14
Jan
2009

The Postal Deer

The Postal Deer

 

I grew up in Burlington, VT. Like any 6 year old boy I had a cork gun and a decoder ring listed in my top 10 possessions and I would cling to the old radio when it was time for the Lone Ranger.

When I had turned 6 my father decided that his son could handle a few chores, one of which was to walk out to the road and get the mail. Now this hardly seemed a chore to me at all.

 I was always fascinated at how my father would react at the mail I brought him. Sometimes he would just throw it on the table, others he would give a happy shout and seek mother to share with her the good news I had found in the mailbox.

 

One winter day while on Christmas break, I went out to perform my chore.  Happily I walked down the long peaceful driveway, large snow flakes drifted down from the great gray clouds.

“Make sure to knock the snow off the nativity” my mother shouted after me.

The nativity consisted of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in a manger. Yes Ma, I answered.

It snowed a lot when I was a boy and we didn’t have the great snow removal systems that we have now. Sometimes we would even get snowbound, those days were really exciting.

 

When I finally made it down to the mailbox which stood at just by the road past the end of the long fence, I was surprised to find that a deer was making a meal out of the hay that baby Jesus lay upon. I shouted at it, and the deer ran at me. I was so frightened that I ran all the way back to the house.

I told my father what had happened. Well you can’t let a deer get the upper hand son; you have got to scare it more than it scares you.  Go up to your room he told me, and put on 2 or 3 of your coats and a big hat then go check the mail and see what happens. I begrudgingly did as he said.

Well I thought, as I put on my snowsuit and 2 other large coats, if I don’t scare that deer at least he won’t be able to hurt me through all these layers.  As I awkwardly made my way back outside, with arms sticking out at almost a 90 degree angles from my body because of the many layers, I laughed at the shadow I threw on the ground. I looked like the Mitchellin Tire Guy.

I grabbed a stick for good measure, and like Robin Hood I stole down the drive to the mailbox.

The bold deer was still there munching on the manger hay, it raised it’s head and looked at me briefly then continued eating. It grunted at me as I reached for the mailbox and put the letters in then raised the flag. When I turned to leave the aggressive deer did a short mock charge just to let me know I wasn’t going to move him off that hay. I was proud that I had completed my mission without injury, I still dreaded tomorrows encounter.

I thought on it all night about how I could scare off that deer. The next day after the mail was delivered I put on my many coats and a big hat, but this time I grabbed the scariest Halloween mask you ever did see, that mask scarred me just wearing it .

Silently I stalked down the driveway like GI Joe on a covert mission I ran from one fence post to the other peering out from one to assure myself the coast was clear before sprinting to the next. All the way down the driveway my determination built and by the time I made the sanctuary of the last fence post I was ready.

 I jumped out from behind the post, screaming at the top of my lungs only to be answered by the screams of a man and woman who were bent over the obviously dead deer salvaging the meat.

The deer had been hit by the snowplow when it went by; obviously the deer hadn’t afraid of that plow either.  After I explained what had transpired over the past few days to the nice man and woman we all had a good laugh. The next year when the nativity went up I replaced the hay with a blanket.   

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1
Jan
2009

My Father Was A Farrier

 

My father was a Farrier.  He traveled to farms as far as a hundred miles away from our humble, Washington home to shoe horses. It wasn’t uncommon for dad to leave early in the morning before the sun was up. I can remember as a small boy I always wanted to go along on the weekends. Finally when I was big enough to help out, dad would wake me on those frosty, cold, dark mornings with a cup of black coffee and a breakfast that a lumberjack would have had trouble eating.

 

“You have to fill your tank if you’re going to come with me” he would say and though my appetite had not woke up yet I would sleepily eat as much as I could until dad said it was enough. Then we would make our way out of the dimly lit farm house to his 56 ford truck loaded with his anvil, leather chaps and tools and hit the road.  Those drives were quiet and reflective moments looking back; I often tried to imagine what I would be when I grew up. Would I be a Farrier like my father? As I recall I would always imagine myself in much more daring jobs, like fireman, football player or maybe the president.

 

Today we were going to the city of Redmond which was hosting a week long rodeo; a much awaited event for folks in the area. Dad said that when the rodeo came to town every horse owner within a hundred miles wanted their horses shod. Dad was always there, he never turned anyone down. His gentle hand, kind voice and steady manner made him a natural with the horses and a favorite of their owners. This particular day dad was to shod 25 horses.

 

 Steadily and surely dad started the day, as the sun started to peak over the horizon, only straightening his bent body to move from one quarter of the horse to the other or to adjust the shoe with a few loud whacks from his hammer.

