Call of the Wild 

Who's afraid of the big, bad Guv?

Rrriing! Rriing! You have reached the Copes. We are not available right now, so please leave a message after the beep. BEEP! "Cope! 'S me! Red! Pick up! Dis's 'portant! Ah needs y'r help!"

My plan was to pretend I wasn't home and just let him talk. But he kept talking. And talking.

"I's ain't kiddin', Cope! Der's one o' them injustice t'ing-o'-m'-bobs goin' on and if'n yew's any kind o' mushrakin' junioralist likes y' wish y' were, y' need t' get on it. Pick up d' phone! I's knows dang well y'r der."

And talking. I poured a cup of coffee, hoping he'd give it up. He didn't.

"C'mon, Cope! Pick up! I's got som'tun t' tells ya 'bout dat dirty bird Butch Awrter. 'E's a chislin' cheater, an' I's got the proof! Now quit purtendin' ya's ain't home an' get d' phone! Ah knows y'r there. I's c'n sees y' through the window."

Well, then. What's the point in screening my calls when my family keeps leaving the blinds up? "Red? You're here?" Useless rhetorical question. By now, I was looking straight into those jerky little eyes through the windshield of his rig, parked on the street outside. "You might as well come in, I guess."

I offered him coffee. "Are you aware that it's only quarter after seven? I've only been up for a few minutes."

"Ah know. I's been watchin' ya. An' if'n y' don' mind, ah'd like some o' dat Chinee green tea. S'pposed t' be real good fer a feller, an' I figger y'r juss the sort o' pansy who'd have some."

"Jeez, Red. You're creeping me out. You've been out there since I got up?"

"I's been out der since d' Frontier Club kicked me out lass night. An' whatcha gripin' 'bout, Cope? Ah let ya' get done in the bat'room afore I's called, di'n't ah?"

I found a bag of green tea. It had been sitting in a catch-all flower vase along with four pennies and a rubber band since Clinton's first term. "So what's this about Butch Otter? And have a seat, Red. You're making me nervous."

"'E's one o' dem der power abusers, dat's what! 'E's usin' 'is awrfice t' take unfair a'vantages, dat's what! 'E's a gull-durned line-cutter-inner, dat's what! An' yew need t' exposiate 'im!"

"I tried that, buddy. He got elected anyway."

"But dis's d' worst, Cope! Dis's a lot badder than all dat drunk drivin' an' wetlands tearin' up an' tight trousers-wearin' poop yew been bitchin' 'bout. Y' know what 'e's doin' now? Huh? 'E's goin' first, dat's what!"


"T' shoot a wolf! Told us boys at dat rally what we had up at d' Cap'tol House! Said 'e was gerna be the first t' bag hisself a gull-durned wolf! Dat ain't no fair, Cope! Dat ain' d' way what dis country's all 'bout!"

"I believe he just said he was going to be among the first to sign up for a permit as soon as they're delisted. That's the way I heard it, anyway."

"An' yew don' t'ink he'll get t' go first?"

"Uh, seeing as how Fish and Game issues the permits ... and seeing as how Otter's got a grip on their short hairs like only a governor can have ... yes, I suppose you could be right about that. But what's it to you, Red?"

"'Cuzz I's should be first, dat's what! Ah put in fer a permit way back afore them wolf-huggers e'en brought wolfs back int' I-Dee-Ho. Ain't nobody should get t' blow one ter kah-blooey afore I's get mah turn!"

"Let me get this straight. You applied for a wolf tag before they even reintroduced wolves to Idaho?"

"Shor did. Done it juzz in case, y' know? I's applied f'r a lot o' tags on stuff what ain't here ... not yet anyhows. But if'n they e'er put zebras in I-Dee-Ho, I get the firs' shot. An' kang'roos. An' iguanos. An' elfiphants. An' al'gators. An' TasMahal Devils. An penguins. An' all sorts o' critters. I's don' b'lieve in leavin' thin's t' chance, Cope."

"You applied for a penguin permit? Damn, Red. Does killing things really mean that much to you?"

"Far as ah'm concerned, killin' thin's is the meanin' o' life. If'n yews weren't such a snot, y'd know dat. Huntin' down y'r own meat, stringin' it up from a tree an' leavin' the guts in a pile out in d' fresh air ... dat's d' oldest tradishun what is. Y' know, only thin' what sep'rates us from an'mals is dat we turn what we kill int' sausage."

"Uh, so you're going to eat a wolf if you get one?"

"Hay-yull, no! I's ain't gonna eat no gull- durned wolf, y' idjut. But the second oldest tradishun is gettin' t' kill anythin' what gets in d' way of havin' plen'y o' stuff f'r me t' kill. Dat would be y'r predicaters. Y'r pewmers an' y'r grizzlies an' y'r gull-durned wolfs. If'n it weren't f'r all dem meat-eatin' sums-o'bidges, I's could prob'ly shoot me some elks right off m' patio."

"And I suppose you want me to criticize Otter for exploiting his position. To have his fill, as it were, leaving the rest of you to pick over the remains. Yes, I see what you mean. It's like he's the alpha male, and you're just a runt scavenger who has to take whatever he leaves behind. Yes, yes. It'll make a great column. I'll call it, 'Governor Behaves Like Boorish Beast--Little People Get the Bone!'"

"So's y'r wit' me?"

"I'm with you, buddy. The way I see it, in a just world, everyone who's dying to kill wolves would go hunting all at once, see? How's that for fair? You should all go to the same hill, actually, all on the same day. And I don't believe you should wear orange vests, either. That'll just scare the wolves away. In fact, you should all wear fur hats and hunker down in the bushes making wolf sounds. That's the best way to draw them in, you know. And don't let those goody-goody bastards tell you you can't drink up a storm while you're out there, either. I'll even take up a collection for the Jack Daniels. And as soon as you hear anything that sounds like it might be a wolf, you all start blasting away, pal. And don't be stingy with the bullets. Just keep shooting until all the bushes stop shaking, that's what I say."

He sucked the last of the green from the tea bag as he pondered what I'd said. Then: "Y'r ain't really wit' me, is ya, Cope?"

"Nope. I'm dancing with the wolves on this one, bub."

He left in a huff, all puffed-up mad. The way he slammed the door, I thought it'd blow my house down.

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