A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Meanwhile back at the ranch.......

Looking out the window I see a doe with her little fawn wander by. Inside the yard fence. Good grief! How did that fawn get in the fence and will he remember so he can get out? They head for the other side of the yard where mom jumps the fence to get into the longhorns’ pen. This is the most popular eatery this time of day, with leftover alfalfa hay being the main attraction. 

Mom hops over the fence into the pen leaving the fawn in the yard. No problem there, he just hangs out. But then it’s closing time at the alfalfa buffet. The fawn starts to realize the predicament he is in. Mom’s over there and he’s over here and he can’t jump that high. Hmmm. What to do. As all the other whitetails head out of the pen, she comes back up to the fence and he goes over to her. They exchange an unspoken communication. He begins to look for a way out of the yard. She goes out of the pen by another open gate and circles around to be outside the yard fence.

He paces all along the fence. There are places on each side of the driveway gate that even I could crawl through to get outside. He goes back and forth past these but doesn’t seem to understand he can get out that way. He goes on around the fence and passes another large hole under the fence, one I enlarged last year by moving some rocks so the little deer could get through. He passes a walk-through gate. I leave the chain on the gate loose so the fawns can squeeze through. I figured this was how he got in in the first place but if it was he has no recollection of it. 

Mom waits for baby
His mom stays with him for the next hour and a half waiting patiently for him to figure out something. I watch the whole time. It’s always the best policy not to interfere with does and their fawns. They have their own way of doing things and usually work it out ok. But it’s starting to get dark and I’m beginning to wonder if he will ever figure it out. So when he heads along the back fence, I go outside and open wide the walk-through gate. The mom sees me and doesn’t run off. We have an unspoken communication also. 

The fawn sees me and gets a little edgy and runs away a little bit. I circle around the cabin to herd him back toward the gate. He runs right past the wide open gate. I am losing hope that he will live to grow up if he doesn‘t get a little wiser. He goes back to the front near the driveway gate. 

I go up on the front porch and figure I’ll leave the gate open and sooner or later he will realize he can walk through it. But it stresses him a bit that I am on the porch and he makes a wild and fast dive under the fence and rejoins his mom. She turns to me and gives me a last look as they walk off together. 

He is a beautiful little fawn and she is a good mom. Texas Parks and Wildlife has said that many does are walking away from their fawns this year in order to save themselves. And when I look at the thin bodies of the moms that live here, I can understand it. I believe we have lost one twin here already. I see two moms with single fawns.
We do have a new set of twins here. Their mom is the little “yard deer” who since last year always hung out close to the cabin and wasn‘t quick to run off. These are her first babies. They were born a few weeks ago; later than any other fawns we have seen. She keeps them right with her.

I went to the feed store yesterday to get a couple of deer blocks for her. I confessed to the feed store owner that I am breaking down and trying to keep one of the moms alive. It’s a road that once you start down, it’s hard to get off and it is a losing cause more often than not. He tells me that I’m not the only one; he has other customers, some in town, that are doing the same thing.

She ate a good chunk of the deer block yesterday. Tonight there are two other bully does fighting each other over the block. They don’t have babies. The yard deer is in the longhorns’ pen eating cedar leaves, her tiny babies at her side. This is a last resort for starving deer. Once the bully does leave she will come into the yard and eat on the deer block. Maybe this and the extra corn I put out for her and the alfalfa the longhorns leave will be enough to help her and her babies survive. And maybe not.

This part of the state has way more deer than it can support even when conditions are good. The whitetail here are always small. If only the strong would survive, there would still be plenty of whitetails. I’ve known the way of nature since I was a child. 

But when nature is your close neighbor and you watch the same animals each day it’s not always easy to remain neutral. Sometimes you have to try to give the underdog a little advantage and hope it tips the scales for them. 

And that’s a good policy for people too. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

You Get A Line, I'll Get A Pole......

Daddy drove the car down the gravel road, the deep, loose gravel crunching under the tires. The tall trees hugged the side of the road leaving a thin slice of sky above us. We went deeper and deeper into the woods. I was starting to feel claustrophobic, although I didn’t know what that word meant at the time.

