Fraternal twin, of course. Come back to the house, and I'll tell you the rest of it.
Naw, Lupe's not 133. She's nineteen, same as me. Old for a wolf, but I've helped. And don't call her my dog; never call a wolf a dog.
I don't expect you to believe the story; just hear it out. My mother told me some of my history just before she died. Mom had fallen in love with a hunter; moon going on full, she fell in love pretty often. At least she called it "falling in love" when talking to me.
When full came, she got out into the woods and hid. Hunter'd never have had a chance of finding her if a wolf hadn't done it first. So here's ol' wolf howling at her, and here's ol' hunter aiming at howling wolf. Mom had to choose, and she jumped the hunter. The wolf got into the game fast. Lupe's father tore the throat out of my father. Then he covered Mom, who had really been in the mood even before she smelt blood. I've never blamed Lupe for what her father did, though.
Mom felt she was real lucky to bring us both into the world alive. Part, it was a later full moon. Anyway, Lupe is my twin sister. Fraternal, like I said. And not a touch of the were in either of us.
We grew at our own rates. First I can remember, her half- grown cubs were lookin' after me. Their understanding of 'looking after, ' of course. Mom had plowed a furrow around house and barn. One of the first things I learned was to only piss on that furrow; critters would never cross that line. Winter I was five, Mom talked me into wearing clothes -- first pants, then shoes. Warmer that way, but she made me keep them on come summer. Next fall, I started school -- riding Harry 'bout three miles each way. Harry was happy enough to go; it was better than pulling a plow, and horses don't much take to wolves.
I took to school, though. Mom had taught me my letters and some words, but that was either in her rough handwriting or in the old books with cramped print she read herself. The first time I saw the big print in the books in school -- and the pictures -- I fell in love. More or less fell in love with Miss Wilson, too. She taught the lower grades.
Mom grew much of what we needed on the farm. Strongest woman you ever did see. For years, I would think every woman was stronger than me. Mom got checks in the mail -- rents and old bonds; they paid for what we couldn't grow. Soon I was riding Harry to old man Lauther's store with a list (and sometimes the check) and hauling the purchases back from town.
By then, I was helping with Lupe's litters. She could go off to hunt when I was home, and I'd see to the cubs. They'd soon outgrow the need, then outgrow me; and then I'd wait for the next litter.
Lupe's last litter'd been gone some time when Mom was shot. Mom crawled to the barn in the full moon, then waited till it set.
Strongest woman you ever did see. Took nearly two months to kill her. But we couldn't ask for the doctor. He'd see too much. Rallied some in the first full, but died before the next one. And she wanted to die by then. 'Fore she went, though, she told me part of the past. And she made me practice her signature -- as she got worse, it looked more crabbed and easier to do.
When Mom died, Lupe howled for an hour. Then she went out and dug a hole as deep as she could. I pretended Mom was still alive for another day. Then I helped deepen the hole; and Lupe and I dragged Mom to it on the quilt from her bed. We piled dirt on her till she was well hidden. Then I piled rocks on the pile 'til I couldn't carry any more. Then we scooped dirt and manure on top of the rocks. I poured a half a bell jar of gasoline over the grave then. Critters, they all hate the smell of gasoline.
Mom had never encouraged visitors, and nobody came 'round to ask why I wasn't in school. Sheepherders, farmers, people in town, each group looked after their own, sorta. But we weren't any of theirs, and they weren't looking for more trouble than they had. I think Miss Wilson would've asked why I wasn't in school, but she'd gone back to the city at the end of the year. Got married, I heard.
New teacher wasn't goin' to do anything, and neither was anybody else.
Still, I held off riding to town for the longest time. Didn't even empty the mail box till Mom had been in the ground two weeks. Some of the mail in there was ruined, two checks I couldn't even read.
One I could read was for more money than I had ever seen on a check, near five thousand dollars from some oil company. I practiced Mom's signature for weeks before I got up nerve to ride into town. Lauther stared at the check for a long time, front and back. "Well," he finally said, "that's a big check. It'll just about pay your bill off."
He'd never said anything about a bill before. He had a big sign behind the cash register, "NO CREDIT!"
"Bill?" I cried.
"Give me that check and it'll pay your bill off, and leave about a hundred over. Otherwise, you can try to cash it elsewhere, but no more purchases until you bring in some cash." He waited until I agreed. I got one axe handle where I'd planned to buy several, five pounds of flour where I'd planned to buy ten, and a box of nails. I got a precise written statement from him of what my purchase cost and what I had left on account.
I still had another check in my pants, but I saved it for another day.
