All good things are wild and free. —Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
In May 2017, our resident black-tailed doe, the one we call Fern, was expecting. By the looks of her, she would likely birth twins. Every morning, she enjoyed a breakfast of cracked corn, and the occasional apple. I spoke softly to her and told her that I would love to see her fawns when they arrive. One morning, Fern didn’t show. More than a month passed with no sign of her. Then, about mid June, she returned, and she wasn’t alone. With her were two, adorable, very small, speckled fawns that melted my heart. Fern allowed me two visits. The last was June 15, and the last time I saw them.
Click on the link to read more about Fern and the Speckled Fawns.
While I try not to get too attached to the wildlife that come and go, I can’t help myself. When I don’t see those that I have come to know in a while, I worry. This time, it was Fern that had me worried. We’ve been friends for three years, and when nine months passed with no sign of her, I thought I might never see her again.
On the morning of March 2, 2018, and with patches of snow still on the ground, a doe appeared in the woods, and readily approached the fence. It was our girl Fern! She’d come home! I was so relieved, I wanted to run out and give her a great big hug, but instead, I controlled my excitement, and simply opened the door. In a calm voice, I welcomed her back. If she had been happy to see me, she played it as cool as a cucumber just twitching her ears a little all the while watching, listening, waiting for food and treats. There was no apple treats to give her, but there was plenty of cracked corn—fifty pounds of the stuff I had bought in the fall.
Fern waited while I fetched her a heaping pail of corn, and flinched only slightly as I poured it over the fence. She welcomed the meal eating to her heart’s content. Corn stuck to that big wet nose that she licked clean with side-to-side motion reminiscent of a windshield wiper. Corn crunched between her teeth, upon exhaling, she sometimes snorted expelling corn dust from her nostrils. As her hunger had subsided, her big brown eyes grew heavy and dreamy, and I could tell she was happy. Then, she stepped away, nibbling a few greens as she climbed South Bank. She then shook her coat like a wet dog and groomed herself like a cat. She then kneeled and bedded down in her favorite patch of ferns and wild grape. She slept all afternoon to the sounds of birdsong, and squirrel chatter.
As the sun lowered, and the woods fell into deep shadow, fern awakened. She stood refreshed twitching her ears, and wagging her tail, and then quietly faded into the woods for the night. The next morning, as I have done almost every morning since her return, I greet her with a pail of corn. In return, she makes me smile.
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