Archive for January, 2017

Deer Life: Anecdotes & Legends from the Deep Woods, PART TWO

January 11, 2017

Deer Life: Anecdotes and Legends from the Deep Woods, PART TWO

The fawn’s grandmother was already grazing in this part of the woods where winter fodder was plentiful and fresh water gurgled, where deer were less disturbed by the hunters.

In the spring, the vast Northern snow-trap dissolves, and deer are free to roam all green summer. During the season of leaves and freedom their wanderings cover three hundred acres.

But winter snow layered with ice often adds up to six feet in the deep woods, and that reduces deer roaming space by nine tenths. With other kin in the winter they trample down the snow in their deeryard haunt, eat the cedar and grow a little leaner, holding out for greener days.
Now, with a dozen does and fawns already there in that refuge with granny, the fawn felt welcome, safe and sound. The time of the stuck leg and terrified heartbeats had passed.

Immediately granny saw the little scratch on the fawn’s shin, sniffed it, licked it. The whiskers around her mouth took turns at dancing as she chewed her cud and listened.

Grandmama had given birth to many fawns. Her first was a single birth. Then she had a series of twins. Twice she had three. One time she had four–a rarity. Her last delivery was small but he grew to a twe lve point buck. Now she gave birth no more. Now she led the offspring of her offspring, slower now, but full of the rhythms of endurance, full of patience and strength.

A sheer veil of snow was now covering her.

A wet snow drop or a drip of crystally rain touched her nose and she saw that soon it would be raining. Before long the snow that filled the air was so wet that it splashed when it hit. The dark sky was soon sending down strange waves of rain. The deer took shelter under a couple of tall thick fir trees. Their thick winter coats of hollow hairs kept out the damp chill.

Grandmama kept her ears cocked and sniffed in the direction of a stiff wind which had come up and was now dumping cold water drops from the cedar boughs above. She knew another change was coming, a freeze.

The rigors of winter are tests for deer. One slip-up and survival becomes grimmer and slimmer. They fly through jewelweed-meadowed summer, feasting on bittersweet leaves after giving birth in the densest thickets, with new buds and berries, flowers, seeds and fruits all opening, ripening each in its own time, smelling fine, tasting delightful. The warm sun and cool night make for easy sleeping, and there’s plenty of water, and even salt sometimes.
The does timidly approach the salt lick in spring; then the bucks do, their antlers “in velvet.” In summer the does grow more timid, but you still might see them, there in the moonlight. In summer their fulvous color, clay or bark toned, is a speedy streak, if seen at all.
Leaves and stems are in easy reach and the pad of bony gum tissue in deers’ upper jaws can break twigs off to chew in the sunshine. But winter is the bitter killer — snow-covered food, hooves slowed down by layers of ice, slender legs poking riskily through deep snow. For deer it is a constant struggle in North woods winters, to stay out of harm’s way.

In the rain a fox barked. The air began to feel colder; still raining slush the night passed and the deer slept together shivering beneath firs.
In the morning the fawn creaked awake. It had turned very cold, and everything was covered with a layer of ice, including her coat. Trees were popping even though the sun was brightening up all the icy surfaces, and when the wind blew, the trees would crack and crinkle ice. Snow and ice squeaked and crunched harshly beneath hooves; a warning bluejay called.
Grandmama had a worried look. An airplane scraped across the sky, harshly breaking the cold air where no clouds were scudding. The bluejay returned, screaming his warning in a raspy harsh cry again, and then was gone.
The fawn tried to shake off the night’s ice. Two does looked toward her, then stole away with tails and heads down. In a moment they burst into a full run, white danger-signal flag-tails now high, springing away.

The fawn turned, smelling a new scent. There, bristling with ice that seemed to spark like fire in the dawn sun, stood a moose. His horns were like the roots of two overturned trees, and he was tall as a hill-moose can get. Whitetail deer protect their lives by hightailing it. A moose can come into deers’ winter browsing grounds and bully them away, charging the bucks. Then they eat the higher branches as well as the lower ones, no whitetails to compete with.
Granny was leading, and the fawn sprang like she was trying to run in a dream, higher, farther, gone; but the snow crunched painfully, being glazed on top by the layer of crusty ice.
The bluejay screamed and squalled some more. They stopped when they felt safe, and chewed some icy hardwood twigs and a hemlock sprig or two which a squirrel had dropped in his work of getting hemlock cones for himself.

