In late July, the 100-degree temperatures were bringing all sorts of wildlife to the water tub and feeders in the canyon. Often, I would find Daisy deer laying at the base of the slope, in the soft grass that I kept watered all summer. Hackberry trees shaded the area and the large water tub offered a cool reprieve from the scorching summer sun. Sometimes I caught Daisy snoozing. The spot she chose to rest offered her a nice vantage point to watch for predators from all directions and made for an easy escape route. And, she could watch her “people”, FD and I, just up the slope from where she laid. Sometimes, if the insects weren’t too bad, I would go down and sit beside her, running the old horse brush along her coat and talking gently with her. Other times, I brought apple or blackberry snacks for nibbling. Most of the time though, I left her alone to rest. I knew it was her desire to catch up with other deer frequenting the area and I didn’t want to interfere with her chances to meet up with them.
One particular morning, I went to the back porch to tidy up and noticed Daisy laying in the grass down below the slope. As always, I did a quick scan of the woods to see if there were any other deer around. I was surprised, and could not quite believe my eyes, when I found a little fawn resting against the water tub, just a few feet from Daisy. I looked around further and saw no sign of the dominant deer. This was her little fawn. I had seen them many times over the last couple of weeks, sometimes spotting Daisy following behind them. This morning, it appeared Daisy was babysitting!
Daisy, being alert in her role as caretaker, of course saw me as I attempted to get photographs from the back porch. She looked at me briefly, then went on with her job watching out for her little charge, who appeared to be very sleepy. Both Daisy and the fawn were hot. Their ribs moved up and down while they heaved in the deep breaths of sleep, and sometimes I caught them panting. This always appears a bit funny to me because panting deer have an extremely happy look, as if they’re smiling. I looked around the canyon area again. The mama doe did not seem to be around. Perhaps she felt safe enough leaving her fawn with Daisy in this area of the woods. This made me feel good.
I remembered my own days of babysitting when I was a young girl. Being the eldest of five kids, I had grown up with the responsibility of caring for my siblings at times. However, babysitting jobs away from home were always much better than watching my siblings, because I earned money, and I generally had some respect from my little charges. For the most part, the families I babysat for appreciated me, and the kids I took care of adored me. My siblings did not afford the same experience. They were hooligans most of the time… holy terrors!
I decided to try to get closer to the fawn by taking a little side path down to the woods. I knew if I was going to avoid disturbing the fawn, I would have to go barefoot. It was so dry out that leaves and twigs cracked and snapped under the pressure of shoes or flip-flops. I had discovered weeks before that going barefoot was best when trying to photograph wildlife. The bad thing was, my feet were not yet conditioned to the dry, prickly grass and sharp twigs. As a kid, I remembered, I could run full-out on crushed rock and gravel. My feet were tough and calloused from going barefoot all summer long. These days, I was a tenderfoot, but I wanted close-up photos of the fawn… so I endured the discomfort.
Ambling down the animal trail on the side of a nearby hill, I ducked under low-hanging branches, and scooted down the dirt on my rear end. And yes, I was careful to look for poison ivy. I finally opted to sit on a tree root that humped up out of the ground. Insects discovered me immediately of course and, being tucked in on the side of a hill, I felt no breeze at all! I was sweltering in the heat, sweating profusely. Daisy, meanwhile, looked rather comfortable in that soft, green grass, while she looked back at me, and then over to her little charge, who was getting quite heavy-lidded, and just about to drift off to sleep.
I sat on the tree root for a while, snapping photos until the ants found me. Deciding this was no battle I wanted to pick, I stood up slowly, and carefully made my way to the woodland floor, directly across from my subjects. Maybe I could get just a bit closer with the fawn sleeping! Daisy watched me while I managed a prickly walk closer. I skillfully made my way to a great vantage point but had not yet had time to crouch down, when the fawn spotted me! Quickly up on its hooves, it stood and stared, stomping as its mother often did. Daisy, of course was not at all alarmed, because she saw nothing to fear. I am her mama after all! But the fawn sensed danger, and high-tailed it off to nearby trees, only stopping and turning around to get a better look at me when it thought it was at a safe distance. I stood still, talking to Daisy while I shot a few more pictures, and then turned to walk, painfully, back up the hill. As I made my way back to the house through the crispy, dead grass up on top, I noticed the little fawn was still watching me. Daisy had risen and was watching the fawn, probably wondering what had spooked it.
For several days after, I noticed Daisy laying in the shade with the fawn nearby. Sometimes the mama doe was around and sometimes not. Other times, I saw the doe standing at a distance and watching Daisy and the fawn eat at the corn feeder, as if a sentry, looking out for danger. I also observed the doe hoofing her own fawn, and not very gently I might add! I captured endearing moments between Daisy and the fawn, sometimes seeing Daisy gently hoofing the fawn away from the corn. There seemed to be an understanding of the hierarchy between these two. Daisy was making a place for herself in this small herd. The more I observed the three of them, the more I understood Daisy was beginning to be trusted as a member of the herd.
All through the August days of Indian Summer, Daisy spent most of her time with the doe and fawn. Occasionally, Daisy came to the water tub and feeder alone, looking off to the north and west where her friends were often seen, as if she was expecting them. When we are with her in the bottom, and she hears a distant snorting, she runs to her new herd, abandoning us for a little while.
Once again, I have trusted nature to take care of Daisy. She has been provided everything she needs to survive and, in due time, her instinct has led her to a greater life experience than I could ever have hoped for her to have. She is lucky… I know. She has managed to cross an unlikely bridge. Raised by and bonding with human parents, predators to her kind – then freed to discover her wild ways with only instinct to guide her. Daisy has managed to cross that bridge, while trusting the path on either side. What an incredible life she lives!
We too, can live by what we have been taught and what has been instilled in us. But, we can also tap into our instinct and yearning, to discover what lies in the unknown, and flourish… quite naturally… in the wild!
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…