Tag Archives: meadow

Frost Valley #5: Deerly Encountered

The first day I headed out to post Frost Valley property I walked into the meadow where I had first seen fireflies, past where I had made a wide berth around a tip-toeing skunk, and over the berms that held back Clear Creek to form fish ponds. I was headed into the unmarked forest looking to come across the southern boundary of the estate. I carried a hammer and had a bag of nails hanging on one hip and on the other a satchel of paper tree adornments declaring: Private Property / No Trespassing.

There were two fish ponds between the meadow and the thickening woods that climbed up the hills on the far side of the little valley. On the downstream side of the second pond an opening in the gathering trees sported a green, grassy meadow. Looking to the far side of this lush meadow, some hundred feet from me, I spotted two fawns, past their spots but far from grown, standing on either side of their mother. All three had their heads up, fully alert, and were looking directly at me.

I instinctively stopped and returned their gaze. Calm, as they were. Eye-to-eye, as they were. Just checking it out.

To all the gods of the forest, I witness what a beautiful moment it was. Four souls breathing the autumn air and taking one another in.

Gorgeous.

That was my take on it and my spirit holds it to this day. I don’t know how gorgeous they considered me, a creature with one hip hanging in a pouch and the other boxy and awkward and with one hoof dangling five wiggly tubes while the other ended in an odd shape that might be good for stomping the earth.

We four stood for five seconds? Fifteen? Sixty? Then, suddenly, one fawn frisked right off the earth and started a rapid, playful romp across the meadow toward me. Within half a frisk it was joined by its sibling, as if two puppies had spotted two hands that needed someone to pet.

I was charmed to be included as their playmate and I celebrated their joy as they bounded my way. But mostly I kept an eye on Mom.

To my surprise Mom seemed rather unconcerned until the fawns got half way across the meadow and were not slowing down. She started to move. Not run. A slow walk, but keeping the distance short enough between she and the fawns so she could get to them if she had to. It was so very civil.

Mom picked up a little speed as the fawns closed the gap between us. When they were ten feet away I shifted my stance. Just a shift from one leg to the another. The fawns stopped in their tracks. Mom slowed and came up between them.

I told them how beautiful they were and thanked them for the pure Nowness of it all.

My mind knew I was posting the property to keep out hunters and I thought of these fawns and their mother not understanding the difference between a creature with a square hip and another with a long stick. And, lets be real — petting wild animals is an iffy proposition at best, especially with a momma of any animal kingdom watching her young.

Five seconds? Fifteen? Sixty? I don’t know how long we stood, my cooing and them twitching their ears and blinking.

Then I slowly moved my hand indicating I was going. I turned and slowly walked toward the woods. They watched until I was gone.

I did the sensible and necessary thing, walking away. But my spirit did the right thing and remains there still, in a lush and obscure meadow, romping and petting and playing with the fawns and the fireflies and the teen-aged skunk and the watchful, calm, Mom.

Frost Valley #1: A Very Cool Pole Cat

Clear CreekThe 3,000 acre private estate I was hired to help maintain for the summer of 1996 prided itself on being a fly fisherman’s retreat. Lovely Clear Creek flows through Frost Valley and there were several diversions from the stream into lovely little ponds that made perfect trout habitat.

The matron on the estate had long since grown too old to entertain the guests from the city who once flocked to the Catskill Mountains to escape the heat, so by 1969 about the only regular fisherman to tromp around the ponds was a seventeen year old grandson. When we first observed him bedecked in gear and trotting to the ponds, pole held high, the caretaker snorted something on the order of, “Behold the mighty fly fisherman. Fully capable of filling his creel in a pond stuffed with fish trained to feed when humans throw in food.”

Indeed, we did throw in the food. Even though there remained but one fisherman the ponds were maintained like the glory days, entirely overstocked for the food supply, so one of the first chores I learned was where the ponds were and just how many handfulls of pellets to cast upon the waters.

The primary fishing pond was a short drive up the valley from the lodge and set on the far side of a mountain meadow. The meadow had a two-rut path of a road arcing to the pond but we never drove on it. We’d just park the Scout by the side of the paved road and carry the bucket of food to the ponds.meadow

One lovely spring day (I almost said “One particularly lovely spring day,” but that would imply they were not all lovely. It was always a treat to walk through the ever-changing meadow) I glanced up from my admiring the flowers and grasses to find myself face to face with an undesirable critter.

Or should I say ankle to face? Some ten feet away and ambling toward me on the other side of the ruts through the meadow was a baby skunk. We both froze at the same moment. I stood still. After the slightest hesitation, he rather slowly and with great purpose elevated himself up on all four toes and lifted his tail.

I’m pretty sure a baby skunk, at lease one big enough to be ambling about on its own, can be just as influential as a full grown skunk and whether that is the truth or not in not something I particularly care to find out. Neither of us moved.

Given a minute or so, we both seemed to settle the question of who was out to do what and to whom and we both understood all either of us wanted to do was to continue ambling. I confirmed my intent by making a wide arc through the meadow on my side of the road. He turned on his toes, eyes riveted on this odd creature, until I was back on the path and headed on my way. I turned to see him figure I must be an OK dude before getting off his toes, turning his back, and continuing his journey.

I liked that baby skunk. And I hope he liked me. A very cool pole cat, indeed.