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Shannon Bardwell: Tongues afire


Shannon Bardwell



One morning a zucchini plant in the middle of the garden was missing its leaves; a few okra tops had disappeared, too. The next night the intruders ignored the strategically-placed radio and enjoyed music while munching a few more okra tops. The hoodlums were hijacking my harvest. Telltale deer prints were left in the soil softened by the soaker hose. 


In the garage I found Tiki lights to make fence posts and kite string for a spider web- looking barrier, a "booby trap." I sprinkled cayenne pepper on the tops of the okra and zucchini. The deer never touched the yellow squash, tomatoes, cucumbers or beans, reminding me of my family. 


My pitiful little fencing would have blown down at a single snort, but it seemed to confuse the deer for a night or two. Sam devised a better fencing arrangement from other materials in the garage. We spent a steamy Saturday afternoon putting in real fence posts and wrapping it with real wire and fashioning a little gate. The fence posts are slanted outward so there is no nibbling over the fence.  


I woke in the stillness of the night after dreaming Sam was wrestling a snake in the kitchen sink filled with undulating dishwater. Earlier I had seen a snake slithering in the pond -- you know how dreams go -- so, wide awake, I took the opportunity to slip to the garden.  


Flashlight in hand I tipped around the house and surveyed the garden by moonlight. Nothing seemed amiss. Then I shone the flashlight toward the Prairie field, and there, about 20 yards from the garden, stood a beautiful, tawny-colored doe. Behind her, farther out, a deer was feeding in the grass while a few others had bedded down in the quiet starlit night. 


I was reminded that during hunting season we provide sanctuary, feeding and continually count the deer, hoping that each one survives the season. When I hear the familiar report, I say a little prayer that someone has missed and Bambi has lived to see another day. It''s hard to be mad at the munchers. 


At daybreak a doe stepped cautiously from the woods'' edge to the pond; two spotted fawns followed. They fed on tender vegetation at the shoreline. The Prairie provides an Eden for them right now. Perhaps my deer-ones should consider the garden like the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil," and while they will not surely die if they eat of it, they will certainly have their tongues set afire -- that is, if 100-degree temperatures don''t burn the garden first. 



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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