Autumn Uglies

Nov 1, 2013


Those of us who share our country homes with wildlife love spring time when we see the babies.  Nothing is cuter or sweeter than a newborn fawn unless it is six or seven baby raccoons following mom to the creek.  On the other hand, nothing is funnier looking and yet more charming than a flock of recently feathered turkey poults trying to catch grasshoppers as they follow their mother through tall grass.

A recent spring and summer provided particularly wonderful view from my dining room window overlooking Big Creek.  Our outdoor watchdog passed away, which meant momma deer, coons, and turkeys could safely bring babes into the back yard to drink.  With cup of coffee in hand, I watched mothers wander the shallow creek to drink their fill or to browse overhanging branches while babies nursed contentedly, totally unaware I spied upon them every day. 

This continued for several months, allowing me to learn their favorite times to come to water or their favored pathways.  The fawns went from spotted, frolicsome infants to adolescent does and bucks with adult coloring.  Baby raccoons grew from kitten-size to adult-size critters over the summer until I couldn’t tell parent from offspring. Young turkeys grew adult tall but hadn’t yet filled out. 

Because it was the wild, there was attrition.  A favorite doe lost a fawn to something—illness, coyote, car…who knows.  Several clutches of turkeys went from many to few through the hot months.  The same happened to pheasant hatches as drought and heat took their toll. While it made me sad, it didn’t ruin my summer peeping.

During that summer, I had to drive cross-country to a town several counties away.  This meant leaving at daybreak and driving during prime critter movement time where I could spot more animals than I view at home. I saw adolescent families of turkey, pheasant, prairie chicken, deer, coyote, and foxes on these morning jaunts that reminded me of time I spent watching newborn creatures on our place.  Like human infants, they’re so cuddly when they’re tiny.   Of course, that’s why stuffed animal manufactures create infant, not adolescent, imitation wild critters for the marketplace.

After spending two late summer mornings looking at dozens of gawky youngsters, I wondered who’d want a stuffed creatures that looked that gangly?  It reminded me of when our daughters went from precious, pudgy little first graders with missing teeth to awkward pre-teens whose new teeth were too big for their features and whose spindly legs and arms did not match their trunks.  Then, like the creatures in the wild, our gawky cygnets turned into beautiful swans with well- proportioned bodies and attractive features.

We ‘re lucky to live in a place where we can enjoy the entire cycle of young creatures, from cuddly cuteness to gawky juvenile to attractive adult.  If I am lucky, I might see one of my grown up wild things herding adorable youngsters to water next spring.