The Deer Survived

Lew Goddard

Edited by Anne Goddard

© Copyright 202 by Lew Goddard

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

The old green John Deere D tractor was under my control in a field belonging to my-brother-in-law who had married one of my sisters. I was fifteen. Summer fallowing was a common practice wherein no crop is grown and plant life is controlled by cultivation or chemicals during a season when a crop might normally be grown. My brother-in-law hired me to cultivate eighty acres where no crop would be grown this particular season. The weather had been seasonally hot with today reached more than eighty degrees. Our afternoon meal, we called it supper then, was called at five fifteen. I was forced to wash my hands and face before entering the farm house. Besides, I took my shirt off and shook it violently to rid it of most of the dust, plus I used a straw broom to clean some of the dirt from my pants and shoes.

Did I mention that my sister was a hard fastidious and worked very hard to keep her kitchen as clean as possible? Of course, it was understandable.

It was now about six thirty and I could still feel the sweat running down my chest under my short-sleeved shirt. There was certainly no need for a jacket. Darkness was a couple of hours away and then the temperature would drop to less than fifty degrees and perhaps less by midnight.

Does any one of you remember the type of tractor I was driving? Today, some people would describe the old green D as miniscule compared to the monsters that roam the fields in grain growing country now. Some are equipped with eight rubber-tired wheels about six feet high. Iím sure you wouldnít use it to cultivate your Grandmotherís garden.

The disc was merely sixteen feet wide. Feature acres about a half mile long and approximately eight hundred feet wide. It would probably take two day or more to cultivate all eighty acres, using a mere sixteen feet with each trip. Donít forget that the tractor was moving slightly faster than an aggressive walk.

Aside from the monotony of the rumble of the two-cylinder engine and keeping the cultivator reclaiming as much land as possible with each swipe, Deer and other wild animals would be seen foraging on green plants where the space had remained uncultivated. At this time of evening the Deer and other came out to enjoy the cooler air and feed. It was not unusual to see a Buck and Doe searching outside the copse of trees along the south side of the property. In fact, there were up to five animals if feed was plentiful. Infrequently there was a streak across in front of the machinery. A lone coyote joined the deer occasionally, didnít allow me to get too close.

One particular evening was a bit out of ordinary with me and the animals. I had progressed about halfway along the north side of my territory and the tractor quit running. It just quit. That had never happened before. Looking around where Iíd stopped there were three deer to the east just ahead, I knew they couldnít help, but the farm yard was a very long way to walk. I donít know why I checked the level of the gasoline in that particular receptacle but, it rang the bell for me. The tank was empty. That sounded like a logical reason for failure. However, the old D would only start on gasoline and when it was hot one would turn the switch to the other tank. It contained Distillate. Very much cheaper to run and in fact, a bigger tank. Should I switch the lever to the appropriate fuel? Would something blow up? I felt that I was in a relatively safe position sitting on the driverís seat.

My mind told me to go for it. I changed the lever to the right fuel. Made sure the hand clutch was in neutral and reached my right foot over to press on the spring-loaded starter button. The immediate throat clenching explosion out of the upright exhaust pipe nearly knocked me out of my seat, Well, I jumped so fast, I almost fell.

The Deer that had been eating ahead, just disappeared. They didnít just rush into the trees to be safe, they vanished. All three virtually flew away, while I watched a blast of fire from the exhaust pipe.

I examined the outside of the exhaust pipe which rose a little more than three feet higher straight up above the top of the tractor. It was at least six inches in diameter and it didnít look any different. Not even blacker or punched out. It appeared to be doing its job. The motor was running smoothly.

The next afternoon, the summer fallowing was complete. Having turned over many acres of soil, it was a sight that could only be viewed on a farm where the soil was so black. Rows of the soft earth could be seen where they ran east and west, north and south plus all the corners that were travelled.

I brought the tractor and disc up near the garage where my brother-in-law was thoroughly examining the combine, making sure there were no parts missing, all chains were tight and every joint that needed grease was well endowed.

He came over and looked the tractor over and said, ďGreat job, thatís a huge help with harvest over the horizonĒ. When he glanced toward the south, he turned to me and asked if I could see the huge Buck standing on the freshly turned black earth. His stature represented his pride with huge antlers raised above his head.

ďThatís a beautiful animal, I have an idea,Ē my in-law admired, turned and walked into the garage. Coming back toward me, he held a rifle.

Surprised, the rifle was offered to me.

ďHave you ever shot a 30-30 rifle?Ē he asked.

In fact, I had never seen one, let alone handle it.

He retrieved the gun and held the stock to his shoulder as if to shoot. I noted that he was adjusting what was called the scope, and returned it to me. ďSet the stock against your right shoulder since you are right-handed, and look through the scope at that Deer. Find the cross hairs.Ē

Looking through the magnification brought the Deer much closer, seemingly not more than a hundred feet away. It was amazing.

ďNow, he said, aim at the Deer and make sure the cross hairs are centered. When they are on your target, hold the rifle stiffly to your shoulder and slowly pull the trigger. Try to hit it in the head if you can.Ē

I registered the cross hairs as he suggested and could see his big brown eyes and magnificent rack. He hadnít moved much but was now waiting for the Does to catch up to him. I could just make out the snouts of two of them.

I had a number of emotions flying through my mind. I lowered the rifle, turned back to my brother-in-law and quietly said, ďI canít do it.Ē I returned the rifle and without a word from him, he took it back to the garage. He didnít return.

At this time in my life, I have never intentionally killed any animal, wild or domestic.

I have to retract part of that statement.

My Father owned a small business in my home town, he owned and cared for two Clydesdale mares to work for him. In warm months, they would be stationed in the small one-acre pasture on the south side of town when there was enough grass to feed them and allow them to enjoy the freedom of being in the open often running and kicking up their heels.

Periodically, gophers would establish the deep holes for a home. It was decided that if that happened, I took my 22 Caliber rifle, lay on my stomach and wait for the ever-curious gopher to raise its head. It would be eliminated. The hole was filled and carefully packed. This endeavor enabled the horses to walk and run without danger of sprains or broken legs.

But, seventy years ago, the Deer survived.

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