That morning was cold. It was so cold it woke me from a sound, dreamless sleep. The fire in the stove had burned down to ash and was close to being out. I needed to put more wood on the fire.
It was four A.M. and time to get up anyway. Dawn was less than two hours away and it was the opening of firearms deer season. Not that it mattered much. The day before, freezing rain had covered the landscape.
Between the cold and the layer of ice, the deer were not going to forage.
I filled the stove with wood and lit the cook stove to make coffee. By the time I washed the sleep from my eyes, brushed my teeth and made a very quick trip to the outhouse, I settled in a chair with a steaming cup of coffee.
Hoping to get a weather report, I switched on the radio. Because of the high hills, all the radio received was static for the most part.
On my trip outside, the sky was full of stars. At least the morning might be clear.
The coffee cup needed to be refilled. Heat from the stove flooded the room causing my eyes to want to close.
For that moment, I wanted to totally disregard the very reason for the trip.
Shaking my eyes open, it was time to don my hunter orange, get my rifle and go sit at my favorite spot by the fire pit (some thirty yards from the cabin).
Leaving the warmth of the cabin, to walk up the side of the hill, I wondered just how many other people were feeling as stupid at that time of the morning.
For a person to leave a warm and comfortable abode, to sit in the cold hoping to just see a deer did not take high intellect.
By the time I reached my perch, the sun was slowly rising over the tops of the oak trees that surrounded the hollow below.
The warming rays of golden light soon flooded over the land causing the ice covered boughs to mist.
At first, it was a wonderfully beautiful sight; one that, as in a child’s fairy tale, the Maiden of the Mist with long flowing red hair and the bluest of eyes walked looking for her long-dead warrior lover.
As the sun moved a little higher in the sky, it made the limbs of the trees sparkle, then came the sounds of a gently rain falling as the ice melted from the highest branches.
If this was not enough to fill the soul, from across the valley off one of the tallest trees flew a magnificent white hawk (Northern Harrier). It slowly circled, looking for a morning meal. After another pass, then did I see the black tips of it’s wings.
I watched an aerial display presented that no man’s flying machine could match.
It landed on a tree branch less than fifty feet away, and looked directly into my eyes, almost studying me.
The bird gave no indication of fear, yet in a low voice I said, “You’re safe.”
Again it took to the air but rather for my benefit. It stayed airborne for a short time before coming to rest on the same branch.
We both heard the crunch of something walking on frozen leaves. It was a huge ten-point buck. He stopped walking and sniffed the air, and saw me. His body was tense but he made no move. He stood ready for flight, knowing he could never outrun a bullet. The loss of muscle on his left rear leg told me he had his one chance.
The bird turned his head in my direction. His piercing brown eyes questioned my intent.
I smiled and softly said, “He lives today.”
With a shriek that woke the valley and hills he took to the sky flying above the mist out of sight.
The deer rambled across the valley floor into the woods.
I walked back to the cabin for another cup of coffee.
Since that day I have never seen the bird again. The deer I still see from time to time. He never runs away but rather stops, looks and then walks into the woods.
We’re pals of sorts.
Copyright (C) 2015 Patrick Jones
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