, embarrassed, but his eyes said yes. He is perhaps about ten. I imagine my little girl Phebe might have acted the same, had it not been for pneumonia in the dreaded winter of 1912. It was the most frigid winter of my life, there were the arctic winds and snow, and then the cold wind that blew through my body the night she left. I began to well up, like a girl, my eyes dampened, my heart cried, the night returns to me so real, as if it had never left, as if I had never left her room. It is 1945, but I am still there, beside her at her last breath, the death rattle from her heavy lungs.

“Yes, ma’am,” Joseph said. His voice returned me to October and my porch. Whisked me out of the drift I had fallen into with my despair.
“I’m hungry, too. Let’s go sit in my kitchen. You can see the rock piles from out the back window while we eat.”

“Maybe I’ll see my dad, and Louis and Julius.”

“Indeed. And you’ll see good crusty bread and jam and some hot coffee for this crisp morning.”

We sat at the table in the kitchen and looked out at the same rock piles I have stared at all my life. It’s as if the earth had never been different, they have always been here, these huge stone monuments in honor of the miners who had torn them from the womb of the peninsula. The old wood stove was still warm, I stoked it with a little wood and in minutes we had warm coffee and toast off its dark cast iron surface.

Joseph peered out into the distance, to the heavily treed forest beyond the mine. He was a patient young man, polite, a quiet one I thought, more like my Jeremy than the proud confident Tommie Stetter.

We watched together for signs of the hunters, but there were none, although I was sure I heard the howl of the hounds, and Poochie responded with his own howling from out on the porch. “I hear the dogs,” I said.

Joseph nodded. “Me, too. They’re over that way, across the highway toward Hell Town. They’ll be back soon.”

“We can wait on the porch. You’ll see right away if you’ll be getting rabbit stew for dinner.”

“Julius cooks it. He makes it really good, just like my mother. She’s German, and she calls it a hasenpfeffer, it’s a funny name. It’s just rabbit stew.”

There are three old wooden rockers on my porch. I can’t sit in one of them and not imagine my father in one and my grandmother in the other. The three of us, sitting there, rocking away a Sunday afternoon, grandma roasting a chicken in the oven with her sage dressing for our dinner. Those were grand days. Life was different then. The mine was working, the village was full of hardy Cornish families. There was a steady flow of people walking the nameless streets, visiting, talking, smiling, everything was good, especially on Sunday, the miners only day off, a day of prayer, but also a day of visiting and rest. Now it seems that every day is a day of rest. When Joseph Marquardt and his sons aren’t here on a weekend to hunt there is no one. Central Mine is as empty as the mineshafts that once were filled with men and copper, but no longer reverberate with the sounds of mining. The streets are no longer filled with the laughter of children, and the voices of women, as they chat endlessly about plans for next Sunday, or the Fourth of July picnic when we all gathered for games and listened to the Central Mine Cornet band play Swanee River and Beautiful Brown Eyes late into a July afternoon.
All of a sudden Joseph stood up out of his rocker. Coming up the hill from the highway was one of the hounds, followed not far behind by a couple of more dogs, his father, Julius and Louis. As they approached my house Julius holds up a pair of rabbits by their hind legs, his prey, and their dinner.

“We shot eight,” he said. “We’ll be eating rabbit stew all next week.”

“He hasn’t been a bother, has he?” Joseph’s father asked, motioning toward Joseph with his head. “He’s old enough to take care of himself.”

“No, he’s no bother. I was grateful for the company.”

“I’ll leave you one of the rabbits if you like, after we clean them.”

He’s a nice man, thin and rangy, with a full head of dark hair. He has a pointed nose and thin slinky eyes, but he is warmer as a person than his looks belie. “I’d be happy to have a rabbit. Joseph and I had just been talking about how much we like rabbit stew.”

“We’ll be heading back to Laurium soon as we get them cleaned. But I’ll drop one off for you before we go.”

“Thank you, Mr. Marquardt, it’ll be well appreciated. And indeed will be for my dinner.”

Mr. Marquardt set his shotgun down off his shoulder and stood. “I run a store in Laurium. If there’s ever anything you need, let me know and I’ll be happy to bring it down here to you. Save you the walk all the way to Eagle Harbor. Winter’s coming and it’ll be difficult with the snow.”

I nodded. Yes, he is a very kind man. “I’ll do that. The six miles over the hill to Eagle Harbor gets a little hazardous. But I manage.”

“It’s no trouble for me. We hunt down here all winter.”

I watch as the three of them crossed the street and enter the house that in mining days belonged to George Bergen and his family, Lois, Robert and Joan. But that was over thirty years ago, in another time and place, in another world. A world in which I still belong, still visit daily in my head. Where I am comfortable and life is full of cheer instead of loneliness. Where I am a part of living and not just a passerby.

Dinner that night was rabbit stew. I browned the pieces of rabbit in butter and onions and floured it, created a roux, then added some chicken broth, salt and black pepper, carrots and potatoes and simmered it slowly for an hour. It was delicious, it was warmth in my belly on an afternoon that brought goose bumps to my skin, put a chill on my spine.
Food has a way of lightening your spirit but weighing on your eyes, it makes you sleepy. It was dark by the time I finished dinner and I retired to my bed, to my sleep and to dreams. To the world of time spent, not time present.

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