The fawn was crippled. Either in birth or through accident, its foreleg was bent backward so that it could only shamble after its mother and its healthy siblings.
Our friend tells this story on a day bright with autumn gold. Under a blue sky trees flaunt their orange, yellow and dark crimson leaves acquired after weathering many a cold night. To stand beneath one of these trees makes one glad to be alive.
Standing under tree
With leaves of fiery gold…
Today the sun still holds its warmth, and a solitary monarch butterfly floats along a cooling breeze. It is the kind of day in which one is glad to be alive, when winter cold and darkness seems too far away to taint the mind.
What happened to the fawn? I ask.
The question is laced with apprehension. I know the things of which this world is capable. Not a day goes by without some report of violence and cruelty—not just against people in war-torn lands but in our own country. Nor is man content to vent this ugliness toward his own kind—too many news stories document the horrors that are inflicted on animals. There is the flashy football star who participated in dog-fights. There are the puppy mills, the starved horses and pets abandoned because they shed too much or did not match the furniture.
So, yes, I fear for this crippled fawn.
“Well,” says our friend, “it survived through the spring and summer because its mother and aunts and brothers and sisters watched over it. We put out a little food for the deer in the woods, so they would all come to feed, and you could see how the others made sure the fawn had enough to eat.”
I know that there are many among us who take up the cause of helpless creatures. When I was growing up, my mother was a champion of all mistreated dogs, cats, and anything else that walked, crawled, flew, or slithered on this earth. Many times she went up against men twice her size in defense of some poor animal. It has to be genetic— as a child I used to bring home every stray I came across.
But the natural world is not given to compassion, and the story of the crippled deer has not ended, yet. I’m not really sure that I want to hear the end. We all know about natural selection and the survival of the fittest, and I’m aware that a small, lame fawn has little chance in a world already teeming with deer.
Still, I listen as our friend describes watching one cool morning as the deer came to feed. Then, out of the brush, she says, stepped a huge stag. Haughtily it chased off his harem and all his offspring. Chased them all from the food that was his right. Chased every one away— except the crippled fawn.
“So they ate together, the big stag and the little, lame creature,” concludes our friend. “It was really beautiful.”
I want to applaud not only because the story has a happy ending but because it proves that the natural world is still full of that ineffable magic called kindness. Here are two animals which have no knowledge of philosophy or ethics or free will, and they are still teaching a lesson of compassion and generosity.
And on this golden autumn day I have the hope that perhaps some day all humans will learn that lesson, too.
Those great, gentle eyes
Are turned toward me, asking