We weren’t sure where we were going or when we would get there. Daddy was taking us to a friend’s camp house on Horseshoe Lake in Louisiana. We would fish and spend the night there.

My memories of this trip are blurry. I’m not sure how old I was. But there are a few things that stand out in my mind, all of them creepy! 

The camp house had a wooden deck on the side near the lake. You had to walk out onto the deck to get to the bathroom. I remember I had to get up during the night to use the bathroom. It’s not clear in my memory if it was an outhouse or if it was just outside the house. 

As I walked down the deck I looked out at the lake. A bright moon shone and the lake was covered with duckweed in places, or “alligator water” as we called it then. And sure enough, there were what seemed like hundreds of pairs of alligator eyes floating on the surface of the water. The moonlight reflected off their eyes. The Spanish moss hung from the trees. A mist rose from the lake. I can see it even today in my mind. It was horrifying and beautiful.

I began to question whether I could “hold it” until morning, or did I really have to use the bathroom!

Earlier in the day we kids took a walk through the woods. We had gone a good ways from the camp house when we heard grunting and snorting noises. We stopped and looked at each other. A group of large wild hogs entered the open area where we were. Yikes! Time to make a hasty retreat. We ran in fear for our lives! We made it back to the camp house with everyone accounted for. 

Daddy used to love to fish. He often took us to scary “dangerous” places to fish. The boys were taught to cast and fish for bass. For some reason we girls only used cane poles and fished for bream. I guess he thought we couldn’t grasp the complexities of casting or maybe we didn’t show an interest. When I was grown up I wished that I had gotten to bass fish as it seemed like more fun and had more action.

Sometimes Daddy would take us out in the jon boat. We never had any other kind of boat that I remember. One time Kathy and I went out in a boat by ourselves and we had trouble trying to get back to shore. We only had paddles, which was ok since we didn’t know how to use an outboard motor, or any kind of motor for that matter. We kept paddling against each other and going in circles. Daddy stood on the shore and gave us instructions and waved his arms a lot, and we made it safely in but it was touch and go for a while!

I used to think I liked to fish. When people asked I said, sure, I love to fish! But when I went as an adult I found it boring. I had no patience for it. I wondered if I had gotten tired of it. I reluctantly admitted that I didn’t really like fishing. 

One day it dawned on me that it wasn’t the fishing I had liked, it was being with Daddy. In spite of the horrific places we went to and the phobias that I acquired from those places, I loved being out with Daddy. He would take me out in the boat and teach me how to put worms and shiners on my hook and how to gently take the hook out of the fish‘s mouth. When we got back with the bream, he taught me how to use a spoon to scrap the fish scales off, and how to cut the heads off and gut the fish. I asked him one time if it hurt the fish and he said, no, they didn’t have any feelings. I never have researched to see if fish have feelings, but I believed Daddy when he told me they didn’t. Because who wants to cut something's head off and know they are feeling it.

Mama would fry up the fish we caught. The bass were filleted but the bream were fried whole. If you were too little someone had to mash up your bream and remove all the bones before you could eat them. It was a tedious chore but we did it with patience, rubbing the meat between our fingers until it was so shredded there was no place for a bone to hide. We must have been good at it because no one ever choked to death on a fishbone!

Daddy has been gone for 6 years and we lost Mama a few months ago. We continue to have fish fries with the family gathered together. My brother Andy is the supplier of fish. He switched from bass fishing to saltwater fishing many years ago and always has a freezer of redfish and trout. He brings his equipment and fries them up outside, usually at my sister Kathy’s house or my brother Lee’s house. Those of us that can make it come and bring side dishes and desserts. He takes requests for fish fries, as he did for my daughter Sarah’s wedding shower and Kathy’s 60th birthday party. As we did growing up, the cousins join us when they can.

(Photos - Granddaughters Natalie and Lexi)

Our grandchildren don’t know about the fish fries we had growing up, when we would all catch fish for supper, and clean them when we were no bigger than the littlest of the kids now. And go out in the boat with our dad and learn how to fish. But my children have taught their children to fish. And the girls how to cast. And I hear tell they’ve even been to some pretty creepy camp houses to develop their own phobias. 

This website has a list of alligator eyes at night. You get the idea!