The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

“Seen any deer?”

I let him eat, and he let me shoot.A few years ago, a friend and I took a week in Colorado, driving through the back roads of the Rockies, generally following one of our favorite country music artists – and premiere writer of environmental songs – on what we termed “The Ultimate San Juan Oddysey.” The trip took us above the tree line, to long defunct silver mines, historic avalanche sites, Silverton (via the Durango and Rio Grande narrow gauge railroad), and Black Bear Road, (“You don’t have to be crazy to drive this here road, but it helps.”).

On Day 1 we were on the way to Camp Bird Mine in a rented Mitsubishi Gallant. Camp Bird is one of the best examples of how uncontrolled mining can ruin downstream water for centuries, and we wanted to get close up and personal. Alas, the trail became impassable too far to walk the rest of the way, but not before we spied a small herd  of Mule Deer, maybe a dozen animals, grazing at the edge of the woods. Between the road and trees was a rather large clear area, into which we pulled, the better to enjoy our first.

As we sat watching the deer browse, a pair of bright red rental Jeeps full of young folks came sliding to a stop between us and the deer.

“Seen any deer,” one of the interlopers asked.

None of them looked toward the trees, where the deer, apparently used to such carrying-on, stood watching.

“Nary a one,” we replied, more or less in unison as we look past them to the herd.

The two Jeeps sped off, and we returned to deer watching.

I was reminded of that experience this week while stopped on a mountain road in the South Mountains, watching a six-pointer graze under a pine just off the road. There I was, with my camera out the driver-side window, it’s foot-long lens resting on the  mirror.

I was happily shooting away when down the hill came an SUV. It’s driver, apparently unaware the significance of the camera lens, waved as he drove by, carrying his passengers – including, I thought I noticed, a couple of youngsters – to their destination.

The buck wandered farther away from the road, probably muttering something about being allowed to dine in peace beneath the pine of his choosing.

I drove up a the hill far enough to pull off the road and got out to walk back to where I had last seen the buck. At first, I couldn’t find him, and was about to give up when he moved, still unafraid, downhill, a little deeper into the forest.

He stopped for a couple seconds, about 100 yards away to give me this shot before disappearing into the downhill trees.

1 Comment

  1. Great story.Gorgeous photo. That’s a keeper.

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