Grandfather and the Deer
One morning when grandfather and grandmother were visiting his younger brother on the family farm, grandfather looked out the window and said:
“Look, brother, there is a deer in the yard.”
And grandfather's younger brother, Yojiro replied; “There are often deer in the yard, brother; have you been gone so long that you've forgotten?”
“No,” said grandfather, “but this deer is different. This deer is leaning against that tree.”
This brought Yojiro, his wife and grandmother to the window, where they looked out at the yard, where a fresh fall of snow covered the trees, barn and other buildings. Sure enough, a young female deer was leaning up against a tree, as if resting.
“Hadn't we best go out and check on the poor thing?” grandmother asked, moving to put on her coat; “She looks as if she might be injured. From the looks of her, she surely is tired.”
“Yes,” Yojiro's wife said, “we should. We can't just let her stand there like that. Remember, Yo-chan, there are wolves about!”
“Of course,” he replied like a good-and-sensible husband, “we will check on her.” And he put on his coat, and together they went out into the snow-covered yard and made their way toward the deer, who stood where she was, her head lowered, and looked at them as they walked toward her.
“She isn't injured,” grandmother said, touching the deer's ice-cold haunches; “She must have fallen through the ice, because she's frozen half to death! Just feel of her,” she said, turning to her sister-in-law and the others; “feel how cold she is.”
“We need to get her inside the barn,” grandfather's brother said; “That way she'll have a safe place to rest in the straw, and the wolves can't bother her.”
“Won't she be frightened of Petunia?” grandmother wanted to know, referring to her in-law's giant white Pyrenean Mountain Dog. “She is so huge.”
“She is also very friendly and very calm,” Yojiro replied.
“And she will warm the deer,” his wife, Yasuko said; “just watch when we take her inside.”
Skeptical, grandmother and grandfather walked along beside the exhausted deer. When they got to the barn and Yojiro opened the door, the deer looked up and stopped. Standing in the distance was Petunia like a big white bear, looking at them and slowly wagging her tail in greeting.
Grandmother thought: “Well, she certainly frightened me the first time I saw her.”
Grandfather, smiling, nodded his head and patted the deer's muzzle. “She will do just fine,” he said, looking into the deer's tired eyes. “She will keep you safe and warm as you thaw out and rest. You will see, young one. You will see.”
Ten minutes later the deer was lying in a bed of straw, with Petunia draped across her half-frozen haunches, sound asleep. At first, as everyone but grandfather expected, the deer was quite frightened of the huge dog. But Petunia, as only she could do it, approached the deer calmly and slowly wagging her tail, her head bowed. Then, as she stood in front of the deer, she raised her head and the two touched noses. At that, the deer lay down, rested her head on the straw and closed her eyes. Licking her muzzle, the big dog walked to where the deer's body was the coldest, draped herself across the deer's body, and promptly went to sleep.
“Well, that was certainly much easier than I imagined it was going to be,” grandmother said, receiving nods of agreement from everyone but grandfather, who simply smiled and nodded his head.
“Will she be safe in there?” Yasuko asked her husband. “If the wolves come around, won't they smell her and try to get in.”
“Of course they will,” her husband replied; “but we have our three Irish wolfhounds who will chase them away.”
“But they are only three,” she said, imagining a pack of six or seven wolves and only their three big dogs, plus Petunia, who would be inside the barn. “As big as they are, will they be enough?
“More than enough, Yat-chan,” he replied, patting her arm; “Way more than enough; you'll see.”
And early that evening, they did.
Early that afternoon, grandfather called the local veterinarian and asked him to come and check on the deer's condition, wanting to take every precaution to make sure the deer would recover from its near freezing, and from the several wounds on her head made by ravens pecking at her as she struggled in the water. Grandfather decided that he would have to chide Sir Raven about that kind of behavior when he and grandmother returned home. He knew in advance what the big raven would do, he would make his creaking hinge sound, wag his beak and look at him before saying “That's what we do” and flying off to sit in a nearby tree to sulk about how ignorant humans are about a ravens needs, even humans like grandfather.
When the veterinarian arrived, grandfather, grandmother, Yojiro and Yasuko walked with him out to the barn and went inside. Petunia looked up from where she was standing next to the deer's head, licking its wounds and wagged her tail.
“I see your resident veterinarian has already begun treatment,” the veterinarian said, scratching the big dog's ears. “Yes, Petunia, I see she has several nasty-looking pecks right above her eyes. Do you mind if I take over now and add some of my medication now that you've cleaned her wounds?”
The big white dog backed several steps away and watched as the veterinarian got out some disinfecting salve and applied it to the deer's wounds. When the deer tried to raise her head, she licked her muzzle reassuringly, and the deer laid her head back down on the straw, sighed and let the veterinarian do his job. When he was finished, Petunia lay down with her head under the deer's chin and wagged her tail.
