The storm approached and brought a ghost

I walk slowly, like one who comes from so far away he doesn't expect to arrive." - Jorge Luis Borges

Yesterday morning arrived in a rainy mist, which continued on throughout the day. We ran into the village to get a couple of supplies and some more fuel in case we needed to run the generator if we did loose power because of the approaching storm.

As evening approached, the wind began to come up. The wind brought a cold chill with it, which went straight through sweaters, wool coats, and scarves. Wood was brought in, the fire was started... bread was rising in the kitchen. 

I was bundling up to head to the barn for evening chores. I heard Kevin call my name, and he told me to come out to the porch. 

Every time he does that, my heart skips a beat this time of year. I am as I always am, waiting for a very good friend to return, and I know that I may be waiting forever. Many times I've thought he might show up, many times I've walked in the woods and stopped to look over my shoulder, imagining he might be behind me watching me. But he was never there. 

He is old, and another year has passed. He is disabled, and his chances of surviving in the wild without being killed by wolves or poachers around here, are small. He is a hundred years old in deer years. Whitetail deer just do not live to be 9 or 10 years old on a regular basis. 

But when I walked out onto the porch, holding my breath from habit, it was his eyes that looked up at me from the yard. I felt the cold air come into my lungs as I took a big breath, as the wind blew through me. It was like seeing a ghost looking back at you. 

He was here, somehow he was here. 

Not only is he missing an eye, his rear leg has been injured just above the joint. It's red, and it's sore, and he limps.

But he's as strong as ever. He was bitten in the hamstring likely by wolves, it looks like a typical bite, however there is a slight chance the wound is caused by something else. How this old one eyed buck managed to get away, is hard to say. It's amazing actually. Just as it's amazing that he returns each winter, having escaped a hunters scope, a coyote or wolves stomach, and fate. 

Hunting season starts in a week. I know in my heart it's unlikely he'll survive - while I know it's incredible he's survived all these years, I know in his state and with the ever growing amount of hunters in this area, his chances are very slim. I'm not saying I'm against hunting, as most of you who have read my other posts will know... although we lean to conservation on our land, and with the deer we have a different kind of relationship here.

His chances of survival through the winter also with his hamstring injured are pretty slim. It was incredible he has survived three years with only one eye, but it's difficult for him to walk now, and will be even more difficult if we get heavy snow or ice since it's difficult for him to run. However this deer survived having his eye gorged out, and his neck ripped open, and 9 hunting seasons, so who really knows.

This buck has been on this farm longer than I have. I can still remember the first time I laid eyes on him, he was the first time I saw a buck so close, and got to know one in nature in any personal way. The first time I really stopped and felt my heart skip a beat when his eyes met mine and he looked at me with the intensity that only a large, wild, untamed animal can look at you with. 

Late fall or early winter, year after year, he has returned to winter near the house. Many mornings I've crawled out of bed, and stopped at the window as I passed by rubbing my eyes, to see him there lying under a maple tree. He's not tame, but he knows he's safe here. He knows he's safe here unlike other places because somehow he's been smart enough to evade all the threats year after year. His rack grows every year and he is a large trophy buck. Many people would pay a lot of money to have a chance to shoot a Whitetail of his size, although he's coming out of his prime now... he's still magnificent.

But this deer is different, he changed a part of us in ways I'm not sure I can properly express in words. I respect nature in a way I never did before because of him, both Kevin and I do. It's not that either of us did not have an immense respect for nature before, but because of this deer, his behavior, his strength, the fact he has beat all of the odds year after year, it just makes you have an entirely different view of things. Nature is a wonderful thing, but also cruel, it's brutal actually.... the weak just do not survive. And this deer, he is old, he has one eye which completely impairs his ability to see predators as quickly as before, his leg is injured in a place that causes many animals to go down. But yet he is still strong, his will to survive is strong, and he carries on. 

I'm grateful he came to say hello. I'm grateful to have had this animal in my life for so many years now, to have his story inside me to always carry with me on my journey. The dreamer in me wants him to spend another winter here, but the realist knows that might not be possible. Then again, the fact that he even showed up at all and is still alive has already broken all the rules. How this deer has survived so many years, so many injuries that should have long ago made him loose the game of predator versus prey in the wild, is incredible. 

Someday, he'll be a legend. Sometimes I feel like he already is. 

We were bracing for trouble from Sandy since we were in the path to get some wind and lots of rain. The wind did not pick up to any real strength until about 1 AM and while it was howling by then, it wasn't nearly as strong as other storms we've had and it did very little damage. We got almost no rain, just a little drizzle. My heart goes out to all those who had to deal with flooding, no power, heavy winds, and in some cases, a whole bunch of snow. 

Today was beautiful, it was warm and although we did get some clouds and rain in the afternoon it was brief and it's remained warm into this evening. 

It's hard to say whether or not we'll see Torn Ear again this year. I know I won't stop turning my head to look behind me when I'm in the bush to see if he's there.... maybe he's been there watching me all this time. 


Chai Chai said…
I would hate to see him suffer, maybe it is time. Do you feed the deer during the Winter?
Nana-Bob said…
awww, good to see him. I woud hope he could just hang out there all winter. Do you have hunters on your land? Are they allowed to hunt there?
jaz@octoberfarm said…
what a glorious buck he is! i hope nothing happens to him! i love that he feels safe by you!
Primitive Stars said…
Hello....OMG!!!!!!!! what a wonderful it....such a beautiful are blessed by his visits year after year......Prey he makes it through another long winter......Thanks for sharing such a great made my day......Happy Halloween Francine.
I'm glad you got to see him.

I was wondering if you put out corn for him.

That might keep him closer to your home.
Dee said…
Love your postings. I hope the buck comes and stays at your place this winter.
Kelly said…
I love it when we can exist side by side with nature and have enough room for all. I too have no problem with hunting. I just don't want to be the one to do it. No hunting on our property either. Except that damn fox that keeps eating my chickens. Him, I hunt! Happy Halloween.
What a wonderful story and what a wonderful, magnificent buck. There's a story there of strength and the wonder of nature. I'm glad he's arrived back so you can see him again and he feels safe. He's fought the good fight so far, that's for sure.
We aren't hunters here on our land and I don't want hunters near my livestock or house. I'm not against hunters and our deer population in our area is out of balance. But I do have a relationship with the deer that live on my farm as well. I think the season opens here today...always wear orange out in the fields just in case.

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