Holy Smokes

Some stories are harder to tell than others. This is one of the hard ones. I experienced something I consider to be “hallowed.” And if I had been where I really wanted to be, I would have missed it. Let me tell you what happened.
First off, like many of you, I wanted to go to the maryjanesfarm Farm Fair this July 4th weekend. But being in the throes of a move, I knew I needed to stay close to home. We finally decided to take a couple of days off, though, and head up to our Mountain Farm. The grass must be knee-high by now. The weeds have surely taken over my apple “orchard” and my newly minted plum “pit.” And I’d like to map out that Labyrinth concept in the meadow.
We always enjoy the 4th of July at our Mountain Farm.

We have spent every 4th of July there since we bought the place and it’s a tradition now. I even have a few patriotic decorations tucked away up there that I bring out, including a tall Uncle Sam hat. The near-by small town has a wonderful celebration, complete with cold watermelon slices, a community band playing patriotic tunes, and a tractor show.

4th of July there is very different from fighting traffic in a city to get to a baseball game or to a fireworks display.
On the 4th, shortly after night falls on our Mountain Farm, a nearby neighbor in the cove sets off a pretty amazing fireworks display. The first year I saw it, I had no idea it was only a regular person’s show. It is impressive, huge and lengthy and varied. Pretty amazing. The smell of all those pyrotechnics hangs heavy in the air for hours. I can’t imagine how much that fella spends each year on fireworks. It’s a lot, I’m certain. 
We sit by our outside campfire and watch their show while we eat s’mores and light our little sparklers. We “Oohh” and “Aahh” and say, “Holy Smokes!” as we watch the neighbor’s show.
Well we didn’t make it this 4th of July. Our plans changed considerably when we learned about an injured mother deer in the yard at the house we are moving to (we don’t currently live there.) We decided to stay home and try to help.
I felt (and feel) personally responsible for it: the deer had gotten injured on the fence we have on that property. It is a wrought iron fence with those sharp pointy ends. The deer had tried to jump over the fence and didn’t make it. Luckily, we had some workers at that house and when they came to work that morning, they found the deer. Thankfully, they got her off the fence. One of the deer’s legs was badly injured.
We learned about it when my husband stopped by after work that evening to check on the workers. They told him about the deer that had been injured on the fence. Hubby immediately went to check on her. She was alive, but weak.
She was in a large fenced-in area, so he locked her in so she could be safe throughout the night. (There are coyotes in the area.) He brought fresh water to her and placed it so she could reach it without having to get up.

When he got home and told me about it, I wondered out loud if she needed to be “put out of her misery.” We came to the conclusion that we didn’t have enough information to make that decision. (We don’t have it within us, anyway, to carry out such a decision. We’d have to call our law enforcement friends or our hunter friends.) We did make some phone calls to get some advice from people who know more than we do; we decided that we’d try to care for her. We hoped that maybe she just needed a few days to be secure and safe and that would give her leg time to heal.
The workers returned the next morning. Before long they heard and saw a baby deer. It was on the other side of the house from the injured deer, on the opposite side of yet another fence. It was in the woods that separate our house from the neighbors’. Deciding it was the injured deer’s baby, the three of them set off into the woods to catch it.
They finally did. They brought it to the incapacitated mother. The baby tried to nurse and then ran off, easily sliding through the wrought iron fence.
When my husband got there, they told him about the baby. He went to check on the Mama Deer, who was weak and still not able to stand. He called me and I headed down (it’s about an hour away.) In the meantime, he brought the Mama Deer more water and searched for the baby.
A vet’s office gave us the number of a rehabilitator. We left a message for Richard.
My husband headed to the grocery store and bought the Mama Deer some nourishment in the form of blueberries and almonds.

He picked up a gallon of whole milk, just in case we found the baby.
I headed out to find a feed and seed store. I bought some alfalfa hay, deer pellets and a nipple for a bottle for the baby.

(That’s an empty bottle, by the way!)
Once we got back to the house, we looked for the baby in the woods and on the adjoining property, but couldn’t find it. I felt sure that the baby would find the mother (if this was indeed her/his mother). And since the workers had taken the baby to the mother before, the baby surely knew where to find the mother.
Soon the rehabilitator called us back. Thank goodness! Here hubby is talking to Richard.