 

 When he would finish one horse the ranch hand was there with the next, and all day long this steady pace continued. Dad never looked away from his work, and my job was to keep him in nails and to hold the horses still and talk to them while dad quickly and efficiently shod them.

 

 The horses seemed to know that what dad was doing was important; for the most part they stood patiently letting his gentle touch reassure them that they were in good hands.

 

The only problem we ever ran into was when we would get a horse that had never been shod before. They were always a little shy of having their legs pulled up off the ground for long periods of time. Dad would speak softly to these young horses, telling them words I couldn’t quite hear but their effect was calming to the horses. The young horses stood wide eyed and listened to my dads’ voice as he quietly reassured them from each quarter and with each nail in their brand new set of shoes.

 How funny it was to watch the newly shod young horses take their first steps in their new shoes. They would lift their feet up high; almost over their own backs trying to figure out what had happened.  After a few minutes they got used to the new feeling and settled down. The horse would be taken by the ranch hand and turned out into a wide corral where the other newly shod horses were. As each horse was turned loose the other horses would meet it and sniff their new shoes and whinny and snicker as if saying welcome to the club and then together they would trot around the corral with their heads high and their tales flagging in the air. It was a beautiful sight.  Finally dad reached the end of his work. The sun had been down for hours and I knew that dad was exhausted. He hadn’t stopped for lunch all day, and even with his pocket full of cash we didn’t stop to eat all the way home. When we did finally get home mom had a delicious hot meal waiting, with great gallons of iced tea with which dad could refresh himself. That’s the way my dad made a living all my childhood, never complaining about back aches I know must have plagued him, never complaining about the long drive, always thankful for Sunday- his only day off.  In his calm, conservative way he instilled in me the wish to do my work completely, without complaint and without fail.

 

Today is his birthday and I wanted to say:

Thanks Dad. 

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24
Dec
2008

15 Chicks

15 Chicks

The year was 1968 and I was the apple of my grandma’s eye. My grandpa had passed away and my grandma was living in an old white shotgun style farm house out in the Florida sticks, on the little farm that raised great fields of peas and huge patches of watermelon all flourishing under grandma’s care.  Grandma raised her own hogs and chickens and if I awoke early enough I was allowed to collect the eggs from the nests in the hen house.

 

 I can remember hesitantly putting my hand in the nest and rousing the fat hen sitting there. Her feathers soft and warm and the single egg she sat upon nestled safely in her feathers. I can remember making eye contact with a hen now and then, the hen would cluck, cluck which I thought was their way of telling me that she wanted to set on her nest and hatch that egg.

 

Grandma did let hens set, usually it was a wayward hen that had stole away and built her own nest up under something that couldn’t be reached to remove the eggs. When this would happen we would walk by and grandma would point out the nest and tell me that in 28 days we would have some chicks.

 

 I would come out to grandma’s each weekend like clockwork and when the time got close I would find a place near by and silently watch for any signs of the chicks. Long sunny days seemed even longer in the moist Florida heat but I was vigilant.

 

One Sunday after returning from Sunday school we rushed into the house put on our play clothes and ran outside to find that new tiny chicks were walking out from under the little travel trailer the red hen had nested under. I stopped in my tracks and watched.

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 The proud mother hen would scratch the ground and peck, peck at it.  The watching and eager little chicks would soon mimic the hen doing as she did. How precious were these small fluffy chicks, perfect in everyway; and how very proud the hen seemed as she strutted around the yard.

 

 The other hens in the hen house were keenly aware of the masterful coup that the fat red hen had pulled off. She’d escaped the daily grind and set her nest and was now the proud mother of some 15 chicks. When the other hens would get close to the little chicks they would stare at them as if they were some prized possession and sometimes even try to steal one off for themselves.

 

 After a couple of weeks the hens’ chicks were getting a little bigger they were put into the hen house at night to protect them. Each day the hens and chicks were set free to the barn yard and each evening they were fed back into their house to roost and lay their eggs for us.

 

 The next time I was at grandma’s house and got up early enough to collect the eggs I was amazed at how fast the little chicks had grown. They were almost as big as their mother already. I looked around for the fat red hen; she was nowhere to be found. I collected the eggs and went back into the kitchen where grandma was making bacon and oatmeal with toast for breakfast. Grandma I asked, what happened to the red hen? She just laughed and shook her head, she is setting a nest again, that little thing just wants to be a momma I guess. I smiled, "I guess" I said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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