Tag Archives: posting property

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 #4: Posting Property

In the American West we take vast areas of public land to be the norm.

So I was not prepared to find mile after mile of forests being posted with signs that read, Private Property / No Trespassing, when I set out from New Jersey, hitch hiking in the spring of 1969. I was always careful to sleep between the side of the road and the posted property line.

As summer turned to fall in the Catskill Mountains I came to learn those lines I had slept along beside the roads are the simplest of the lines to post. By far most property lines of the 3,000-acre estate I was staying at ran through wild forest, free of road or trail or cleared brush. And they all had to be posted if the animals and lands of the estate were to be protected from intruders.

To be legal the property line had to have a posting that could be seen from the next posting, so someone coming upon the line would see that the property was posted no mater where they may have come across the line.

As the caretake’s helper it was obvious I — the only person with no experience with the wooded property lines — was just guy to go replacing backwood posters.

And how was I suppose to know where the line was? Well, after replacing each old poster I’d look to see the next one somewhere on a tree, probably in the same direction that I’d been breaking through the forest.

Unless, of course, the property happened to make a corner at the tree I’d just put a new poster on. Or unless the old poster on the next tree had been torn off by wind or animals or hunters.

In the case of missing posters the solution was to keep breaking through the forest hoping to see another worn poster. If I couldn’t spot another old poster soon, it was time to give up and get back to the last poster I’d put up — otherwise I could get entirely lost in an unknown forest. Once at the last poster I’d replaced, I’d look around to see if a corner had been turned on the property and, if there were still no old posters to be seen, I’d head out on another search in the direction I had been headed. Several times I managed to pick up the trail after going back to my last posting.

In the event of the property line changing direction, I was given excellent directions for general expectations: “Go in a straight line for a while and there is a corner that goes at about 30 degrees to the right—it’s just a little past a big fallen tree you’ll have to get over—then that goes straight for a couple of posters before there is another 90 degree right where you can see a rock outcropping on your left . . . ”

For a week or so I was fitted out with a pack of signs, a hammer, a sack of nails and another set of excellent instructions. It was generally assumed I’d get home before I got too hungry and there were, even in the late summer, probably enough little streams if I got thirsty.

And it worked. The property was properly posted before hunting season and I always made it home for dinner!