Topic: "Almost Heaven" (2)
Frodo felt like a fifth wheel a few days ago, so he started looking around for something to occupy the time available. For many years he had seen highway signs directing traffic to the "Bays Mountain Planetarium" just outside Kingsport, Tennessee. Having once visited the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, Frodo fondly recalled his fascination with the known heavens broadcast upon the cupola of a darkened theatre setting. So Frodo piled into his motorcar and set course for the unknown.
The setting for the Bays Mountain Planetarium and Nature Center is on the shores of a pristine mountain lake in the midst of a magnificent deciduous forest. The $3 admission charge to this Kingsport City Park, and a $1 admission to the planetarium itself was adequate to cover all of Frodo's time available for the afternoon. The wild turkeys running loose in the forest near the front gate told Frodo that he had made a wise investment.
Since Frodo had a couple of hours to stroll the wildlife exhibits, and not really anticipating very much, before the "show" in the Planetarium itself, he first took off for the "Raptors." The volunteer who was there had a black turkey buzzard on her arm, and she patiently explained to Frodo all that he had ever wanted to know about buzzards. She also explained that all of the creatures there had been rescued and were unable to return to the wild. As they spoke, Frodo heard a low, unearthly, moan, and with it came the absolute silence of the forest.
"Is that what I think it was?," asked Frodo. "No," she said, "that is one of the handlers of the wolves, but listen now to the response."
There were no sounds anywhere in the world but the slow responses of half-a-dozen wolves, each answering the call, singularly responding to indicate individual location for the purpose of the pack. Frodo said later that it "was a profound religious experience," to hear, perhaps as the earliest of hominids had, the plaintive cry of a competing predator in the open forest. Frodo had never heard these sounds in such a setting, and only his soul could capture the tingle of each hair rising attentively on the back of his neck. When the forest grew silent again, Frodo walked to the edge of the enclosure and searched for the lair of each of those who had serenaded him.
What incredible strength and wisdom Frodo's forebears more than 100 generations ago must have had, to reach out a hand to such a formidable competitor.
When the "show" began in the Planetarium, Frodo leaned back in the darkness, peering at the faux night sky, and imagined the cry of the wolf.