A dog-like or wolf-like howl faintly rose in the distance, then faded to nothing.
The two came to higher ground, the sun warming them a little, and ate whatever twigs and little branches they could find.
The bluejay cried again and they half-expected to have to run from the moose again, but instead they heard a wolf now. Granny led through a hardwood slope away from the sound; and the deer stopped to listen again. The hardwood trees, farther apart than the softwood, let more sun in. A cold wind was blowing hard. When they had just about forgotten the wolves they heard one again, closer than before.
They moved fast; dusk was coming. But when they stopped in low lying land by a brook, wolf voices sounded nearer yet, this time mingling with the water’s stern icy gurgle and under-ice bubble sounds.
Soon a fierce grey-black wolf was upon them. They ran harum-scarum and granny put herself in the way. Like a mother partridge feigning a broken wing to distract attention from her escaping brood, she caught the wolf’s eye, offering herself as easy prey. The wolf slanted his head quizzically, as if wondering what more-than-met-the-eye might be going on.

Sometimes the ravens act as advance scouts, they call out and alert the wolves to the fact that the deer are near, and later get their cut– the clean up the scraps of meat on the bones the wolves leave behind. (Wolves eat the entrails first, soft tissue organs—heart, kidneys, intestines, lungs and spleen.) But this time it seems the ravens made a commotion with wings and squawks alerting the white deer that the wolves were on the coming up on the fawn and the grandmother deer. The white deer took their clue and arrived to disturb the plans of the wolves.

The fawn leapt and ran and then was alone after bounding and bounding until she could not go on — the ice cut at her legs, her lungs were exhausted. She had to catch her breath.
As she slowly paced the ridge above an old logging road near huge snow-capped boulders she thought of her grandmother. A partridge under ice-covered snow moved then at her hooves. She’d been imprisoned there since the freezing rain and was trapped where she slept. Then a noise downhill scared the fawn, who stood still beneath a beechnut tree.
The fawn saw a local hunter, Azro Whipple, Jr., as a blast of wind bent the branches of the beech tree and cracked the ice, and the fawn slipped over to the huge stones. She fit perfectly between two of these beeches, nestling there, chewing her cud. There was nothing else to do.

