Mark J. Bamberger, Ph.D., J.D.
On a bright, late October of 2012 day, Blue Knights XXIX decided to ride west. We left our club meeting in Springboro, Ohio and headed west toward the Indiana state line. One of our favorite club rides is to head west on State Route 725 through Gratis and north of Hueston Woods State Park outside of Oxford, then hit the Indiana line and continue west, then south towards Batesville and back east around Cincinnati, Ohio.
Riding a variety of bikes, from smaller Harley Sportsters to Honda Goldwings to Harley Road Kings, a v-formed lines of nine bikes ran smoothly through beloved Ohio back roads and into Indiana. It did not strike this author until about 100 miles were behind us that our daylong ride through brilliant and surprisingly warm Fall sunshine was taking us right through Brookville, Indiana; the home of my wolves.
Well, they aren’t actually “my” wolves. I adopted them some years back when I first found out about the Wolf Creek Wolf Habitat & Rescue Center in Brookville, Indiana (www.wolfcreekhabitat.org). Located in a forested valley just west of Cincinnati, Ohio, Wolf Creek formed some 20 years ago when Owner Kathy Baudendistel started rescuing wolves from places where they might have been euthanized. Now, Wolf Creek has between 25-30 wolves, including a few hybrids, which Kathy and her all-volunteer staff feed, love on, and provide a safe and protected home.
I had an idea. Since we were riding right through Brookville, why not stop and say hi to my wolves? The others in the MC looked at me as though I had a second nose on my face. A myriad of cat calls and jokes echoed from the crowd. “They will find me tasty” one said. “I have no interest in that” said another. As we parked our bikes and walked into the compound, I explained that the wolves have been studied and separated into packs; some more wild and less socialized and some perfectly accepting of human presence. We walked into the visitor center and were immediately surrounded by the sounds, smells, and pictures of wolves, young, strong, and old. From only two of us willing to go in and sit with the wolves, I was able to talk all nine of the hard-edged bikers to interact with the packs.
Owner Kathy was out in the field working on the teepee that the group was constructing for their upcoming Native American ceremony the following week. Greeting Kathy with a hug, I introduced her to the rest of the crew. This was the fourth time I had been there, but the first for everyone else. They were pensive as we signed the obligatory release form and then entered with our guide the first pen. It was there that my friends saw the large, beautiful animals viewing us with some trepidation.
Sitting on a closed water tank, we waited about two minutes until the first wolf walked over to us, sniffed, then licked a barrel-chested, vest-wearing biker’s face. Ironically, it was the biker who made the “…they will find me tasty” comment. She did, but limited her exposure to a mere sniff and kiss; then walked timidly away.
Wolves have wonderful memory. It had been six months since my last visit, yet several of the wolves walked up to me with kisses and an allowance of me petting their backs and ears. My old friend Yukon was there as well. An older male, Yukon is a long-time resident at Wolf Creek. Yukon is the alpha male of his pack, but time and age has rendered it more difficult for him to hold that esteemed status. Through the next hour or so, we enjoyed warm relations with about seven of the wolves. On our way out, a noise from afar started a group howl. It sent chills down our collective spine to hear more than 20 wolves in a simultaneous howl to the sky that lasted about three minutes.
There was little comment other than general voiced approval from my biker-vested buddies as the ride leader led us out of the area and back onto our route. As I moved south on my Sportster, I felt a unexplained warmth move through me. I found myself sitting an inch or two higher on my bike seat. I got a tad emotional as I thought of the joy from introducing this most precious part of my life to my biker friends. One important aspect of my life had joined another. As an attorney, I have tried to provide what little legal assistance I can to Kathy and Wolf Creek. I wish I could give more of my time; some day I hope to do just that.
These are men of few words at times and they were not immediately expressive of how this experience had moved them. Yet, as the days passed after our run to the wolves, comments began to surface that demonstrated that this visit moved them as it always moves me. “I can’t wait to go back” said one friend. “I took my girlfriend back the next weekend and she can’t stop talking about it” said another brother. ‘Let’s make this a regular ride” said the MC Secretary.
All rides with my MC brothers and sisters are meaningful to me. They all enhance our friendship, our bond and commitment to each other, and memories of those lost and gone or otherwise engaged and not with us. However the run to the wolves will always top them all in my mind. I count the days until the next one comes.
MJB, Spring Valley, Ohio 4/13