I was less than half the strength Mom had been. Doubt I'll get any stronger than I am now, and that's still not near her strength. Better with tools, though. I can put a handle on an axe, a hoe, or a hammer, put a steel plowshare on our old plow, use a knife, hold a nail with one hand while I hammer it in with the other. 'Stead of putting the handle on an axe, she'd buy another, so we had several axe heads around the place. And heads for some other tools.
As checks came in, I'd get some new tools or new handles. I'd hoe the fields, but it was more than I could handle. And I didn't know enough. Farm kid learns something, and harvest was almost over when Mom got shot. So we sorta made out that year. Lupe did what she could, bringing home some parts of sheep come spring when they were put out to pasture. Plowing and planting were sheer Hell come spring, though. Lupe couldn't help much, and I wasn't strong enough to handle the wooden plow Mom had used. We just about got through 'til harvest.
Sometime before harvest, though, I got a bill for taxes on the farm. The last year's taxes hadn't been paid; and if it went a couple of years longer, they'd sell the farm for the taxes. When the large check came, I rode out to see Jennings, whose name was on the bill. His daughter, Sarah, had been a year younger in school with me. She made a fuss over Harry, who she hadn't seen in more than a year. Maybe 'cause of that, maybe just out of kindness, Jennings explained what was up. The check, he called it a royalty check, would cover more than one year's tax. He told me to pay the old bill and put the rest down on the new. If some tax was owed after four years, they could sell the farm to pay it. Even if the whole tax was paid for the time in between, they'd do it. Mom didn't have many friends.
Harvest hadn't been half what Mom had brought in, and -- wouldn't you know -- winter that year was awful. I spurted up, too. I took to wearing Mom's clothes, since mine didn't fit. Hers were too big, but too big is easier on you than too small. Sheep, of course, were nowhere around for Lupe to get. She hunted out the small stuff and would share with me. Twin or not, she always treated me like a cub. Rabbits were fine, but I never could take to mice or voles. And Lupe didn't pay that any more mind than you would pay to your kid's taste choices if he was starving.
Add to our troubles, roads were snowed in for days at a stretch. Mailman didn't bring any checks, and I wouldn't have been able to get to Lauther's store even if he had. More'n half the furrow Mom had plowed was unreachable. Pissing out in a heavy snowstorm was a miserable experience, anyway. I took to using only a few spots in the lee of the barn.
That must have been how the wolf got in. Wasn't one of ours; wasn't even all Wolf. I was in the barn trying to figure out how much hay we had when Harry started to buck in his stall. I went to the door to see if one of Lupe's old cubs was visiting. Harry fussed 'bout Lupe sometimes, but not that bad. This was a total stranger, and he was looking at the barn door like prey was inside. He had the look of dog about him, longish hair and all. Maybe had some coyote in him, though I've only seen pictures of them. Big cuss, though, bigger than Lupe.
My axe -- I only had one back then -- was in the kitchen. The barn door didn't latch, no reason for it to. So I stood with a sort of pitchfork with wooden tines in my hand looking out through the crack in the door as the wolf got his courage up. I'd try to block the door; I'd try to get him with the pitchfork. Neither looked awfully likely. The wind was whistling through the crack, too. Wolf didn't need to break in; he only needed to stay around the few hours 'til I froze to death.
When the wolf looked over to the side, I followed his glance. There was Lupe, trotting along with a rabbit in her mouth. She'd been in deep snow; you could tell from the stuff frozen to her side and belly. The space between the barn and the house, though, was blown almost clear.
Having taken in the wolf and his position, she seemed to be looking for me. "Barn," I said loud enough for her to hear. She turned her attention to the wolf again. She trotted up to him and lowered her forequarters, looking like she wanted to play. Wolf came over. She sprang up and trotted away. She did that two more times before she dropped the rabbit. Wolf gobbled it down before chasing her again. She used to drive off her cubs when they played like she and the wolf were doing now. Finally, she was down on her forequarters again. This time though, she was facing away from the wolf. He trotted up and licked under her tail. Then he mounted her.
I should have run across to the house when wolf was more interested in Lupe, but I didn't. And it wasn't concern for Harry which kept me in the barn. I had seen dogs mate twice before but from far away, and I'd been younger. Now I was watching the person closest to me having sex out in the open not ten feet from where I was standing. My own dick got as hard as the wolf's must have been. When they were done, Lupe ran off, and the wolf ran after her.
I did cross to the house then, and get my axe. I also got some firewood. I brushed a clear space in front of the barn door and built a bonfire there. I brought some gasoline from the kitchen, and a burning stick on another trip. Before wolf came back -- and I figure he must have though I didn't see him -- there was a fire burning in front of the barn door. I pissed a line in the snow between the fire and the barn.
