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Crystal Blue Persuasion

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I never tire of watching Chet make his way down the trail in front of me, seeing how the sun hits off his shiny back, how his hind legs work in graceful complimentary curves as he makes his way catlike through the leaves.

I could not stay inside this morning. After a frighteningly blustery and cold trick-or-treating adventure, the sky was scrubbed fresh and what leaves remain are vivid against an immaculate sky. Chet and I lit out around the Loop. I took pictures every few feet.

At the overlook, I leashed Chet, and he studied a little black heifer without tightening the lead. I keep asking myself what he'd do if he weren't leashed, but I can't allow myself to experiment with this precious little animal. He walks obediently ahead of me, slack in the leash, and sits down to watch the cattle. Is this the same ravening beast that tore after the cattle only a few weeks ago? Yes, but this one is connected to me by a nylon strap. And this physical reminder to behave is the only way that training will override instinct, I fear. Maybe when we're both old and gray, I'll be able to trust him.

Farther along the trail, Chet led me into a part of our woods I hadn't walked for years. It's the best "timber" we have, with 3 and 4' dbh oaks and hickories in a clear understory. Lovely. And not scheduled to be cut, like the big oaks and hickories just over the fenceline are. There was a deadfall with associated branches and a thick grove of young pawpaws that had come up in the light gap. Pawpaws are easy to spot in late October, because they hang onto their huge golden teardrop-shaped leaves long after most of the others have fallen. And in the middle of that deadfall was a tremendous buck and three does. I was so glad I'd leashed Chet, because I got to watch that animal thunder out of there, rocking like a wooden horse, his antlers a high crown. I know there were at least five points on each side, not counting the brow tines--a thicket of points. My best guess is that he had 12 to 14. I was so glad to see him. Perhaps he's the son or grandson of our fallen monarch, whose picture I snapped about five years ago in a snowstorm. The picture looks a little over-sharpened, because I want you to see the high crown of tines on his antlers. When he'd stride out into the orchard he looked like a pony, gotten loose. This kingly animal lived here in peace, until one Thanksgiving morning when a bow-toting poacher figured we'd be busy with the turkey, and killed him practically in our back yard. We went out that afternoon and found where he'd been shot on our land, then dragged across the property line to be field dressed and gutted. I've never gotten over that murder, for murder it was. A buck that grand doesn't go unnoticed for long, and people who assign value to an animal based on the size of its antlers will stop at nothing to possess it--end its life for their own bizarre acquisitive gain. Now he's a dried-out head on a wall somewhere, or maybe a couple of antlers on a plaque, spider webs collecting on them. I liked him better alive, in our woods, where he belonged. He should have been safe here.

There's irony here, because as noted I was cooking a turkey while this other premeditated murder was going on, and yes, I'm thinking about that for a moment. Wishing this buck better luck, knowing that the yellow NO HUNTING sign Bill posted right over the deadfall where the buck was laid up is no guarantee of sanctuary. It's a request for compliance, nothing more, and useless against greed and avarice. And now I'm retying my bootlace and going on up the hill through the golden and blue shimmering orchard, toward home.

There would be more photos, but Blogger is giving me fits, as usual. I've been trying to post this since noon with only partial success.Pah! what a waste of time on one of the last golden days of October.


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