A world adorned in white. It is as if a great blanket of purest white has been spread upon the land. Every bump and hillock has been gracefully identified by a smooth rise under the white blanket, the true nature and identity of that hillock being left to our imagination.
The sun shines brightly in the eastern sky, decorating the white in gold. However that sun is destined to pass behind a covering of clouds in a few minutes.
Animal life is slow to appear. The wild turkeys have yet to come out this morning. I see that the snow in their usual bedding ground is undisturbed. What alternate place do they use during heavy snowfalls?
Gray squirrel is the first to appear, challenging the cold and deep snow. He follows small troughs in the snow and bounds up trees when the snow gets tiring. When a crust develops on the snow, he can traverse it easily, but there is no crust yet.
I see some snow being shaken down out of a cedar, as if mysteriously, in the still air. Then gray squirrel appears among the cedar branches. He is the cause of it all; he’s after some edible morsel, no doubt.
Then, to my surprise, a robin appears, completely out of place in this winter wonderland. There is a berry bush nearby and I see him fly off to it in a moment, and join one or two other robins.
The robins are an anomaly in all of this winter whiteness. The berry bushes enable them to stick around.
A white-tailed doe appears at the edge of a clump of trees to my right, not moving after she “sees” me with her big ears (my way of describing how a deer hears more than she sees). She is not very far from me, and I wonder why she is not alarmed by my presence.
Then I discover the reason. A small yearling prances out of the woods toward her. Then another. Then a third, fourth and fifth yearling. What is going on? Are these all hers? Or is she the neighborhood babysitter? I haven’t known a doe to have that many offspring all at once. Or has another mother died?
I am always impressed with how silently deer move through the forest. They seem to drift like ghosts, especially in the winter, when all of the woods are so very silent.
A Canadian group has done some study recently on the noise of deer, which seemed to me almost like a contradiction in terms. But I expect sensitive detectors could record this.
We all know they browse on underbrush and perhaps often at night. The sensitive recorders detect the level of sound from this browsing and determine the increase or decrease of the deer population in that area, perhaps to the possible detriment of that population.
I commend naturalists for their guardianship of this noble animal, but I am also impressed that 30 deer, munching at the same woodland “table,” can make that much noise.
James Alger, who lives in Fargo, N.D., has been a summer resident of the Leech Lake area with his family for over 45 years. Over that time he has grown to love and appreciate the people and the woodlands of this area.