Possumhaw: Wild and wonder-filled


Shannon Bardwell



"Go out, go out I beg of you and taste the beauty of the wild. Behold the miracle of the earth with all the wonder of a child." 


Edna Jacques, Canadian poet (1891-1978) 




Sam rose early and went downstairs to start the coffeemaker. It has a timer to start itself, but being retired you never know what time you may rise. He called out, "Deer on the dam." 


Back upstairs, holding two cups of coffee, he continued, "There were two deer on the dam and they were standing side by side. It's 22 degrees." 


It caused me to wonder -- do deer huddle together for warmth? I tried to imagine it. About that time the gray squirrels started their trek across the "tree highway." That's what we call it. Daily the squirrels climb out to the tiniest of branches and fling themselves, landing upside down, with bellies showing pristine white, grasping the tiniest limb of the next tree. They quickly right themselves and continue across the bare branches of the tree canopy.  


About the squirrels I wonder -- where are they going? Why do they daily cross from east to west and west to east along the same path? What are they doing? 


Outside the sunroom window, Harry, the cat, is watching the fox squirrel. Mostly the fox squirrel is solitary. The squirrel sees Harry and flicks its tail erratically. Fox squirrels are large and red like a fox. Their faces are white as are the tips of their toes and tail. Regularly one sits in the oak tree spitting out acorn hulls. Harry is mesmerized but never gets close. 


On the other hand, deer are coming very close. After a short rain, deer prints were everywhere. Several nights while searching for Harry, I noticed a group of three stood under the trees by the driveway. I watched them by the light of a flashlight. They watched me back, needing no light at all. They didn't run but continued lowering their heads and eating whatever the squirrels had left behind. It amazes me such a large, strong and swift animal can tend to itself. We did not put out the corn feeders this year. Some neighbors did; some planted green fields. One friend feeds dairy cow pellets to the deer, not corn, she said. I didn't think to ask why. 


We have another deer group of five. Four are does, one is a young buck. The buck has only one antler. I did a little research on deer missing an antler, and it could be due to several reasons, including injury to the antler or an injury to any bone. The growth of antlers depends on the nutrients and minerals in the deer's skeleton, particularly the large bones. 


Malformed antlers could be genetics, poor nutrition and even drought years. Depending on the cause of the missing antler, this young buck could grow another antler in years to come. In the meantime, he seems content to kick up his heels and chase the four does.  


Over the holiday Sam invited me for a drive to Grenada Lake to see if anyone was catching crappie. All we saw were a couple of men sitting in their trucks watching to see if anyone was catching crappie.


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


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