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Possumhaw: Wait, watch and whisper


Shannon Bardwell



"Hunting, fishing, drawing, and music occupied my every moment. Cares I knew not, and cared naught about them." 


John James Audubon -- ornithologist, naturalist, painter (1785-1851)  




It was late in the afternoon when Sam and I made our way to the deer stand. The temperatures were dropping. The chill factor depends on whether or not the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. As the sun was sinking behind the tree line the cold was settling in.  


We dressed in camouflage though we weren't hunting. Just looking. Sam toted the camera, the binoculars and a thermos of coffee. That's what we do on late fall days. We climb into the deer stand, drink coffee, whisper and wait.  


The trees on the east side of the lake were sunlit gold and orange. Their mirror reflection lay across the lake's surface. Canada geese, about 50 of them, swam quietly from bank to bank. Every now and then they'd turn bottom side up. We can only hope they are eating away some of the invasive moss.  


The pet Pekin ducks quacked loud as we pass through the sedge field; they were hoping to get fed ... again. Soon they calmed down and started preening. I have quite the following of hand-sized bream. They, too, had been fed. The sun was setting; it was time to watch for deer. 


Sometime last year Sam decided deer might smell the coffee we drink. They step out of the woods and look our way. I'm not sure if they smell coffee or not but as a precaution, long before the season, Sam was saving coffee grounds and sprinkling them near the stand. He figured maybe if they got used to the smell they wouldn't be spooked by us coffee drinkers. I added more to the compost pile beside the persimmon tree, hoping by association the deer would think coffee smells are a good thing. Without coffee drinking, it would be a long, cold wait. 


Just about the time you think you're not going to see anything, down near the spillway a deer steps out of the woods, cautious and slow. She looks toward us, then away. She's checking things out, scouting for the rest of her family. She moves toward the water for a drink, then another smaller deer follows, then another. In time there are five. Some drink water; others forage in the grass.  


Sam lifts his camera. "Not enough light," he says, and lowers it down again.  


"Maybe we should cut out a skylight," I suggest.  


I see that look on his face, like it would take too much time to explain why a skylight wouldn't work, so he just says, "Maybe." 


Looking to the north another doe steps out from the woods; she has a fawn with her. She's cautious as well. The fawn pays no attention but eats at her side. Soon the mother lowers her head but raises it often looking across the field. There's always a potential danger. All she has to protect herself and her little one is her speed and her wits. 


Sam was a little disappointed we only saw seven that day. Then he remembered his youth, when a whole season of looking produced not a single deer.


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


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