On a chilly, overcast morning this spring, I noticed Daisy deer at the feeder down in the canyon. Like most mornings, I brought her a snack of apples and visited with her, speaking in soft tones. When she finished smacking the apple chunks, she moved on to the deer plot where FD and I had sown turnips, chicory, peas, and a blend of various grasses deer like to eat. I brought the camera with me, as I often do, and quietly observed her.
While Daisy grazed, I decided to have a walk through the woods. Five acres of our property is woodland. Part of it sits up high and the rest drops down into the canyon. From below, I started a hike to the top, taking the animal path. In the woodland, the animal trails are narrow and well-traveled. Holding back branches that blocked my way, and ducking low to make my way through the most heavily treed area, I found myself a bit irritated that we had not yet managed to cut walking paths in this section of the property. A couple of times I even had to crawl, and once got caught on a branch that tore the sleeve of my favorite, old red ranch coat. My hair was in a pony tail when I started, but the more I crawled around winding my way through the brambles, it became quite pulled askew in many places . I made a mental note to take a limb trimmer with me the next time I walked this way. I felt like a Bushman, blazing a trail to unknown lands. All I needed was a machete and a bone in my nose to complete my ensemble.
I guess it was a good thing, however, that I did not have a limb lopper with me or my favorite trimmer, the battery-operated reciprocating saw, which I often use to trim limbs and branches. I realized Daisy was following me and such activity would have sent her running off. I was glad she decided to follow me. It was not often she and I were able to spend quality bonding time like this. Most days, Daisy had a mind of her own and I didn’t know where she spent her time. She often disappeared for hours.
Together, we ambled through the trees and brambles. Daisy was much more eloquent in movement and leapt over fallen trees with ease. I, on the other hand, grunted, groaned and yelped out in pain when I was scratched by a branch, got tangled in cat brier, or tripped over vines hiding in the leaves of the woodland floor.
Finally, we made it to the top, where I showed Daisy my favorite tree to rest against. Then, I showed her the path to the area of cedars and to the edge of the hill where we looked out over the canyon. A huge, fallen tree lay at the bottom, with splashes of turkey tail fungus growing all over it. I love this place. I wanted Daisy to know my secret pondering spot, where often in the winter or early spring, I can be found contemplating life. Unlike early spring, coming here in summer or fall would mean a possible snake encounter, which I prefer to avoid at all costs!
After a some bird watching and taking a few photos, I made my way next down the steep embankment back to the canyon floor with Daisy close behind. We ambled around twisted tree roots and ropes of vine that hung from branches. English ivy covered a portion of the hillside but I avoided treading through that. I wasn’t sure what might live IN the ivy, or whether I could get good footing, so I stayed to the red dirt route where I could easily see my path.
Daisy often chose another path but she was always near or just behind me. When we made it back to the lower woodlands and familiar territory, Daisy stopped at the feeding station for a drink and a nibble of grass. I headed back up the slope to our house, stopping at the top to gaze down below. All of a sudden, Daisy began jumping around. I call her erratic movements “the crazy head” when she does this. It’s properly called “Gamboling” when a deer kicks its hind legs backward in unison, and as they are brought forward, the forelegs are simultaneously kicked forward. When Gamboling like this, Daisy often brings her head down, then sideways, neck craning and twisting, as she kicks with her rear legs out. This maneuver is repeated a few times, giving her the appearance of a bucking bronco!
As I watched her, laughing out loud and delighting in her playfulness, Daisy stopped suddenly and then took off running… running faster than I had ever seen her run. She ran a good distance from the north to the south, then up the slope, whizzing just inches past me! I couldn’t see where she made her turn up top near our house, but then in no time she came barreling off the top of the slope, leaping over the precipice, legs nearly horizontal. Gaining speed as she made her way back to the starting point, her quick flight took my breath away as she charged over the burn pile and leapt over a small hill as she made her way back up towards me where I stood at the top of the slope.
She made two more rounds like this and finally stopped next to me, panting, ribs heaving while she looked at me like a child who had just shown off a new skill. I praised her and petted her and then we walked back down the slope, allowing time for her to catch her breath and calm down. In just a short time, she recovered from the fatigue of her shenanigans and walked off purposefully to the south, where she often spent mornings somewhere in the woods resting and napping.
Daisy’s antics and play I observed this day serves a useful purpose. It builds conditioning as she matures. Running, jumping over obstacles, dashing, dodging, and bucking all help to stretch, build, and stimulate muscles. It increases lung capacity and stimulates the heart. Playful maneuvers, at this point in her life, will serve her well later to escape predators and hunters. Perhaps she knows this intuitively. Perhaps not. And perhaps Daisy could care less about “purpose” in her running and leaping. Maybe she was just delighting in the moment and running off excess energy. And maybe it was as simple as wanting to show off for her Mamma! I did find myself filled with awe and delight, having witnessed such a display of my girl showing off, and remembered similar times in my young life when I was brimming with exuberance and joy and squealing with delight over something that thrilled me so. Don’t we all enjoy showing off and getting a little attention every now and again? Isn’t it wonderful to do a simple little crazy-head dance and be rewarded with our Mamma’s loving smile?
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…