Richard, the rehabilitator, said that all we could really do was to focus on the mother. We should try to keep her as comfortable as possible and safe. He said the blueberries and nuts were a good choice. If the mother doesn’t make it, the baby won’t, he advised. He also told us that a mother deer will nest the baby in a safe hidden place and go to the baby. The baby is taught to be still and quiet as it waits for its mother to come back. Richard felt like the likelihood of us finding the baby in the woods was slim.
I began to wonder if that baby deer the workers had gotten was really this injured deer’s baby. Maybe not. After all, there were two fences and a house between where the baby was and where the mother was found. As the day turned into evening, we decided we had done all we could. So we prepared to go back home.
I headed off to go pick up our daughter first. I had dropped her off at my sister-in-law’s house so she wouldn’t have to deal with the drama of an injured deer in our soon-to-be yard. So as I left to go pick her up, my husband locked up the house, checked on the Mama Deer, and secured the fence around her.
My daughter and I were about to leave my sister-in-law’s house and head back to our current home an hour away when the phone rang. Hubby said the baby deer was there. I once again left my daughter in my sister-in-law’s care and rushed back to the house.
I got there. In time to see the tiny, baby deer on the other side of our fence. I heard the sweetest sound…a faint, soft “naahh.” The baby deer was in our neighbor’s woods, on the other side of our fence. We could see it, but couldn’t get to it. By the time I arrived, my husband had cut our fence in order to make an opening for the baby deer to get through. I headed inside to heat up some of the milk Hubby had gotten. I poured it into the Mountain Dew bottle and screwed on the special lid I had gotten from the feed and seed.
We set out to catch that baby.
Sounds easy. But it isn’t.
The woods were dense and the baby was fast. I would get close, but as soon as I got close enough to pick her up, she’d charge in the other direction. Because there were only two of us, we couldn’t surround the little thing. So I gently and calmly talked to the baby in the woods. I’d approach her when I could and hold out the bottle of milk. My husband would try to block her in and be ready for the “catch” in case she bolted in his direction.
Over and over and over again.
We made little progress in an hour. She’d run and we’d lose her. Then we’d hear her little “naahh.” So, we’d head in the direction of her cries. We’d locate her again and slowly approach her again. Only to have her run off again.
Then we lost her good. She took off deep in the woods and we couldn’t find her anywhere. Hubby went to look on the other side of the fence. I stayed in the woods and continued my quest. I reached a point where I couldn’t get any deeper in the woods. There was just no way to get through; it was too dense. So I gave up and turned around.
As I retraced my steps in defeat, I saw her.
I must have walked right beside her earlier when I came deep into the woods.
She was quiet and lying down in her nest of sorts: a pile of grass clippings beside our fence. Maybe she was tired of running. Maybe she was ready for some help.
I was determined to catch her this time.
I got down and crawled on my hands and knees through the woods as I approached her, thinking she wouldn’t be so afraid if I looked smaller. (Yes, me! Snake-phobic me! Crawling in the woods at almost dusk. Don’t ask me where I found that strength.)
I slowly, slowly, inch by inch, spoke to her and got closer to her. I reached the “nest” and reached out the bottle of milk. She smelled it. I put it down and slowly moved my arms closer so that I could pick her up.
I knew I could get her now. She was tired. She looked at me straight in the eyes. I gazed into her beautiful brown eyes. I spoke to here. What warm, intelligent eyes she had. Yes, I knew I had her now. She lay there quietly and watched me. I was so close to her that I could almost touch her. Almost. Almost. Almost.
I smiled because I knew now this story had a happy ending. She’d be safe tonight. I slowly and carefully moved a little more towards her so that I could embrace her with both arms and scoop her up. Just as I did, she suddenly took off away from me like a bullet. She ran into the deep woods.
She ran right into the area I had come from. The woods I couldn’t penetrate. She headed straight into the safety of those dense woods. I already knew I couldn’t get through, so with tears in my eyes, I turned around and walked away.
I had been so close, and I had blown it. That was that. She was gone. Poor thing didn’t stand a chance to make it through the night in these woods without her mother, with no food. I cried silently as I walked to head out of the woods.
I’d have to hope for the best. That she would find her way to her mother. That the mother would be able to nurse her.
I kicked myself. Believe me, I kicked myself.
Tired, dejected and still crying, I turned around and walked through the woods to get back to our side of the fence. I prayed in one breath and cursed in the next. I walked the fence line up to the road and back down on our side of the fence.
Once I was on the other side I realized something. I could actually see into the woods better from this side of the fence, where it was less woodsy. I felt a surge of hope as I thought I might be able to get a glimpse of her from over here. Or maybe I could hear her small voice deep down in those woods. So, as I walked the fence line on our side, Hubby manned the front part of the property, keeping his eye on the “nest” beside the fence.

