Deer Me

This post is quite far removed from my ordinary efforts here, but I’m kind of starved for content given the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Couple the pandemic with the protests, some of which have turned violent, over the tragic, unnecessary death of George Floyd, and finding cause for optimism at the moment has been difficult.

Under those circumstances, I thought it fitting to link to this little bit experience I shared with my my wife this past Saturday, a reminder that if nothing else, we can still marvel at the beauty and wonder of God’s creation.

This past Saturday was a spectacular weather day, mostly clear and warm with an intermittent breeze that provided well-timed relief when the sun’s heat got too feisty. Kem and I used the conditions to venture outside, heading south to Charlestown, Indiana, and our first visit to the state park located there. Heck, our first visit anywhere in quite some time.

Charlestown State Park is a nifty place with a rather interesting history. The main site is the location of the former Indiana Army Ammunition Plant. Our ultimate destination in the park was Rose Island, once an amusement park and a popular getaway for Louisvillians a century ago.

A path steeper than Mandarin’s learning curve takes you to the Portersville Bridge, a camelback truss that once connected Daviess and Dubois counties in southwestern Indiana that has since been relocated to the other side of the state. The bridge crosses the Motown-flavored Fourteen Mile Creek to Rose Island, which is actually a peninsula named Devil’s Backbone. (All of these glorious monikers are just more reminders at how much we’ve devolved when it comes to naming stuff. Today, I’m sure, it would be branded Papa John’s Island on Fifth Third Peninsula).

There isn’t much left of the old park, which was hammered by the Great Depression then wiped out by the Great Flood of 1937, the latter an event that took the Ohio River a staggering 57 feet above flood stage. A few concrete piers, some cool arches and the filled-in former swimming pool are about all that remains of the park. The hotel and dance hall are but a memory, with most of the site reclaimed by nature, as nature is so relentless in doing.

Speaking of nature…

While walking on the trail that takes visitors near the adjacent Ohio River, we happened upon a fawn, a young deer that couldn’t have been more than a few days old. We froze, then watched in awe as it got back up on its spindly legs, Pinocchio-style, and walked straight toward us, not the least bit afraid of the strange, slack-jawed creatures towering above.

Eventually, the fawn stopped right at our feet. We then realized a group of hikers behind us had a large dog in tow, and we worried how the dog might respond to this terribly frail creature, particularly if the canine noticed the young deer before its human companions. We stood between the hikers and the fawn – which Kem retroactively named Fran – to caution them and another dog-walking pack behind them. Regrettably, we might have even breached our social distancing protocols in the process. Fortunately, both of the dogs were quite well behaved, and their Homo sapien friends were almost as disciplined.

As the lot of us kicked around thoughts on what should be done, Kem and I decided to continue along the trail, hoping the young deer would venture back into the woods. That wasn’t Fran’s plan. Much to our surprise, the fawn followed us, and not for just a few feet. For almost 200 yards, Fran bopped along behind us, never letting us get too far ahead despite the obvious fact it was still breaking in the new hooves. This was like nothing I’d ever experienced before, and doubt I ever will again. It was not an example of nature in the reclamation process; rather it was wildlife getting its hooks in us from the get-go, with me and Kem powerless against it. We stopped again, flummoxed how to handle the situation. Ultimately, one of the groups behind us decided to move the fawn off the trail, where we hope it was able to reunite with the doe that was undoubtedly nearby, watching us with a mother’s scornful eye.

She wouldn’t have been the only one baring her motherly instincts. I’m sure Kem will someday forgive me for not letting her take Fran home with us, but it will be awhile.

Alas, as my web site host doesn’t allow me to post video, you can see proof of the event on my Facebook page below. It’s most definitely worth the effort.

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