The nursery is off limits

Fawn in hayfield May 2017

…this wonderful encounter with a small miracle, this tiny fawn in the hayfield, lifted my spirits and gave me renewed hope that a mad, mad world may yet come to its senses and brighter days are ahead.

The nursery is off limits

Our hayfields are officially off limits for the next couple months. The daily walks with our bird dogs around the perimeter of the fields are cancelled until the end of June, and maybe the first few weeks of July.

We are in the peak of the spring’s infestation of wood ticks and deer ticks, but that is not the reason we have declared ourselves personae non gratae (and also canaes non gratae) in the twenty-plus acres of grassland habitat atop our hillside farm. We are staying away so that we do not interfere with baby care.

Two days ago, in the course of an evening walk, we rediscovered the happiness that our small part of the North Country is again becoming a spawning ground for dozens of nesting songbirds, a few game birds, raptors, several species of small mammals, a den of foxes, a badger family, and all the hundreds of species of wildlife, both plant and animal, that make up the pyramid of life that supports them. We should be in tune with this springtime explosion of life by now, but every year in late May we are inexplicably tardy in realizing that we are unwelcome intruders in this environment that is supporting a precarious couple of months in the annual cycle of life. When that light finally clicks on in our heads, we hasten to close and lock the door to the nursery.

Our wake-up alarm this spring was Sasha, the senior member of our pair of French spaniels, who eased into a tentative point in the knee-high grass about twenty yards from the wild blackberry and raspberry brambles on the west edge of the big hayfield. Her cautious body posture was the same as when she introduced me to an ill-tempered skunk in November, so I warily stepped in front of her to see what she had found.

When I saw the familiar white-dotted form of a newborn fawn I sternly told Sasha “No!” and grabbed her collar, not that she needed any instruction in this matter. Three years ago my beautiful blonde wife Patti had given Sasha and her younger protégé Abbey a lifelong lesson in dog-deer etiquette on a June evening when they discovered a days-old fawn and chased it into her arms. It bleated, she caught it and held it between her knees, and with superwoman strength lifted a pair of fifty-pound dogs by the collar, one in each hand, and delivered clear instruction (more of an ultimatum) in proper canine behavior when encountering an infant of the Odocoileus virginianus deer family. Chasing deer, they were told, is a felony offense, subject to cruel and unusual punishment. Sometimes a harshly delivered lesson is the best education; neither Sasha nor Abbey has to this day seriously pursued any whitetail deer, regardless of age.

So on our recent evening walk Sasha was interested only in pointing out to me (literally) that I was about to unknowingly stroll past a tiny fawn, a baby that would have almost fitted into my two cupped hands. It must have been born earlier that same day, was still unable to run – or maybe even walk on unsteady legs – and was trusting its survival to its instinct to remain absolutely unmoving in the hiding place its mother had prepared in the high grass. It blinked its eyes, and one ear twitched. Patti and I took a few photos and moved on.

This has been a gloomy spring: unseasonably cold days, many with downpours or spatters of rain, constant overcast, wind storms that have toppled trees and ruffled shingles. My mood, affected by the shameful shenanigans of politicians at state and national levels and by the increasingly distressing decline of civility and courtesy throughout our society, has been as dismal as the weather. But this wonderful encounter with a small miracle, this tiny fawn in the hayfield, lifted my spirits and gave me renewed hope that a mad, mad world may yet come to its senses and brighter days are ahead.

Sasha and Abbey do not have the same buoyant feelings, since they are banned from their daily romps in the wild for the foreseeable future. Sorry, I tell them, but our playground is a nursery school for the next month or so. Babies in the wild need this time to grow.


More stories about life in the North Country are published in my four collections of essays and two novels, all available through my Author Page on Jerry Johnson Author Page


About Jerry Johnson

Curmudgeon. Bird hunter and dog trainer. Retired journalist and college public relations director. Former teacher, coach, mentor. Novelist and short story writer. Husband, father, grandfather.
This entry was posted in Wildlife, Wildlife Habitat and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s