From: Deer Farmers' Library (www.deer-library.com)|
Kandahar, the Taliban, al-Qaeda Network, war. We pause this Christmas season, but not for long. We are bound together by a love of nature, its beasts and our place within a system perhaps broader than we can truly imagine.
We are deer farmers! But we are also Americans and Canadians. We bled and spit the dust and stench of September 11 from both sides of our common border. And we cannot conceive of the act. As other towers dropped, steel and flesh became one. And we now reflect. We try to reflect during Christmas at a level that we can understand.
We are just people. Most of us farm whitetail deer! And as farmers we also are teachers, lawyers, doctors, laborers and perhaps candlestick makers. We raise deer for money. But many of us would raise deer if there were not profit to be had at all. Certainly, we would raise less deer, and there would be less of us. But the fascination would remain. And it will remain.
The "why" is not all about money
As a deer farmer, I have seen a grown man give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a doe who took a dart that found a wrong spot to split the hide. But I've also been blessed to spend one June afternoon observing another doe give birth. She chose a portion of her wooded pasture within six feet of a building she was near daily. She thought she was isolated from others, but did not know about the full-length window. I had the opportunity to literally sit in my mother-in-law's home and watch that entire afternoon as she presented twin fawns to a new world. Certainly it is a renewing process of life, but it also gives meaning to life and is an experience few get to see very close up and personally. Not from an easy chair in a living room anyway!. The experience was magical! It renews the earth and it renewed my soul.
From the first time as a kid that I helped a beloved great-uncle "pull" a Holstein calf in the pasture a mile from the farmhouse, to many opportunities to observe "first arrivals" in the horse barns, the gift of observing life starting again has always renewed me. It is because of those experiences that I know for sure that there is a God! There must be a God!
"HE" sent whitetails
When dawn came, I found myself standing in our backyard, and saw something I will never forget. About 100 yards away and at the foot of a huge tree stood two fawns watching me from the high ground, which was very much "open and unfenced." I believe they were waiting for me. They stood motionless, then moved only a few feet before starting a playful dance that could have taken not more than a 10- by-10 foot area. I watched for maybe 20 seconds, but it seemed like a lifetime.
Then I noticed, in the shoulder-high cover near them, a full-grown doe who seemed to be watching both her babies and me. The doe stood motionless. I saw (and I mean I saw) a whimsical, human-like expression on that animal's face. When her message was complete she withdrew into the bushes by backing away, but seemingly never moving her eyes or changing that expression. The two fawns played, stopped without seeing me and withdrew. None of the three were seen here before - or ever since.
I stood and wept quietly, asking the Lord if it was truly "His" message. Yet I knew it was. There were two fawns. Two. My wife experienced a successful medical procedure that saved her life. Several days later I told my recovering wife about another of God's message. He sent a whitetail doe - with two symbolic fawns - to reassure me of His plan. There were two fawns.
Returning to the deer pens
Many of us do battle with those who would, through regulatory efforts, attempt to limit our precious American freedoms to use our land as we see fit. We cooperate with state and federal legislators across this nation when "anti-game" farming interests act against us. And we learn again the need to be legislatively active, especially when there is no apparent "threat." We participate because we understand that some would prevent all Americans from eating steak or venison. And should we should temporarily forget this lesson, we will be reminded.
Divide this man in thirds
My wife and I have one foot in city life and another in the country. She knows the gleam in people's eyes who are "deer nuts" and she has come to understand it. She knows that when the subject comes up at a business reception or gathering of friends that, "there he goes again!" And much of our time is devoted to "talking deer." In the process, we've helped lots of new deer farmers over the years. Some are city people. Some are country folks who find a new joy in studying, producing and marketing what are one of God's most intriguing creatures. We - most of us who love to live as near the heart of this industry as possible - are deer farmers. And that's a special blessing for this holiday season.
Our livestock sales don't always cover the cost of fence and feed. But most of the time, both now and in the future, I'm guessing the bounty we've experienced will continue in some form. For me it's been a joy of nearly twenty years, and perhaps, it will be another twenty before they put this man - quite literally - out to pasture. May it also be for you and yours!
[Norma & Jim Stoltz own Stoltz Whitetails, Inc., located west of St. Louis, Missouri, USA. They are active members of the North American Deer Farmers Association (NADeFA) where they have served since 1986 in roles including teaching, fund raising and two terms as a director. They may be reached toll free at 1-888-Big Fawn (1- 888-244-3296)].
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