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Prairie Ramblings Episode
Fri June 7, 2013
Years ago our family tent-camped at Slough Creek Camp Ground, a primitive site at the north end of Yellowstone National Park where wildlife is abundant and close. That particular summer, the area’s fawn population had exploded. Does led babies to the stream bank directly across from our tent. While my husband fished, transfixed little girls and I watched the tiny creatures scamper and nurse while their mommas browsed and occasionally cleaned a baby. This is my fondest memory of camping with small children.
Our daughters are grown now, but sometimes an event sparks old recollections that make it seem like only yesterday that we were three squealing females trying to stifle our glee at seeing a dozen spotted babes so close we could almost touch them. What triggered this latest reminiscence was an abundance of fawns in our backyard last summer.
I mentioned in another essay that we lost our long time guard dog who took his duty to scare deer away very seriously. After Tucker died, many bucks, does, and fawns passed within feet of the house, browsing shrubs, trees, and flowers and drinking out of the creek at the base of the yard. When I awakened each morning, I eagerly anticipated seeing which examples of wild America would visit that day.
Keep in mind, these animals have delicate noses, as well as sharp ears and eyes. Because deer depend on superior awareness to survive, they don’t hang out in the back yard when we garden or sit on the back porch. That’s too much human contact for their comfort—as it should be.
Interactions with them required camouflaged viewing from the dining room window that overlooked Big Creek and doubled as a photographer’s blind. Wild beasts are so cautious that any movement or noise from inside the house spurs a dash up the bank to hidden safety. To prevent scaring the focus of my observations, I moved slowly, making sure my camera didn’t beep and frighten these tawny beauties.
That morning, I began the day spying on a little one nursing while his mom browsed the creek banks. She ate while baby fed, and then she licked him thoroughly before they meandered to a nearby alfalfa patch. Later, I walked by the window while I dusted and noted a young buck standing half hidden in tall grass. I got a good look, but he heard the beep of my camera’s on button so I missed my shot.
Later, another momma brought her singleton to water where it frolicked about while she drank. A fawnless doe accompanied her, and I got a few photos of them as they nibbled greens for twenty minutes.
I was grateful I had seen so many deer that day, and then life got better. I looked out the bathroom window and noticed another doe with more mature twins wading the creek. These babies leapt and charged one another in and out of the slow moving summer stream and finally got brave enough to approach the house until mom shooed them back into the water.
While my own girls may be grown and the memory of that day at Slough Creek Campground distant, those moments watching fawns out my own window compressed time, making it seem like it was not so long ago. A hiding place and a ready camera helped me capture memories to share when our daughters visited. Those recent photos reminded us of that magical day long ago.