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JERE BRTTAIN: Katie plays role of a doe in the meadow

The fawn Katie tried to adopt was reunited with its mother. [MARK LEET PHOTOGRAPHY]

The annual fawn season is a major event in upper Mills River.

From mid-June through mid-July, dozens of the beautiful and helpless creatures appear in pastures, hay fields and along the riverbanks.  Drivers are urged to slow down and be alert for deer crossings.

Lightning readers have met Katie, our eighty-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback — all muscle and bone.  She’s coming up on her fourth birthday this month.  She usually pays little attention to the numerous deer wandering about unless they come right up near our house to browse on the shrubbery.  We keep her more-or-less confined during fawn season.

On a recent morning Katie picked the latch on her deck gate and was missing for a while.  When she reappeared she was carrying a day-old fawn in her bone-crushing jaws, its legs dangling.  We feared the worst.  But when she deposited the bedraggled animal at our feet, we were amazed and relieved to find it alive and unharmed.  Her body language suggested that her intent was to adopt the fawn rather than injure it.

Following some deliberation, we decided to place the fawn back in the tall pasture grass above the old chicken house, where we had seen an anxious doe a few minutes earlier.  A few hours later, the little creature was up and awkwardly following its mother along a trail.  Fortunately, the doe was willing to ignore the fact that her baby had been handled by both Katie and me.

Two years ago, Katie encountered and attempted to play with an older fawn in the lower meadow.  When I led her away on the leash, the fawn followed her and attempted to nurse.  Katie is about the same color and size as a small doe.

When Katie was about one- year- old, she brought in several box turtles to show us as she tried unsuccessfully to coax them to come out of their shells and play.  The message seems to be that she needs a companion.

Fawn season in Upper Mills River provides a stark reminder of the fragility of “all creatures great and small” as life begins.   It’s a miracle that any of us stumble through the weeds to adulthood.  And a tribute to the tenacity of mothers and other caregivers.

Journeying on …

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A sixth generation native of Mills River, Lightning columnist Jere Brittain is a retired professor of horticulture at Clemson University, a musician and songwriter and Henderson County history enthusiast who writes about life in and around Mills River.