About half way down, I barely heard it: a faint “naahh.”
The sun had set, but I could see her in the woods! She was looking at me. She was on the other side of the fence, looking my way. I crouched down and quietly spoke to her. “Come here, baby. Come here, sweetie…” She said, “naahh, naahh…” as started walking towards the fence. I slowly walked to the fence towards her as she walked to the fence on the other side towards me. She reached the fence and then did something I couldn’t believe. She put her head through the fence to come to me. (At this part of the property, there is “hog” fencing. It has those wire squares.) Then she put her two front legs through. Her head and her front two legs were on my side of the fence; her back legs were on the other side. I knew it was my chance.
I got that baby and held her tightly in my arms. I called to my husband who was further up on the fence line, looking for her near the “nest.”
We carried her to the basement as her “naahh”-ing got louder and louder. Mama was on the other side of the house and I worried that she would hear her baby cry and try to stand up to help her. In the basement, we carelessly dumped out the contents of a box and put the baby in it.
While I took care of the baby deer, my hubby called back Richard, the rehabilitator. He got directions and headed over. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law came over with my daughter.
The next hour was magical and enchanting and everything in between. What it was like to interact with this deer baby is beyond description. I won’t even try. It is one of those experiences you have in life that you not only never forget, but that you also go back to it time and time again for renewal and hope.
First I reached into the box and petted her and loved on her and talked to her. I gave her the Moutnain Dew bottle filled with warm milk. As she quickly drank it, her little tail wagged.

And then I took her out. I sat with her and petted her and spoke to her. I lay on the floor and she came over next beside me. She snuggled and tried to nurse. She got on me and tucked her legs underneath her. Her long, thin legs.

In fact, it was hard to take her picture because she wouldn’t step away from me.

But check out these spots.

My daughter arrived and fell in love. Same with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. We were all so moved by this encounter.
Here is sweet and tender sister-in-law:

And here:

And here is sweet and tender daughter:

And here is sweet and tender baby deer:

And then, thank goodness, a most amazing person came to help us.

Richard, a volunteer rehabilitator arrived, and he was wonderful. He was kind and knowledgeable and compassionate. He gave the baby a bottle of special baby deer formula.

He asked my daughter to name the baby. She came up with the name in a second: “Fawna.”
He and Hubby then went to check on the Mama Deer. Sadly, she had died.
In the period of time between when we left her and caught her baby, the Mama Deer had died. Did she somehow know? Did she sense that her baby would be okay now?
My sister-in-law and I went outside to say some words over Mama Deer. We both cried. (I’m crying still as I write this. And I saw sister-in-law yesterday and she was still crying too…)
In fact, I might as well admit it to you now. There might be type-o’s in this story, because I can’t go back and read it. Not yet. So ignore the type-o’s okay?
Here is my daughter looking in the truck, saying goodbye to Fawna, as she is about to go home with the person who will take care of her until she can take care of herself, Richard. Richard the Rehabilitator. Richard the Rescuer.
“God bless you, Richard,” my sister-in-law said to him, “For all the good you do for animals…God will bless you.”

Fawna turned around and looked right at her. Can you make that out? Precious.


So what a 4th of July we had.
Joy and sorrow.
                Life and death.
                                  Hallowed. Holy.
We spent the 4th of July digging a grave for Mama Deer.
My hubby came up with the idea of spray painting tennis balls and putting them on top of the spiky-sharp pointy things on the fence so they would never hurt another animal. That’s now on my to-do list.


The next day, I took the blueberries and almonds and milk we had bought for the Mama Deer and Fawna and made one of my favorite blueberry recipes. Before, I’ve always called it Blueberry Tea Cake. Now I changed the name: Fawna’s Blueberry Cake. In case any of you want the recipe for Fawna’s Blueberry Cake, I posted the recipe, pictures and directions over at www.thecityfarmgirl.com blog.

And by the time you read this, I’m happy to tell you that I’ll be up at our Mountain Farm. We missed the neighbor’s fireworks show, but we’ll have our own:

we’ll count the stars…
and watch the lightning bugs…
and light our sparklers around the campfire…
and oohh and aahh and say “holy smokes.”
Until next time, Friends, savor the flavor of life!

