Saturday, September 10, 2022

Eric and the Wolves


Wolves Attack by Afanasij Sheloumoff with permission

This wonderful old story was told to me when I was a small boy by my great aunt "Kitty", the daughter of Henry Clutton the architect. She would read to us from a lovely collection of books seeding at an early age in all of us children and appreciation for good stories. The poem is published in the book "A Shell In My Pocket"

There are many tales of valor

That fill out history’s pages,

They touch our hearts when they are told

And ring down through the ages.

The Russian snows have many woes

That only courage resolves,

Not least the tale that will not pale

Of Eric and the wolves.

Eric was a Cossack lad

Who loved his master dearly.

He loved his mistress and their children

One could see that clearly.

At their lovely country manse

Through summer and the fall

Eric did the chores and errands

At their beck and call.

And should the day be fair and dry

He might take the children riding,

Down to the river’s shaded rills

Where sturgeon might be hiding.

Towards the end of autumn

When leaves come flittering down,

They start to think of closing up

And driving back to town.

Their route was through the forest

Then across the barren waste

To reach the gates of Rostock,

For safety they made haste.

That year the snows came early,

So Eric went out to the barn

To prepare the troika sled

For their safe return.

The family’s trunks and travel chests

Were tied to the luggage rack,

The lunch boxes and comfy throws

Stowed neatly in the back.

The horses had been watered,

Hitched up with buckle and lash,

And the whip and trusty Mosin

Were set beside the dash.

With doors and windows bolted

And house closed for the freeze,

They climbed up on the well stuffed seat

With blankets on their knees.

Eric was the driver,

At the reins he took his seat

With “walk on” the dunga bells

Went chinging to the beat

As off they go a trotting,

Trot trot trotting through the snow,

Each horse with a breast collar

And one with shafts and bow.

The side steeds at the canter

As they slip down the lane,

Past the fields to the forest

Heading back to town again.

Morning still was early,

The sun was on the rise,

On the ridge as they go trotting on

A group of wolves he spies.

With a “Trot Hup” Eric was singing

And the donga bells were chinging

“Troika here, troika there, 

To the town and to the fair,

Troika here, troika there 

Leather stuffed with horses hair,

Troika here , troika there, 

Omsk is just a bit too far.

Troika here, Troika there, 

Long live our beloved Tzar.”

As he sang they gained the forest

Slipping down the narrow lane

Past the naked stands of trees

Heading back to town again.

But still he saw them prowling,

And then they started howling

Howling and a prowling 

Keeping pace upon the brow.

The family members feared 

As the growing danger neared,

And the father armed the Mosin

As he could see them now.

“Trot hup” demanded Eric 

As he slapped upon the reins

And the horses strode on faster

And the blood pulsed in their veins.

Running then and galloping 

They’d picked up the pace,

The yapping wolves in a pack

Started to give chase.

On they came and closer

And the master took his time,

Barrel on the seat back

He waited for a line.

Finally the lead dog 

Was nearly on the sleigh

Then crack the forest rattled 

The wolf yelped in dismay.

The pack paused in their gambit,

They broke to make review

But in a trice a second beast

Took up pursuit anew.

On they came and quickly

The horses were at risk,

A second shot rang out but oh!

Misfortune, for it missed.

The third round hit the target

At which the whole pack reared,

They had now learned that gun shots

Were something to be feared.

But though they faltered and held back,

Some others on the hill

Were calling to each other

And chasing with a will.

Down they leapt together

Attacking from the side,

Eric snapped his whip

And it became a wild ride.

The horses now were frantic

Their breath steamed in the air,

The first wolf leapt, the rifle cracked 

And stopped it then and there.

The rest dropped back sniff him, 

For a moment there was doubt,

There were only two rounds left

In magazine and spout.

The team kept charging forwards

In fear they made haste,

Before them was the forest edge

And then the barren waste.

Faintly in the distance

Could be seen the Rostock walls

With its gaudy mechet steeples

And the safety of its halls.

Onward ever onward

They surge across the plain

But leaping on relentlessly

The wolves catch up again.

“Here take the reins.” cried Eric

To his master in the back

“Let me try to fend them off

When they next attack.”

So switching their positions

Eric manned the rear

Waiting till the lead was close

And the shot was clear.

Then crack the rifle echoed

The target fell away

Slowing the accomplices

Faltering in dismay.

In a trice they rallied

As fervent as before,

Leaping forwards through the snow

Gaining more and more.

Once close enough and sighted

The rifle gave its crack

But that demise did not deter

The others in attack.

Reaching for reinforcements

Eric seized the whip

Lashing out repeatedly

He made them feel its tip.

Each snap sent one yelping

As its snout was slashed,

But threats did not diminish 

For on the others dashed.

The horses were the target

As wolves came from the rear,

So Eric clambered up to

Ride postilion without fear,

Thrashing to the left and right

He kept the beasts at bay,

But some thing different must be done

If he’s to save the day.

Now half way across the plain

Eric knew what it would take,

The foes would need distracting

If they were to reach the gate.

Should a horse be taken down

It can’t be cut away,

The sleigh would stop and nothing

Could keep the wolves at bay.

So Eric jumped and ran off

With the whip in hand

Instantly the pack gave chase

Just the way he planned. 

He turned on them to stand his ground

The wolves leapt on to him.

While the troika got away

They tore him limb from limb.

The watchers on the Rostock gate

Could hear the dunga ching,

They gave the signal of alarm 

To let the travelers in.

The moment that they entered

The gates were then secured

Saving horses and the troika

And the family Eric adored.

There are many tales of valor

That fill out history’s pages,

They touch our hearts when they are told

And ring down through the ages.

The Russian snows have many woes

That only courage resolves,

Not least the tale that will not pale

Of Eric and the wolves.