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Story ID:506
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Butte Montana USA
Person:Lucy the fawn
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by Kathe Campbell

I wonder how many mountains we crossed, creeks we followed, or snowy tracks led us to an ample supply of venison in those early days? Our children were raised on all kinds of wilderness fare, and when old enough, were taught the hunt. None was for the mere glory of a great antlered mount or snow-white robe, although our hunts yielded a few racks and pelts slung over the logs in our loft. As an ex-urbanite longing to be country, I found myself unable to take rifle or bow in hand for my evening supper. I admired my family's talents but preferred a brilliant autumn hike, a camera, and duty as camp cook. I was proficient as the gutter-outer and saw to it that our meat was stream-cooled and cleaned with care.

Then suddenly, and all too fast, it happened, our own autumn years. Ken and I built a log home upon a mountain only to find days filled with a wealth of God's creatures roaming our acres right under our noses. Deer, elk, and moose became our treasures, none to be taken for sustenance ever again. Instead, we were called to a special duty so pleasing as to make our hearts sing loudly these last 25 years.

It was early autumn when most spring youngsters were coming into their own. Their frolicking ways and fading spots had survived birth, occasional mountain snows, predators, drought, and fire, while preparing for a first winter with the does.

On a nippy gray November afternoon we received a call from our son, Tim, a Montana undersheriff in the next county. He asked if we could meet, that he had a surprise. Ken was unable to join me so I jumped in our rig and headed down the mountain. We met at the Montana Fish and Wildlife office where the entire staff was oohing and aahing over a mule deer fawn. A local farmer had discovered her hopelessly tangled in barbed wire. Tim had cut her loose and waited for her to get on her feet. The doe had obviously abandonded her child, and since the fawn refused to stand, he brought her in.

The fish and wildlife folks had applied salve and bandaged her wounds and immediately turned her over to me with the usual surrogate parent admonitions. "Make her healthy and release her as soon as possible, preferably before winter. She needs to acclimate and find a herd."

They laid her in the back of my rig, provided me with medical needs and we headed for our mountain. It was all I could do to keep the truck on the road while sneaking peeks at those enormous brown eyes gazing up at me. I kept up a continuous chatter with her all the way home and introduced her to our golden retriever first thing. Her stubby little tail wiggled incessantly in response to very wet Nikki slurps.

We called her Lucy, this precious brown-eyed beauty from we knew not where. The name seemed to fit her just fine, as with all the struggling children that came to us in our surrogate parent years. We named them all the same in hopes that our Lucies and our Louies would conquer injuries and burst forth , flourishing and free

We are always prepared to care for wildlife at a moment's notice, so I unpacked the big canvas, cushion, and blanket. Our log home had already taken on that ever-familiar musky scent while I made Lucy comfortable in front of the fireplace in the family room. She had been shocky and needed a warm, dry bed. Lucy would adapt well, for she and Nikki were enamored with one other and secure relationships would be half the battle in her recovery.

Ken arrived home and suddenly neither Nikki or I mattered as Lucy nearly wriggled herself off her bed and let out a series of joyful cries. She had made up her mind then and there that she preferred his big booming voice. He was now her best friend. Nikki and I were now relegated to the mundane chores while watching her wolf down bowls of dry cereal and baby bottles of whole milk. Past experience had taught us that this was a fawn favorite and the healthiest diet for our bedridden patients. Wheat, rice, or oats, any flavor whet her appetite.

In an effort to keep Lucy from inquisitive visitors, we remained silent about her confinement with us, for her release would be easier without so many human attachments. Nonetheless, after three days our neighboring doctor discovered our secret and arrived bearing boxes of antibiotic creams and bandages. He was curious as to her wounds, approved of our treatment, and suggested we lay her over a foot stool in another week for a regimen of physical therapy on her hind legs.

Fifteen days later bandages were discarded and Lucy stood on her own. My heart raced with such excitement I could barely hold back tears of relief recalling the bad luck we'd had with Lucy number one. Short walks on a leash and gradual return to nature's cuisine became the high point of her day. She tugged relentlessly at her tether while indulging on grasses and sage, and her wee shiny wet nose jiggled endlessly snuffling the crisp fall air. The signs were good, her release was imminent and, of course, as always, this was the best part of being a foster parent.

On the day after hunting season closed we loaded our Lucy into the truck once again to prepare both her and us for the separation. She was now leading us around and spending her nights outdoors in a special enclosure. Thankfully there had been no heavy snows and she continued to grow a lush coat. Factors were perfect.

Ken and I kept up a continuous chatter with her as we drove through the mountains onto the southern side where the Deer Lodge Forest herds winter. She was freed for the first time in nearly four weeks. We two old fools wept a couple happy tears as she began her trot, then suddenly stood for a moment to look back over her shoulder as if to bid a farewell. The call of the wild nudged her instincts as she broke into a strong rhythmic spring down over the hill. Once again we had done our duty and once again we stood prepared to do it all over again.

I go now to the wilderness to be a part of it; to accept my place in the world and its place in me; to grow into reality as a tree grows into the rain, to conform to the earth as a stream conforms to the stones of its bed. To live. To aspire. To be. (Osage)