I don't know if any of that did any good. Maybe Lupe convinced the wolf that Harry and me belonged to her. Anyway, I didn't see him again. After a while, though, it became clear that Lupe was carrying another litter. Only one cub, this time; and showed her father in her long hair. When she was tiny, the hair was longest on her tail. Stuck way out, 'most as big as the rest of her at first. Next time I was in Lauther's I saw some tool that looked just like the cub's tail. "What's that?" I asked.
"Bottle brush, want one?" Well, I didn't have any use for one, but that's what I started to call the cub.
The "brush" part of her name dropped off as the hair on her tail started to behave, but Bottle became my favorite of all the cube Lupe had ever borne. I was fourteen by then, able to look after her. Harry not being much fun for a cub and Lupe needing a lot of time for hunting, Bottle and I were thrown together.
I got a better plow cheap from a farmer who'd sold off his mule a couple of years before, and plowed more than even Mom had. I knew what I was doing, now. What I didn't know was how I was going to get through until harvest. Lupe started chewing and swallowing all the game she caught. She'd throw it up again for Bottle to eat, but not for me. Not that I was particularly interested.
The crisis came as spring was turning into summer. I had bought a metal pitchfork and was turning over the little hay we had stored for Harry. I turned over one pile and a stink rose. Since Harry could eat pasture for half his needs, we had what I figured as two months of hay stored, and three months of time to go until I could cut more. When I had thrown out the deeply rotted stuff, what was left was less than Harry ate in a week.
I didn't have enough food for me. I didn't have any food to share with Lupe when hunting was scarce. And Lupe was, after all, eating for two. Now I didn't have enough food for Harry. He was old, and some days during plowing season I had to take him out of harness not long after noon. Farmers all around were getting rid of their horses. I couldn't see anybody paying for Harry. 'Sides, I needed meat.
I got a couple of the last turnips from the root cellar, and took them, a couple of knives, and the axe with me to where Harry was trying to get a meal from a pasture he'd eaten over last week. I put one turnip down by a fence pole. Harry ate it and looked up at me. I tossed a rope around his head and tightened it way high on his neck. When he bent down for the next turnip, I tied the other end of the rope low on the fence pole. He couldn't raise his head. Before he worried about that, I threw down the last three turnips. As he bent down to get the treats, I swung the axe overhand to hit the back of his skull. He dropped, at least stunned. I took a better swing, and split his skull.
After that, all I had to do was cut him up. I roasted all the meat and half the organs that day and the next. The parts I wouldn't take, lungs stomach and guts, I left out for Lupe. And I smoked the roasted meat over the next week.
Well, from one plowing period to the next, Harry had made more work than he eased. We got through the summer with me walking to Lauther's store to buy the occasional bag of flour or beans. The checks kept coming in. I looked through Mom's records to find a checking account she used. I practiced her healthy signature again, and deposited some of the rent and interest checks. Some of my purchases were made from that account.
Meanwhile, I had fun with Bottle when I wasn't working. Mom had never let Lupe in the house, let alone her cubs, but I played inside with Bottle in bad weather. Harvest time, I sold the hay standing. I didn't get much, but I could concentrate on the truck I'd planted for me. I figured it was enough for the year.
When I got the royalty check, I took it down to Jennings with a check on Mom's bank account that paid the tax up to date. I walked there, mebbe five miles; and Jennings asked about Harry. "Don't tell Sarah," I said. "We had to put him down. Less work this way, but I don't know how I'll get the plowing done."
"Well," he said, "he was getting old. You're right about Sarah, though. There's people with tractors who plow other people's fields for hire. Want to consider that? Could you afford to pay them?"
"Just about. Couldn't afford not to." Nobody thereabouts admitted to having an extra cent, and -- dressed in my Mom's old coat and living on a tiny hill farm -- I was more believable talking poor than many.
I wasn't Mom's size yet, but my feet were getting too big for her shoes. I bought a pair from Lauther, and -- later in the year -- pants and shirt as well. I still dressed in Mom's clothes around the farm, but I wore my own on trips to the store. The coat and the padding of sweaters didn't make anybody blink. Wear what keeps you warm. Sometimes I wore the pants under Mom's dresses on the farm in cold weather.
Bryant, a neighboring farmer, heard from Jennings that I was looking for somebody to plow the field. He offered to do the whole thing for $100. He took a few hours sitting down to do what used to wear me out, to say nothing of wearing Harry out, for more than a week. Since I didn't put in any hay, sowing was loads more work; and I had to buy some potato eyes from Bryant, too. Still, I had much more than Mom had ever planted for humans with less than half the work.