Around a fire Azro Whipple Jr. the Fifth and two other hunters, Al Peet and Norman Nordlinger, sat and talked. Al asked Azro “Do you think there’s any truth to the stories I heard that there’s a white stag here in these woods?”
“No. Well, maybe. I mean, I heard the story from my grandpa about how he found his land when he first got to Vermont– and it started with a white stag. Yah, a white stag appeared up on the crest of a hill when my great great great grandpa was out in the wilderness hunting. A stag white as the driven snow from the highest cloud, bigger by far than any stag you ever did see. The story goes, he stood there till grampa was so close to him that he felt like he could just reach out and touch his antlers with his hand. Just then the white stag spun and leaped off, light as sunlight flashing in brook water. Legs long and slim and limber and full of spring like white birch branches, fast. That buck he ran off through the forests and valleys, up over mountains, almost getting out of sight up ahead, again and again. Grampa followed him on horseback, galloping after the deer with more determination than he ever had felt before, following the deer all night long in the moonlight in fact. When morning dawned he saw the white stag a few hundred feet away, standing there stopped by a big blue lake with swirls of white mist slowly rising up from the surface. Grampa said when he tried to get his horse to go closer the horse just balked, too tired to go any further. The white stag stood hoofing the wet ground there, and shook his head from side to side, with his tree-branch antlers making you dizzy, then vanished into that strange mist. Grampa rode the horse out into the water, but the deer was gone. He noticed back on the shore that the place where the deer had hoofed at the ground had big grooves dug there. Grampa saw there were lots of fish the lake, and partridges in the woods there. There were apple trees and blueberries, fiddlehead ferns and wildflowers all over the place. He rested for a while, then decided to go home. The white deer led him to that lake in a few hours, and it took a long time — several days at least — to get back to land he recognized. He never could figure that out. And I never saw a white stag, though I used to look for him, when I was a kid. So I just stopped believing there was a white deer in the mountains. I guess. Anyway what’s the big deal about an albino deer? Even if it’s one in a million.”
“Azro, are you sure that was your grandfather told you that story? It sounds like a story I had read to me before I went to sleep at night when I was a kid.” Al Peet said.
Azro Jr. said, “That’s what grampa told me. Are you calling me a liar?”
“No, no. But I heard that story read to me from a book,” Al Peet said.
“Well maybe somebody wrote down grampa’s story. He told it to me time and again. And he told me that in the old days Siberians had a ritual where they’d sit on the back of a reindeer—they said the reindeer could fly to the sun with you on his back, and you’d receive a blessing there, and then the deer would fly you back to earth. Siberians have a drink called ‘Deer Antler Vodka, it infuses the drinker with the spirit of the deer.”
Al Peet said, “Jeez, I never heard that one. And I’ve never been to Siberia, or flown to the sun on the back of a reindeer for that matter. But who knows, maybe it’s not just pigs that can fly!” They all laughed, relieved that a fight about lying wasn’t about to break out after all.
“I guess none of us has flown to the sun,” said Azro Jr. philosophically. He spit some tobacco juice on the snow. “Those old stories are kinda fanciful. Tales you tell to kids.”
Norman Nordlinger said, “I know a guy so dumb, he tracked a deer backwards, to where it was comin’ from, instead of where it was goin’ to. Stupid.” And everybody laughed again.
Al Peet said, “My uncle Delbert was the biggest liar I ever knew. He used to say one time he was out huntin’ deer, and in his lunch he had a piece of cherry pie. He ate it and spit out the seeds, and just then a big buck came along. His gun wasn’t loaded and the bullets were not nearby, so he loaded the gun with those cherry pits and shot the deer as he grazed. The deer seemed stunned but then ran off. He said a few years later he saw the same buck, and there was a cherry tree growing up outta his head, along with the two big antlers? Uncle Delbert was the biggest liar I ever knew! When we were kids we believed anything he said, almost.”
“That was a sorry story in the news last week– about that 17 year old kid,” Al Peet said.
“What story was that?” Azro asked.