Lots of love, The City Farmgirl, Rebekah

  1. Jill says:

    Wow, I really don’t have words to express how I feel after reading your story … how incredible to experience something as powerful as that, amazing. I was sorry to hear the mother didn’t make, but thanks to you and your family her legacy lives on, you all did a wonderful job! I saved a baby chipmunk from drowning in our pool earlier this year, scooped it out, wrapped it up, put it in a box, and let it rest in the sun … he also "made it". What a great feeling, huh? I wish acts of kindness happened all the time with all people … could you imagine?
    Thanks for sharing your story and reaching out as you did,
    Jill @ Gypsy Flea Market

  2. Tapestry says:

    Oh my goodness that has to be the most precious thing I’ve ever seen. How sad that its mommy died but how lucky it was to have you and your hubby helping it. Who would ever think of a deer missing a jump over a fence…sigh. We had some criminal types run down several deer with snow mobiles this past spring which has caused an absolute uproar here. The one bozo got out of animal cruelty charges by saying he was "hunting" the deer. People are just outraged and the woman who allowed the snowmobile users to ride on her property is closing the trail because of this cruelty. I don’t think I could ever hunt deer. I just think they are some of God’s most beautiful creatures.

  3. Jenny says:

    wow, you did it. I am rendered speechless. Bless you all for your kindness in the world.

  4. Cynthia says:

    Oh, my gosh, there should be a tissue warning on the header of this posting. Thank goodness there was a box near my chair. I had no idea how small those babies are!
    So sorry to hear about the momma, and how sad to think that we encroach into the habitat of these poor creatures without considering the impact that we have. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Susan says:

    This has to be one of the most moving stories I have read in a while. How blessed you were to be able to help this mama’s baby for it would have surely died had it not been for your persistence and love. Thanks so much for sharing as painful as it was to relive it in print.

  6. What an incredible story. I am crying too. How sad and joyous all at once.~ ~Ahrisha~ ~

  7. Rene says:

    We missed you so much this weekend. But it sounds like you were right where you were ment to be. Thanks for sharing the story!

  8. Jackie says:

    Oh, what a wonderful story. Reminds me of all the animals we cared for as kids. My Dad found baby sparrow hawks and we raised all 5 and set them free! Then there was the lamb, racoon, hamsters, fish, dogs, cats, and he even raised pigeons (the kinds you attach notes to, send out and they return). I loved all the animals we had as kids and now we found an abandoned kitten that I am keeping!!

  9. Elaine Gill says:

    OMG! what an amazing and precious story. I cried. Thank you
    so much for sharing that. We have deer visit our yard regularly,they drink from our pond and sometimes snack on the trees and flowers, but I still couldn’t imagine harming these beautiful gentle creatures.

  10. vicky says:

    your story truely touched my heart. I’m still crying. I love all god’s creatures and I believe we all have the responsibilty to take care of them and our mother earth. Now I’ll go back outside and make sure the baby screech owls and humingbirds and squirrels are alright. God bless you everyone who loves animals and values them as gifts to make this a better world.

  11. Suzy says:

    That was TRULY a sweet and wonderful fourth of July story! I am so sorry that mama-deer died but what a wonderful chance at life you gave that precious baby! (And your description of being so scared of snakes and crawling through the woods to save this baby sounds so much like something that would happen to me!!! 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing this and the wonderful photos!

  12. cynthia says:

    I am so touched by this…typing thorough tears

  13. Sharon says:

    Thank you for this very touching story. I just buried my beloved pet sheep, Cupid, a few days ago so I could feel your pain. God Bless these precious animals who can be so very helpless. With tears streaming down my face, thank you.

  14. Gary says:

    Well done Rebekah…!
    Animals deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and you and your Family rose to the occasion in an exempleary manner.
    You touch on a topic, which, as a member of The Humane Society, I feel quite strongly about. It is a sad comment on our cultural conditioning that it would even occur to us to "put ‘it’ out of misery". Animals are someone’s Family somewhere, and they feel fear, love, and the whole range of emotions, and they have, albeit different from ours, thoughts and hopes. It seems ridiculous to think of putting a Human child "out of misery" because of a injured leg, but it has been done… in Ancient Rome, on East Indian slave ships, and in Nazi Germany. The ethics of "less than" are exactly the same.
    Y’all rose above that and acted with Love and compassion, and those traits are fundamental to civilization.
    in Tampa

  15. Jamie says:

    I can only say thank you for sharing this beautiful yet tragic story. I had tears streaming down my cheeks by the time I reached the end. I applaud your patience in taking the time to search for her one more time along the fence, she needed all of you 😉 What a neat thing for your family to share together.

  16. Toni Cook says:

    That was a great story, sounds if you were related to my sister she is always helping some poor animal out of trouble.As you were teling the story I could feel all of the emotions you were having what a farmgirl experince!!

  17. Camille says:

    That has to be one of the most moving stories I have heard of an animal in a while. What an experience for you and your family…heartbreaking and yet beautiful. Life is full of God’s tender mercies.

  18. Katrina says:

    I am crying as I read this. So touching.
    A shame about the momma deer. But I am glad you and your family were given the blessing of that experience.

