Sunday, December 8, 2013


The sun was falling and dusk was rapidly approaching as the top crust of snow on a snow drift moved gently in an upward direction again and again as if some small creature were trying to poke through but couldn't quite make it.  Then two tiny hands enclosed in soggy wool mittens grasped the edges of the new made hole trying to find purchase in order to pull the body up through to the surface.  A head appeared covered with a beaked cap with brown earmuffs that were tied up with a string that went from one muff to the other across the top of the cap.  The tiny little fellow, a child of 5 years,  wriggled through the hole and tumbled down the side of the drift landing on his rear, a wide smile across his face.  What a day it had been!  Tonight was Christmas Eve and he could feel the excitement of the event growing within him.  He ran to the house and stomped the snow from his five buckle over-boots before entering through the porch door.  Mom had dinner on the table and the family said grace before eating.  Everyone retired to the big room in the back of the house - the room that was appointed with the best furniture and was visited least by the family.  That room was reserved for visitors and special times.  In the corner stood the Christmas tree and on it's branch tips were mounted wax candles that were attached to square wooden bases.  Grandma was 94 years old and as usual would say a Christmas prayer on this eve of Christmas.  The little boy loved Grandma and was fixated on her long silver hair that reached to the floor at her heels when not rolled into two rams horns on her head.  He often helped her comb it out on Saturday nights in preparation for Sunday church next day.  This was one of the rare times a fire crackled in the fireplace at the opposite end of the room.  His father didn't trust the chimney anymore and said that a spark could set the whole thing on fire.  I guess fire wasn't a problem on Christmas.  

His mother said it wouldn't be long before Santa arrived on the roof top and slid down the chimney with his bag of stuff.  Of course the fire would have been put out by that time.  But, the small boy didn't quite buy into this sliding down the chimney stuff - he hadn't bought any of it since the time he could rationalize and put two and two together.  How could a fat man fit into a chimney?  It didn't seem possible.  Yet, his parents both had told him this and they don't lie so, it must be true.  The fire was extinguished at 10 PM and the boy was told to go to bed.  He crept on hands and knees to the fireplace and stuck his head inside and looked up the chimney.  No way was Santa coming down there.  And, if he could, surely the bag of stuff wouldn't fit through.  Even if he could turn himself into smoke and get down - the bag couldn't make it.  No way.  He then thought about the roof on the house.  It seemed impossible for a sleigh and reindeer to park on top the comb of a house, even if reindeer could fly, which he doubted.  And yet, if he didn't believe in Santa he wouldn't get any stuff for Christmas.  Better to humor his mom and dad and just act excited in the morning when the presents mysteriously appeared.  Yep, it was time to get to bed.  He crept one more time over to the hearth and looked up the chimney.  It might be done if ---- No, no way.  But on the way to the stairwell he walked to the window beside the fireplace, unlocked and raised the window sash an inch and plugged in the single electric candle light  that sat on the sill -- just in case.  
Wonder who that kid was...
This morning was gloomy, cold and wet.  The rain was coming down in torrents, as usual lately.  I love it!
I have been without my boat for three days due a serious engine issue and the parts have been slow to arrive at the marine shop.   I've been visiting the various areas of responsibility in the truck, which leaves a lot to be desired.  However, this morning I would be visiting an area along the Holston River that was bordered on one side by a narrow, long country road that saw practically no traffic at all.  Imagine that.  It rained hard the entire way to the river and I was on that road before daylight, or what could be construed as daylight.  Dark clouds and driven rain prevailed over the entire area and I drove onto a pull-off to unwind a bit. I listened to the rain beating on the truck's roof and thought of the many, many nights I've spent in a tent under these same conditions.  They were wonderful times I'll never forget.  The early, dim light revealed whitetail deer slowly making their way across the expansive fields that lay to the left of the road.
This is a spot of rare beauty in this area where river, field and mountain combine to present the perfect picture of natural wildlife habitat.  The presence of the deer was the crowning touch to the picture.  I moved out onto the road and had to immediately stop for deer.  I switched off the engine.
I didn't want them to be rushed as they slowly walked up to the road and carefully crossed the pavement to disappear into the heavy brush that lay across the road.
I let them cross the road and I continued on around the corner only to stop again and switch off the engine.  Good heavens, there were deer everywhere!  How sweet is this!

The camera would work well as I could brace it on the window opening of the truck and simply fire away.  The amazing thing is that these deer do not show the slightest regard for my presence.  This means they have not been hunted or even shot at.  You see, there are enormous farms here with thousands of acres with not even one house in sight and the land is posted "No Trespassing."  These deer live on a natural wildlife refuge and don't know it.  How neat is that?

This little guy insisted on posing for me and I took advantage of the opportunity.

I started the truck and the deer didn't even care.  I noted how many deer I had seen so far.  There were large groups of deer assembled at a great distance where the enormous pasture fields touched the start of the forest.  More deer were clustered behind some bushes at the edge of an open field.

This was like a barn yard.  I started smiling to myself and even let out a low chuckle.  And yet more deer were around the next bend in the narrow road.
This is really something.  Surely there can be no more!  But ----
That has to be it.  I started moving a bit faster until  yet another group of animals appeared.
I counted 90 deer in a one mile stretch of river road.  I may be off by two or three animals but, 90 is a good number.  I remember thinking how difficult it must be for the farms to produce a successful grain crop with this deer population.  But then, I look out across the vast uninhabited land and see how enormous the fields are and I think that these deer must not negatively affect the crops that much.  I don't know.  The success of these deer is due to a seemingly endless habitat for them - something that was not considered down near Cherokee Lake where houses line the shorelines and the habitat is ruined.  Nothing was set aside for the critters.  People and big dollars rule in that part of East Tennessee.  Critters be damned down there.  Wonder how long this habitat will last here along this river and mountain.  Probably until the farmer leaves his land to his children who will sell it to the first real estate agent that comes along.