Deer on the Road

Not Smart Enough for College (28)

As Anne and I drove up a nearby canyon recently, we noticed that the river was very low, in fact it was down to little more than a trickle. The leaves of the Aspen trees had fallen to the ground, leaving the stark white bark glowing in accent against the rich green pines. The forest was indeed a splendor to behold.

The weather was chilly, but the sky was a brilliant blue dotted with billowing white cumulous clouds. We commented on the beauty of nature and the simple arrangement of colors along the highway, on the mountains, and in the valleys. If we were artists, we would have had a magnificent picture to paint, but we are not artists and our cell phones were full, so all we have are the pictures we created in our minds.

We were being observant, looking for wildlife, but all we saw at first were horses, cows, bulls, and a few chipmunks. We headed down a dirt road with a wire fence on each side of it, about four feet high with a single strand of barbed wire on top. The fence enclosed empty fields of dry grass and sagebrush.

Up ahead, we saw some deer, so we slowed down and approached cautiously, stopping a safe distance away to watch them. There were eight head, three mature does on the left side of the road and five deer on the right, two does and three yearlings. The river, with its life-giving water, was on the left. Those already on the side with the river seemed to be waiting for the rest of the group to join them. While they waited, they grazed, yet remained alert, constantly raising their heads and scanning for danger.

We watched as one of the two does on the right jumped the first fence and then the second, leaving the last adult behind with the yearlings. The remaining doe ran skittishly along the fence, seeming to encourage the youngsters to join her, but eventually she too jumped the fences, leaving them to fend for themselves.

The younger deer appeared nervous and unsure of themselves as they pranced up and down, trying to find a spot to make an easier jump. Eventually one of them got up the courage to jump the first fence, but not the second. A few more minutes running up and down along the second fence, then over it flew. Following closely behind now was the next youngster, whose hind legs tangled briefly in the barbed wire, then freed itself and ran to join the others.

The third young deer was left alone, facing the two fences with the road between. This little one ran up and down along the fence line with a look of desperation on its face. Then it backed up, took off running, jumped over the fence, dashed across the road, and, without a pause, confidence soaring, made the second jump and joined the waiting family.

Anne and I just sat in the car watching this event unfold, fascinated with the interactions of these deer. It was amazing to watch this beautiful illustration of wise, experienced adults setting an example for the younger ones, patiently waiting for them, watching over them, on the lookout for danger, quietly encouraging them to face their challenges, then walking off together for that much needed drink.

Obviously, we don’t speak the language of the deer nor fully understand their nonverbal communication. Perhaps we were reading in lessons that were not there, but it doesn’t seem like it to us. These does were protecting and caring for their young, while teaching them to face their challenges and develop important strengths and skills they would need to survive on their own one day.

In our own way, we can do the same for our children, watch out for danger, teach by example, gently nudge, patiently wait while they work up their courage to face their challenges and learn new skills, and above all, stick together, however long it takes.



Happy Failing Forward,


Calvert and Anne

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