Al Peet said, “My folks came from down in Virginia. They tell the story there about the first settlers in Roanoke– summer of 1587 was when they arrived. Those folks know their history down there. Remember how Elenor Dare, one of the settlers soon gave birth to a daughter– first Christian born in this land. She named her daughter ‘Virginia.’ Indians called the mother ‘White Doe,’ ‘cause she was pale and elegant, and called her daughter ‘White Fawn.’”
“Man, You got a good history memory, Al. That was a long time ago.”
“I have a book. Ever so often I read it. Anyway, life was hard in those days and Virginia died. Whether it was in infancy, or as a young lady, whether in some accident, or famine or a terrible tragedy– no one knows. The records show that some hostile Indians massacred the settlers and that six males and one maid escaped– maybe that maid was Virginia. In that case she grew up to be a young lady. In some stories they say an Indian named Wanchese fell in love with her before she died. But in any case there was a legend that after Virginia died– however it happened– she became a ‘spritely white fawn,’ ‘an elfin spirit’ in the body of a beautiful white fawn who was often seen frisking around where Virginia was born, or looking out to sea with a thoughtful stare. And sometime around 1615 or 1620 the Indian hunters on Roanoke Island kept seeing that white doe, the fastest of all the deer there, and it seemed to taunt them. Even the best archers in the tribe couldn’t slay her. She sprang over the sand hills near where Virginia Dare had once lived, and seemed to live a charmed life– no one could bring her down. Some said it was a good omen, others that it was a harmful ghost haunting the land. They’d see her in the swamps, on the hills, in the cranberry bogs, always beautiful and seeming sorrowful. The chiefs had a council and decided to have a hunt late in the year when the leaves were all fallen. All the hunters took part, determined that together they would take down the white doe. Manteo, the first Indian baptized there, took part; he tried but couldn’t kill the deer. Another hunter, Wanchese, who had fallen in love with Virginia while she was still alive, was told by somebody that if the white doe was really the spirit of Virginia, she would turn back into a woman if he could pierce her heart. Wanchese had been to England and had received from the Queen there a unique gift– a solid silver arrowhead. Now all the other hunters had chased the white doe and aimed their arrows and missed, but when Wanchese aimed his silver arrow it pierced the white doe’s heart. Some say when Wanchese went to the fallen doe he seemed to hear a sound like ‘Virginia Dare’ in the last gurgling blood that whispered through the white doe’s throat.”
Azro said, “That’s some tall tale, Al. Maybe you’re a reincarnation of Wanchese, for all I know. You do ever so often seem to ‘want’ some ‘cheese,’ the way you order those grilled cheese sandwiches down at the Miss Vermont Diner. I want cheese, I want cheese!” The men laughed.
Azro spit again and said. “OK, enough! Now I’m going in that direction. West. You go that way and that way.” He motioned with hand signals East and South and they agreed.
The full moon was bright in the clear sky and soon its light was the only light there was. Stars play their part — they tickle deers’ eyes and guide them, and they demarcate seasons, but their delicate light will not make for a clear walk for humans in the dark winter woods.
Azro Jr. walked West with his gun ready to shoot. He walked West for a long time, and then he saw a lean buck on a hillside.
Azro Jr. killed the big lean buck who had not long before challenged the White Stag. He knew the deer, though lean, was too big for him to lug out, and Azro also knew that it was too dark to find his way out of the woods.
He cleaned the warm deer with his Bowie knife and as he emptied the stomach of its intestines and unfroze his own hands in its red-blooded flesh, the large space of the cavity gave him an idea. Maybe he could stay warm that night by crawling inside the hollowed carcass, since he had no blanket and he was freezing. He finished opening up the buck, and cleaned it to the brisket, so it could better accommodate his own lean frame. Then he crawled inside to sleep. The fawn by the boulders watched with curiosity and wonder, chewing her cud.
By morning the cold wind had frozen Azro inside the icy carcass. Only his arms and legs were free. The deer carcass had frozen so solid that Azro could not extricate himself. He started crawling on his fleece-gloved hands and icy-pantsed knees along the old logging road toward home. From a distance human could barely see Azro’s legs, if at all; one could only see the noble head and stately rack and the back of the buck moving slowly along with a strange steadiness, as Azro crawled.
An out-of-state hunter in red flannel was taking aim at this slow-moving in-season deer.
Then, from the corner of his eye, Azro saw the hunter and said “O moy Gawd! No you don’t!” Just then he also saw the white stag appear from nowhere, bounding gracefully between the gun and the target, distracting the hunter. In the commotion, Azro yelled out some more and fell over, and the amazed hunter ran toward him to investigate. “This is the damnest thing I’ve ever seen in my life! I thought you were a deer! Do you realize you’re inside a dead deer?”
“I can explain. Help me. Get me out of this thing and I’ll tell you,” Azro said.

Seven years later stubbly-faced Azro Whipple was jacking deer late one night. He shot at one who was so white it seemed dreamlike. He fired, and like a streak of milk it dashed away from the beam. “Jeezum Crow! How could I have missed him? He was so bright and white!” Then he remembered: “That was the buck that saved my life.”
He felt happy and sad. Azro remembered the first deer he’d ever killed. Azro liked to act like he never felt sad or sorry at any time in his life. “Sentimental stuff is for whine-baby sissies,” he said. But now he felt sadness, the same sadness that flowed into the empty space around him after he shot his first buck with a twelve gage shotgun. He’d wounded that buck in the back and the deer had tried to drag himself into the forest. Azro had used a big rock to finish the deer off, making a bloody mess. The sadness he had felt and banished that day was back.
Azro always scorned those who said it took guts to kill a big beautiful animal. “What are you talkin’ about? You just pull the trigger. It’s no big deal—it’s just the life of some dumb animal. What are you talking about? We’re just harvesting the surplus!” But now somehow the feelings of sadness, and even thoughts of his own eventual death came flooding in on him.
Azro remembered the story his mother had told him long ago. How her father had found a fawn once. The fawn was starving one winter when there was too much ice and snow, so weak she could barely move. Azro’s mother’s father had fed that little deer some moss from under the snow, and she gradually gained more strength. Eventually she was able to bound off into the woods to freedom. Azro’s mother had said that when her father was old and sick he went out and got more of that same kind of moss and ate it himself, and went on to live a long long life.
Azro thought again of the bright white buck’s sudden appearance and disappearance, and sighed after it flashed in his memory. He could not understand the sadness, but he could not quickly kill it, either. He wished he could remember what kind of moss was so damn healthy it gave you a long long life.
When he told his friends about the white buck one of their wives seemed very curious.
“Were the white buck’s antlers brown, tan, or white?” she asked.
“Why?” he asked, “Are you gonna paint it for a Christmas card?”
“Because the whole thing is a mystery of nature.”
“How do you figure?”
“Maybe the antlers of a great buck should make us a little more modest, if we stopped and thought about it. I read that when those horns are lost new ones just like them grow right back. Other mammals can’t regenerate a lost organ like that, and antlers are complicated and big. Did you know the antlers of a 440-pound red buck, can weigh as much as 66 pounds, and they grow that big in about three months?”
“No. And with all due respect, except for Ripley’s, who has time to care about that kind of statistic anyway?”
When Azro went into the hardware store, a Candian hunter was standing at the counter telling the cashier a tale about the white buck. “I saw him off in the distance, while I stretched my legs and took a leak, ay. And ever so quiet I crept, to get my gun where I left it. An’ when I looked back, there the damn thing was—gone!”

