We were on the back road from swimming day when we began to see the evening deer in the farmer’s fields. There is nothing unusual about that, as a matter of fact, highly usual. Yet, we witnessed something that was very rare to see first-hand. I regret to tell you that I could not get my camera fast enough so you will have to simply read about it.
As we were driving up the gravel road I noticed two things at once; a doe with her very young fawn on the left side of the road, having just crossed the fence into the field and on the right side a red-tailed hawk sitting on the fence post. Immediately, we focused in on the tiny fawn, everybody chorusing “Look!” and “Aaaahhh!”, except for me…I was nearly shouting, “Get the camera, get the camera!” It was in the back seat in its bag. By the time my wife got it out, what I am about to tell you had already happened.
Not only was the scene quite literally ‘picture perfect’, it was highly dynamic. I so wanted a picture of the doe standing over her spindly fawn, next to the rusted barb-wire fence, in the tall grass of the cow pasture, with the pine trees in the background and the orange hue of sunset coming from the left, as she watched us with perked ears and the fawn looked at her for instructions, but I also knew what was about to unfold and thought that more important than the picture. I drove the truck right up to the lovely scene and stopped knowing it would scare the doe off.
Predictably, two things happened simultaneously, the doe jumped and ran about thirty feet and stopped and the fawn immediately folded its legs like scissors and went straight to the ground disappearing in the tall weeds. It was then that I saw the third thing I expected: the red-tailed hawk came off its perch, swooped up and went in for the strike. I waited a few seconds until it was overhead and then pressed the accelerator, gunning the engine right toward where the fawn lay hidden. The hawk broke off his dive and screamed his anger and frustration at me. I stayed there, right beside the road, until the doe and fawn were rejoined and scampering into the brush.
It’s terrible for people to hear, but ‘yes’, due to the natural cycle of life two equally beautiful creatures can be mortal enemies. The hawk was intent on killing the fawn. It happens all the time. Not just fawns, but kittens, puppies, and sometimes calves. (We have lost kittens to owls many times.) It’s their world…we can’t change it only affect it for the better. Recently, I got into a discussion with a woman that was organizing a protest for ‘unfair baiting of bears’ where hunters put out bait, such as dog food, grease, etc. and then sit by while they come in to eat and then shoot them. She was very offended by the practice. While I admit on the surface it does sound unfair, until you understand the ecosystem where we live. I asked her if she knew a few things about bears, she wouldn’t reply and the conversation was over.
Bears come out of hibernation just as deer, elk, and moose are calving. They follow their nose to the scene of precious birth, chase off the weary mother, and take the life that has barely been given. I apologize if that sounds gruesome, but in my book that is unfair! So, which do we do? ‘Unfairly bait’ bears or let them unfairly enter into nature’s neonatal hospital? Or what about the wolves that were introduced into our fields and backyard? They eat the bears while they are in hibernation! You see the ‘ignorant, uneducated locals’ (not my words) might actually know something about what goes on in their backyard everyday. You can save the bears, you can save the wolves, you can save the red-tailed hawks (which are protected), or you can save the small feeble fawns and calves that are born, but you can’t save them all. Going to a college back east and learning about wildlife management is good, but it can never replace actually living with the wildlife, caring about them, and learning nature’s way of ‘management’. I don’t know one local that doesn’t care about the wildlife in the hundreds of miles of national forest and wilderness area where I grew up. After all, they are a part of the ecosystem too and love where they live.
Some people wonder what it is like to live in the country. They imagine it to be romantic, quaint, and sterilely adventurous. It can be ‘romantic’, it is certainly lovely and beautiful, but the truth is a little harsher than a weekend spent in a vacation home owned by a rich California couple. Country living is about one thing: survival. There are virtually no conveniences, as a matter of fact I must say there aren’t any at all. The garden always needs watered or the plants won’t survive, the horses need fed and watered or they won’t survive. This means in summer heat or through knee-deep snow. The cows need tended and watched as well. When calving you have to bring them close or all the opportunistic predators (eagles, coyotes, wolves, etc.) that urban media had romanticized will kill them. You have to plow, plant, and harvest whether its convenient or not. Life and death take precedence over virtually everything. Recently, one of our heifer’s was in trouble with a calf – it was her first. We were all at work or unavailable except for my sister which lives below. She called a neighbor. He came immediately, helped the calf birth, milked the mother, and bottle fed the colostrum to the calf before the critical timeframe was over. That’s the way it is. It makes for a good story or photo op, but the reality is that many things need the intervening hand of humanity to balance out and survive.
Rustic decorations are the trend now and I happen to like it. Yet next time you look at all the rusted utensils, washboards hanging askew on the wall, antique lanterns, etc. Think about one word that all these things represented to the farmers of yesteryear: survival.
I know that many things I have written about may cause you to say, “Dear me!”, yet the picture I have painted is accurate reality. You know what else? I wouldn’t trade country living for one day! Give me the blowing snow and the dusty field…that’s real living!