Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
This is a fun and enjoyable subject to write about. When we first moved to our present remote location, I was outside cleaning up tree limbs from the side of the house when a doe deer approached with two small fawns. I continued to work and she slowly edged closer so I started to talk to her and tell her what a beautiful family she had. The fawns would bounce and run around and as I worked my way across the area she would follow me and I would talk to her about various subjects. She looked interested in what I had to say and listened attentively most of the day as she went from one area to another with me.
Around two years later we were standing looking out our back window when an eight point buck walked up along the outside of the fence and would look first at the bird feeder and then at us. It was clear he wanted bird seed. I grabbed an empty ice cream bucket to go out and bring up some bird seed from under the house where we kept it. I talked to him as I went down to get some seed under the house. After putting some seed in the bucket and turning around I was surprised to see he had followed me as he stood waiting at the top of the stairs. I took the bucket of seed up to him and as I did he walked down meeting me half way and commenced eating out of the bucket while I held it. We soon realized that he was one of the fawns from earlier now all grown up with his twin brother standing off several feet but less bold.
We called him Junior and that was the start of a long warm mutual relationship that lasted many years. He stayed around until the snow would become too deep for him; then he would move on down the mountain. He let us know in his own way when he would be departing and we always knew he was leaving. He would eat from my hand and he actually adopted us as one of his trusted friends. Before I go much further let me say I know it is not good to feed wild animals, but we did not feed him on a regular basis only on occasion. I would be outside working and he would follow me around just like his mother did that fall day and I would talk to him like I talked to her. I would feed him his favorite apple by hand on occasion, which was a Fuji apple. He didn’t care for other types but loved Fuji apples. When his antlers would get caught in my shirt sleeve he would hold himself very still while I untangled us. He allowed me to pick ice balls off his forehead in the winter and also rub his nose. He would make small mewing sounds when he got personal attention or grooming.
Living 15 years in the wild is a long time for a deer and Junior stayed with us for most all of his long life. If anyone else came to our house he would simply vanish, but with us he would stay close and had no hesitation to walk right next to me when I would be working outside. He made friends with our dogs and was always respectful and a gentleman in every way. He ultimately grew to be a huge buck and during the rut would venture off for a couple days at a time and then come back totally exhausted. He would stand outside the fence near our back door like a sentinel and wait until we acknowledged him and then he would lay down and go soundly to sleep. He clearly trusted us to keep watch for him. I could walk within a couple feet of him and he would not even wake up, that was how much he trusted us to watch out for him - which we did faithfully. He couldn’t have been more safe had he chosen to bed down inside Ft. Knox.
There are many interesting stories about Junior and his fellow deer who traveled with him but not enough space to tell all the stories. We had a warm and friendly relationship for 14 years when he suddenly did not come around any longer. With his distinguished markings it is easy to spot some of his off spring which still hang around but have not adopted us as Junior did. I can say with absolute sincerity that we miss Junior and his constant presence with us. He never lost his wildness and somehow his instinct told him we were okay to befriend. If you haven’t been adopted by a wild animal, you have no idea how strong the bond between you can be. As I sit writing this, I still get misty eyed over Junior’s absence and I know I always will. To have a wild animal trust you as much as Junior trusted us and love us as much as we loved him is a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget.
Junior taught me a great deal about his species but mostly how loving a deer can be and how intelligent they are. We learned their small gestures and how they can communicate with each other simply by observing Junior. Even during his senior years, when he came back with other deer he would walk right up to us with his warm greeting and that love evident in his eyes. To look in those warm brown eyes and see the love he had for us I can only hope that he could see our love in return. The memory of Junior will never be forgotten and I will hold his memory in my heart always. I wish I could once again rub his nose, scratch his forehead, talk with him again and hear that small mewing noise he used to make when he was happy. I feel certain he died of old age, or at least I hope so. He was a deer to remember that is for sure, and I am happy he chose us as his friends and we had that experience.
For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their mountain experiences go to:http://www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com