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Deer Life: Anecdotes & Legends from the Deep Woods

January 9, 2017

PART ONE.

Deer hunting season in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

“Where are all the deer?” asked Red Plaid Flannel.

“Must be they’re on the ridges,” said Green Wool with Neon Orange Hat.

Red Plaid sighed and climbed up to the ridge…

Another hunter entirely in Day-glo Orange with a little gray beard was sitting atop it peering out.

“Where are all the deer?” asked Red Plaid.

“Must be they’re in the swamps, Oy guess. Here, try some of this,” said Orange man.

“What is it?” “Old Stinky Skunk Scent,” Orange man said, handing him the little bottle. “It’s fool- proof– drip some on your shirt. It covers the smell of human beings. When deer smell humans it makes them stay away. Deer can smell a lot better than humans can, ya know.”

“I already got some Red Fox Urine Scent drizzled on my pants– the deer don’t run away from it, the ads say.”

“Suit yourself,” Orange man said. “Try grunting like a deer does– like this… Or get a couple of antler racks and crash them together, rattle ‘em like two bucks fightin’.”

“Ever try ‘Doe in Heat’ scent? They say you smear that in your hair it’ll bring the big bucks right to you.”

“Maybe right on top of you and into you.” “Man, we sure got a bag o’ tricks, don’t we?”

“Well sure—outsmartin’ the deer’s half the fun, you know that.”

“But where are they?”

“Figurin’ that out’s the other half.”

“Maybe I oughta go huntin’ for beaver, instead.”

“Well there’s plenty of beaver around. Need to be patient in any case. And alert, too. The deer and the beaver and the bear never went to school, but you can’t outsmart them unless they’re havin’ a really bad day.”

“Can’t argue with that.”

“Hell, every damn hedgehog snout has a better sense of smell than any person can. Or so I’m told.”

“Well, Oy guess…” Red Plaid drank coffee from his thermos, and ate a granola bar, and a ham sandwich with mustard. Orange man had a cozy meal of spicy beef jerky. They both thought fondly of drinking Wild Turkey in the cabin after nightfall.

That fall, apples had been plentiful at first. Then freezing rain one sunset and an early deep snow at night kept deers’ pointy muzzles and sharp hooves from reaching the apples in the orchards. Twigs of logged hardwood in clearings were all the munchables they could find.

From the Southern part of the state, hunters crept up into the North woods of the Green Mountains and haunted old well-worn trails, still discernible logging roads, and unpaved roads no longer maintained by towns. Hunters came to the North Country seeking signs: quivering branches, tracks in snow—hoof prints and leg marks—and deer eyes watching from afar. And the deer retreated ever deeper into the virgin forest.

Many hunters will never leave the path, or go too far from the road. If they shoot a deer far from the road the carcass is hard to carry back. They also fear that they might get lost.

