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MailTribune.com
  • Another life in the woods

  • The bumper sticker was a sad reminder of his unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2012, but it still carried the candidate's message — as relevant today as when first brought before the public.
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  • The bumper sticker was a sad reminder of his unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2012, but it still carried the candidate's message — as relevant today as when first brought before the public.
    "What Would OR-7 Do?"
    Would a young man who himself has been the victim of government surveillance without his consent throw the book at Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden? Would he drone-bomb Syria, evict the residents of Tipi Village, or cast Ben Affleck as Batman?
    We can guess his views on gun control.
    Our fascination with the wandering lone wolf is built into our DNA. The outlier, the separatist, the individual always has been a stronger draw than those who choose to run with the crowd. We might be devoted to our sports teams or musical groups ... but the question always boils down to naming your favorite player, your favorite Beatle.
    There's no such problem with the wolves that roam the forests and hinterlands of the Northwest. There is OR-7 "¦ and there is everyone else. He's the leader of the pack, even without a pack to lead.
    "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately," Thoreau writes in "Walden," "to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach."
    We consider OR-7 and we imagine Thoreau's kindred spirit sucking the marrow out of life, without the restrictions we place upon ourselves. That we rarely see him beyond a few fuzzy images and scattered paw prints adds to our envy.
    That yin-yang of seeming absence and continual presence allows us to share in his experience vicariously as he moves from Southern Oregon to Northern California and back again — an accidental tourist spared the boredom of I-5 and the need to check his produce at the state line.
    What appears to us as the inability to settle down might just be OR-7 marking his territory (without sending a sample to the chairman of the Oregon Republican Party). In this endeavor, he — OR-7, not Art Robinson — has mapped out the confines of his own state of Jefferson "¦ where he can be president without thoughts of secession or the whim of who the humans put in office.
    "I fully support returning the management of wolves back to the states," U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, wrote to his constituents, "where the wolves can be managed for the unique and individual needs of each state's communities and wildlife."
    Ah yes, control by the state. Who can blame OR-7 for staying out of sight when his future is in the hands of those who destroyed murrelet habitat over a paperwork snafu while enhancing a breeding ground for mosquitoes just prior to West Nile season?
    He's a quiet guy, keeps to himself, only hunts what he eats — O-7, not Rep. Walden. If this were a three-paragraph news story, the subject in question would be considered a sociopath, a serial killer or a survivalist.
    Maybe OR-7 has other reasons for staking out his ground in our little triangle of the world. Could he just be depressed from all that loneliness — a howling wolf moanin' in the moolight — and needs a consistent supply of marijuana "¦ for medicinal purposes only, of course.
    That's the other side of the coin, obviously, to our admiration for this solitude almost completely unencumbered by humanity. His theoretical loneliness, his lack of companionship, his apparent need for a mate.
    How's the love life, big guy?
    Now, if this were a televised reality series, we'd have planted potential partners in OR-7's path long before this. Arranged dates, visits to the folks back home, cameras following them to judge reactions after they said good night.
    After weeks of viewer voting, we could narrow the choice down to a couple of finalists for OR-7 to choose between. Or, you know, take'em both "¦ it's not as though he'd need the state to sanction his marriage.
    Unless, of course "¦ nah, couldn't be ... could it? I mean, not that there's anything wrong with that "¦ but "¦ might the reason OR-7 wanders through his life of quite desperation be that he's gay?
    (Didn't think I was going to go there, did you?)
    We anthropomorphize so naturally in all other human characteristics, perhaps we're missing the bigger picture here. OR-7's lack of luck in love might just be that he still hasn't found what he's looking for.
    That there's a 9.0 shock to the tectonic plates to knock the two socks right off of you, too, right?
    Before we stray too far afield (before?), back to Walden — Thoreau, not Greg.
    "The animal merely makes a bed, which he warms with his body in a sheltered place; but man, having discovered fire, boxes up some air in a spacious apartment, and warms that, instead of robbing himself, makes that his bed, in which he can move about divested of more cumbrous clothing, maintain a kind of summer in the midst of winter, and by means of windows even admit the light and with a lamp lengthen out the day."
    OR-7 lives among us and without us. We track the ping from his collar and need updates on his travels and think of ourselves at his side — away from the noise, the regulations, the conformity that have followed from our discovery of fire.
    He finds his bed in nature. We've made ours through nurture, and so we lie in it.
    Soon, his tracking device will stop sending signals and, like Voyager, he'll leave the boundaries of our universe. The memory will fade, the wistfulness will return, the natural light of summer will turn to the artificiality of winter.
    And, somewhere in Oregon or California, OR-7 will continue to make his own discoveries, confront his own dangers, face his own mortality. And never know we cared.
    Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin can be reached at rgalvin@mailtribune.com.
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