  19. Karin says:

    You are such a hero.

  20. Karin says:

    WOW!! What a story. TISSUES Galore. We had a baby deer that laid by our pump this spring and I almost steeped on it. I immediately called my brother who instructed me that the momma would come back. I put an umbrella over (my husband’s good golf one) to keep it out of the sun. Sure enough about three hours later the momma came back and picked up her charge… Needless to say several chores did not get done in the cool of the day as I sat and watched from the kitchen…….. But who cares…

  21. Kristina says:

    I bet the mama deer died peacefully knowing that her baby was taken care of. Animals can sense kindness. You and your families hearts are as big as the great outdoors, and now the memory of this experience, and mama deer, can frolic in your hearts forever.

  22. janie b says:

    What a precious story. I’ve joined the others in crying about it. It reminded me of a video I saw once on youtube. It is of a baby deer and a kitten. The song playing is What A Wonderful World. A quick search should find it. Thanks for sharing your life with us. Janie

  23. Cyndi says:

    What an experience to have, happy and sad, but REAL! You are very special people and thanks for sharing this story!

    Smiles, Cyndi

  24. saamanche says:

    What a tender story, one that many of us have repeated. Being raised on a farm, we were always tending babies and orphans, that is most what I remember. After fifty years, I am still taking care of our animals, someone elses animals, and raising horses, dogs, cats and birds. I always have to say "thanks Dad" he got me started!

  25. Kathe Jones says:

    Reading your story through tears in my eyes renews my faith that there is a God and he watches over us to help us do the right thing. Your family is truly guided by God and his angels to help the troubled and weak. You will go through life with Gods blessings for the miracle you performed for this little fawn. I know it’s mother went to heaven peacefully knowing the wonderful thing you did to help her baby. God bless and keep you and your wonderful family. Someday there will be a special place in heaven for you. Love, Kathe

  26. Linda says:

    This is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read. Like everyone else, I’m moved to tears. You saved a life that day.

  27. Tammie says:

    I’m with Susan on the tissue alert here. 🙂

  28. rebekah says:

    In the midst of this chaotic move, of which I’ll write later, I received this beautiful comment. It was "whispered" to me, which means only I get the joy of seeing it. I can’t keep this one a "whisper." I surely hope the writer does not mind that I "shout" it out to everyone.
    Let’s all say a prayer for Mia and the amazing couple who is trying to help her. Animals go straight to the heart…

    Hi there, You must be an Angel! I actually found your beautiful story because I have been frantic to find out what deer like to eat so as to help the beautiful but fragile and injured deer that is now in our front yard under one of the globe willow trees that flank our front doors. She is fully grown, but so thin that we could see her ribs and her two hip bones protruding from her backside. I don’t know if another animal has attacked her, possibly a coyote or a cougar or bobcat or if she has been hit by a car or truck, but she seems to have a large hand sized injury to her hind quarters area. She was around the back of our home yesterday and my rescued labradoodle Spencer spotted her. Because he was barking (nevermind the fact that he is afraid of his own shadow), she was frightened enough to get up and walk away fairly slowly. I prayed to find her and searched the woods last evening (HUGE for me to do, as I am mortified of snakes, too, and sometimes wonder what the heck I am doing living in the Ozarks Woods!). I put a large bowl of cool water out and a bowl of chopped apples, blueberries, zuccini, and carrots out for her hoping she would return there and at least receive some water and nourishment. The food and water was untouched early this morning and because I hadn’t been able to find her, I was afraid she might have perished. My heart sank. But, I kept praying. Then, as the sun was setting this evening, my husband told me she was in the front yard in our garden under the willow. I put fresh water and more of the same dinner out for her. I put it about ten feet from her near our fountain, hoping she would smell it in the warm evening air. Just being ten feet from this gorgeous creature, was breathtaking. It stilled everything in my heart and soul. It is too dark now to see her, but I heard some noises out front, perhaps the sound of the bowls knocking against the fountain as she nibbles (I am hoping and praying that she is nourishing herself) anyway, your story has touched me as I ponder what to do to help Mia, the sweet, fragile deer in my yard. You know, your story reinforced something I have always believed. Beautiful people do beautiful things and yes, absolutely, an animal knows who is trying to care for it and is compassionate towards it. They sense something in us, I am sure. I may have to look for a rehabilitator in my area in the morning. Thank you for your amazing story! If Mia is still here in the morning, I will mix almonds in with the fruits for her for protein! Please say a little prayer that she will be healed. She has come to the right place as I will do my best to keep her safe and nourished until I can find help for her! I am expecting a Miracle for her! Best, Anne


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