Vermont brother-in-law in old clothes said to out-of-state-brother-in-law in new L.L. Bean and Eddie Bauer apparel: “My ol’ pal Jack, he saw a buck all a sudden right there in front of him. He was far away from the road and he got Buck Fever– his heart was beating twice as fast as normal, and he thought he’d have a heart attack. That adrenaline raced through him, like a crazy buck running through the woods, and it just about scared him to death. So let’s take it easy, OK? We’re not spring chickens anymore, ya know!”

Meanwhile silent flakes were wafting down. Snow had gathered on boughs of spruce, and breezes made clumps of it fall, startling deers’ “third ears” sonar sensitivity between the two toes of their front hooves, which they keep tuned to the ground.

Any strange sound or earth vibration sends them bounding. The snow would fall with a thud and the deer would dash in flight, beyond the range of snow machines which can run them to death in the vast open fields.

Two female deer, one big and one little, nimbly skittered down a slope of thick-trunked firs, leaping across a rippling brook, through cedars. Cedar fronds are good to eat any time of year, and some trees here had low branches. Sun was shining through the light green lacy cedar fronds. The deer, smelling the sweet resinous cedar branch odor, wanted to taste the green.

The fawn raised her head up to break a small branch off — on the ground it would be easier to nibble. It was just out of reach so she reared up on her hind legs to get a mouthful, and to pull with a twist of her neck. The older deer turned. She was surprised, angry to catch the little one stopping.

The fawn dropped her front legs back to the snowy ground and unexpectedly one of them kept right on going — down through the snow, beyond the supporting earth — into a hole.

Try as hard as she might the fawn could not withdraw it. Cedar grows in wet land and here and there the wet land is honeycombed with holes where earth is washed away from between root and rock. The fawn’s hoof, like the barb of an arrow, was wedged in one of these holes and she could not free it.

As the fawn pulled with all her strength, trying to unloose the fast-stuck hoof, the loggers’ chainsaws hummed like insects in the distance. The saw’s drone and whine mixed and melted in the rush of the brook nearby. As she strained to pull her leg out, the fawn felt the two bones beginning to separate at the joint and stopped.

In the distance a pack of dogs barked. The foamy gurgle and splash sounds of the brook flooded over the dogs’ yelps, then their voices emerged again; and again were submerged.

The older deer sniffed the wind and the smells of dogs and hunters vibrated in her nose, and she cocked her ears again and looked toward the noise with her large and dark eyes lustrous with concern. She stamped her shiny black hooves, then looked up at the cedar bough which the fawn had been trying to reach. The fawn strained some more to get free but again failed.

The dogs yelped nearer than before, then there was a metallic noise, the click of a rifle trigger. Snow clumps fell with thuds and plops from the fir boughs every so often. As the noises came closer and rang in the fawn’s ears with the rush of the brook and the harsh silence of cold air, a snowy whirlwind with umber antlers sprang into sight, coming right up to the two.

Now the three deer stood with ears leaning back, communicating in silence. He was a stag in his prime –the most rare kind– pure white. He sized up the situation instantly, gave the mother deer the idea to set her neck and shoulders under the fawn’s brisket and nudge upward. Then the stag snorted, and, confident and smooth, leaped out of sight in two bounds, heading straight for the dog pack. The mother deer had bent her neck down to position it underneath the throat and now she pushed, pushed upward. Something budged where the hoof was stuck. She let up, stopped pushing, and the fawn lost balance — her hoof sank a little lower in, hurting the dewclaw. She pulled up, and her hoof came back to the tight spot where it had been before.

Excitement flashed and showered up over a hill upstream, leaping high over fallen trees, antlers blending with the tree trunks’ grey tan, coat blending with snow. White stag was leading the pack of dogs away from the mother and her fawn, but they were so close at that moment that the breeze which followed the brook brought the dogs’ acidic saliva scent to the fawn and deer.

They stood motionless until the dogs were out of sight, then began their pulling and nudging motions anew.

The metallic click heard before came again to the two. Now their ears pricked up in total alertness as another noise came—men talking.

The buck knew the men were there and he kept leading the dogs that way. The white buck ran toward the men until they wondered what the approaching noise was; then he bounded back toward the dogs on a zigzag path.

He circumvented the dogs and left the hunters far behind, and keeping them distracted from the deer and the fawn for a little extra time.

