A Father and his Sword

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in Modoc Count...

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There was once a family that lived deep in the mountains of a land known far and wide for its soaring peaks, endless green valleys and limitless open sky.

This family was very happy and they lived a simple life and did their almighty best to observe the basic tenets of decency, dignity, and conservation, and to teach these harmonious philosophies to their two small children besides.

Their modest home under a grove of stately pines was cool and shaded during the hot summer months, and sheltered from the wind, snow and rain during the wintertime, and it happened that this place was as dear to many of the animals of the nearby forest as it was to the family who lived there, and it also happened that one day in the spring a young buck deer was driven from his own family for one reason or another and decided to set up residence on the family’s property, no doubt reasoning that this would be a safe location to live out his state of exile.

Now, the Father looked at this buck and was troubled—it occurred to him that though this young buck seemed peaceful enough, he might one day come to look at the family’s sheltered property as his own and perhaps therefore pose a threat to the safety of his dear wife and children.

This man, though raised and trained in all manner of violence, bloodshed and redhanded butchery from an age when most children were still using training wheels on their bicycles, had reached middle age and long before forsworn that most vulgar aspect of his former subsistence lifestyle and against his inner doubts silenced his instincts and let the buck live in peace.

The seasons passed and the buck grew and reached a majestic height and girth and his antlers were nothing short of amazing. So too did the children grow and their eyes shone with merriment and bright high spirited interest in the world around them and their laughter rang throughout the simple house and the fields all about.

Life was good and all manner of thing were well and the world had its proper place for all of them.

As it happened one day late in the eve of a midsummer’s day, the Mother was strolling to feed the horses with a pail of grain in one hand and her faithful Shepherd ranging with her and the young buck that wasn’t so young anymore met them where the hay was stored and he planted his solid bulk to bar their path and lowered his head so that his magnificent antlers could be fully appreciated, and when the Shepherd dove forward to run the beast off, the buck instead rolled the dog into a tight little ball and pushed it aside in the tall grasses where the dog flew end over end.

And then it charged the Mother and it was only the pause afforded by her faithful dog that gave her the extra second she needed to vault over the horse corral and put the fence between herself and the enraged beast.

The Father upon hearing this disquieting tale and seeing the evidence of the injured dog could only shake his head in sadness and acute disappointment. The disappointment was partly directed at the buck whom he felt had betrayed them, but mostly at himself for allowing such a thing to happen in the first place.

The following morning before the sun had properly risen to relieve the world from its somber tones of gray and black, the Father set aside his coffee mug and took the only gun he owned nowadays from a rack hung up high on the wall and opened its magazine and loaded it full of copper and plastic coated shells, and then he walked out of the house and into the dripping gray silence of the early morning and found the buck where he had just awoke from his own night’s sleep and stood stretching and watching the approaching man and sniffing the air with his perfect black nostrils.

The Father put the shotgun to his shoulder and even though he was almost entirely blind in his left eye, his shooting eye, quickly put two rounds through the area of the buck where the fine muscled neck joined with the smooth curve of the back and chest, both in the same number of heartbeats. The buck sagged into the grasses and rolled over to his side and though he kicked out one leg and thrashed the air with it a few times he was entirely dead.

The Father took the gun back to the house and unloaded it and hung it back on the wall where it belonged and then finished his coffee, and when the day lightened the whole family trooped out to where the buck lay in the trampled grasses. The Father explained to his children the circumstances that led the animal to this bleak fate and then with the same hands he’d held each of them tenderly as babies he reduced the once fine beast into an assemblage of parts and together they hauled the meat back to the larder.

The buck fed them that night and for many nights thereafter.

The family lived happily ever after.

Thanks for tuning in—more to follow….

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