Suddenly the white buck appeared before the two again. He had circled round and now without hesitating, he tenderly set his strong neck under the fawn’s brisket, careful of his sharp horns, and where mother had failed he soon succeeded. Limping a little, the fawn’s legs were moving along through the snow again.

The dogs began barking nearer. The white buck stamped and snorted, like a storm getting ready. The mother deer and the fawn sprang downstream along the brook, then hopped lightly, up, up a hill and away.

The hungry dogs, determined in their pursuit, incited by the insult of having been tricked, raced on and reached the white stag now, but his sharp hooves were ready to respond as the dogs’ teeth tried to hamstring him. At first he feigned fear and turned as if to run from them; and then he abruptly reared up and whirled in attack, hurling a sharp hoof into the skull of one snarling dog who yipped a cry and fell, splattering the snow with blood.

The other bloodthirsty dogs barked menacingly around the buck and advanced on him slyly with their vengeful sharp teeth bared. He stood his ground, held them at bay and fought them hoof and horn.

The buck stunned one mutt with his hoof and jolted another with an up-jut of his rack, and then he was off, bounding diagonally up a slope, and gone.

 

The deer and the fawn sniffed the wind and knew men were nearby. They bounced away.

The hunters came running, panting, muttering to each other. Finding the bloody dogs they angrily cursed.

As the two deer raced farther toward their winter browsing ground they came upon some cerise berries glowing against the snow, and the mother deer stopped. Looking around and listening often, they chewed the berries and munched on the square twigs of the wahoo and swallowed this partly chewed food into their paunches, their “first stomachs,” where it would soak and soften. Later, at ease, out of danger, they would bring it back up to chew some more.

And as it began to snow, the white buck re-joined the two. The tip of his highest tine was broken where it had been hit by a bullet or an arrow. Dog blood was on another tine tip. Aside from this and a natural weariness in his dark eyes the white stag seemed fit as he could be, and it was all they could do to keep up with him.

Before they reached the deeryard they stopped to chomp on some brambles and red partridge berries. As the fawn chewed the red seeds a raven cried “Kahhkk!” overhead and the fawn jumped in surprise. The white stag thought that was funny.

But soon he sniffed, and then he twitched his ears and snorted and stamped. The deer went on up toward the deer yard, where, in the snowy winter, deer congregate after a summer of more or less solitary meandering and undisturbed feasting.

The buck did not move, but waited, sniffing more, listening with the “ears” in his front hooves. When they had reached the last pitch of the rise of hill, the fawn looked back to see another stag. This one was younger, with six-point antlers, and leaner than the white buck.

The young buck’s eyes were crazed. He pawed the snow, head down, and then took off, to circle back and charge, ramming the older buck. Their thick necks were angled distinctively, braced for clashing.

The ground seemed to shake with the force of their head-on collisions. They stepped back and rushed hard, trying to gore and blind each other.

The older buck smashed into his opponent now with such fierce force that a tine broke off and the other one’s scalp bled. Dizzily the attacker retreated, went dashing through a rattling thicket and swamp sending dry cattail fur flying in little puffs which dissolved into smaller puffs which floated and fell. During rutting season after mating with that young buck, a doe might squat down and let the unwanted seed drip out; no doe ever let the white buck’s seed be lost.

The three moved on toward the browsing grounds of winter, and reached there before night fell. The mother deer and the big white stag went off together. The heavy gray sky began to snow and the flakes fell more and more thickly.

[End of Part One.]

Source: Deer Life: Anecdotes & Legends from the Deep Woods

Haiku on the Pelicans of Frigate Bay in St. Kitts

January 3, 2017

I enjoyed spending some time with friends on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts in February. The pelicans at Frigate Bay were fascinating to watch.

I  tried to capture some of their maneuvers with my cell phone camera and wrote a couple of haiku.

Pelicans fall like dead weight

straight down into the ocean, diving

beak first, swallowed up

*****

three pelicans dive,

rise up, swoop in formation,

dive again into the sea

The way they dive in formation is so graceful and neat, but with my cell phone camera I can’t keep up with their maneuvers, I lose them.

I try & I try

no–too hard to capture

freedom on the wing

Source: Haiku on the Pelicans of Frigate Bay in St. Kitts