“I ought to add Petunia to my nursing staff,” said the veterinarian with a laugh. “She knows what to do and when, she is always comforting; and I'll bet if someone tried to harm that deer, she would turn into a bear.”
Yojiro looked down at the big white dog and smiled. “She does that, Dr. Fujiwara. We had a big husky a few years ago that constantly harassed her. One day she'd had enough. She picked him up by the scruff of his neck and shook him until he peed and dropped him. Then she lay down, yawned and went to sleep. He never bothered her again.”
Everyone laughed, including Petunia, who flump-flumped her tail and seemed to smile.
After the veterinarian left, grandfather and his brother went to the big room at the back of the house that served as the Irish wolfhounds kennel.
“Good afternoon, Ichi, good afternoon, Ni; good afternoon, San!” he said, scratching each dogs ears and receiving huge wet kisses in return.
“Why did you give them numbers for names, brother?” grandfather asked, laughing.
“Because,” he replied, laughing; “I like the names. Yat-chan like them. She says it makes it sound like I'm counting whenever I call them. 'What will people think when they hear you shouting “One, Two, Three” like that?' she says.” They were both laughing when they opened the door and were greeted by the three big dogs, one grey, one brindle, and one white.
That evening, Yojiro put Ichi, Ni and San in the yard. “Won't they run off, like dogs do?” grandmother wanted to know, looking worried.
“No,” Yasuko said, reassuringly. “They always stay right around the house. Unless there are wolves to chase. The one thing in this world those three do not like are wolves. It's a wonder wolves ever come near here anymore, but they still occasionally do. And with a deer in our barn, well,” looking affectionately at the three wolfhounds, “it's a pretty good chance that we'll see some wolves as soon as the sun goes down.”
“What about Petunia,” grandmother asked, still looking worried.
“If a wolf happened to get into the barn, he will be one sorry wolf!” Yojiro said from his place in front of the window. “It wouldn't be the first time.”
“Oh,” said grandmother.
One hour later, with the moon shining a bright white light on the snow, six big wolves crept through the open gate and into the yard. And as they did, three huge four-legged figures stood up and silently swept toward them. Too late the wolves saw them coming. The wolfhounds were on them before the wolves had time to react, and when they did, three of them lay dead in the snow. Grandfather watched in astonishment as each wolfhound grabbed a wolf by the back of the neck, bit down, dropped the wolf, then took out after another as the three remaining wolves hightailed it out through the gate and headed for the forest. None of them made it.
As the three wolfhounds trotted back toward the house, Yojiro looked at his brother and said: “Time to go check those wolves and make sure they're dead. I'll let the veterinarian know in the morning so he can check Ichi, Ni and San out and notify the authorities about the deaths of the wolves, since they're a protected species. I'd love to have one of these pelts,” he said, reaching down and lifting one of the wolves by its ears. “These three didn't know what hit them. The others,” he shook his head; “I'm just glad I'm not a wolf and that those three love humans.” Ichi, Ni and San stood back and watched with slowly wagging tails.
“Good boys!” Yojiro said; “Good boys!” The dogs looked happy, expecting a favorite treat as their reward.
In the morning when they checked out Petunia and her charge, they were standing just inside the barn door, waiting to be let out. The deer trotted out into the bright sunlight, followed by Petunia a step or two behind. The deer, still a bit wobbly, walked a few steps, then stopped and pricked up her ears.
“She smells the wolves,” Yojiro said, pointing in the direction she was looking. “She'll probably be reluctant to leave the yard for a few days until she feels sure of herself and certain they're not coming back. So we'll let her sleep in the barn at night, and give her free reign here in the yard.”
“What about Ichi, Ni and San?” grandmother wanted to know. “Won't they frighten her?”
“Oh, probably,” Yojiro replied; “We'll let them see each other so she'll know they won't bother her, and they'll know she's here. They wouldn't harm a field mouse, sister-in-law. They only attack wolves. You'll see.”
And, sure enough, as Petunia and the deer were standing there in the bright sun, the three big Irish wolfhounds appeared around the corner of the house, where they stopped, sat on their haunches, and watched. Momentarily startle, the deer looked as if she might bolt out of the yard and flee. But Petunia moved in front of her, looked up at her and wagged her tail, calming her.
Three months later when grandfather and grandmother returned for a visit, they found the deer still in the yard, surrounded by the four giant wolfhounds. Grandmother chuckled, and said: “Grandfather, there isn't a dog or a wolf in the world that would dare come near that deer with those four around her.”
“Not a chance, my love,” grandfather said, laughing; “Not a chance in the world.”
Two months later, the deer returned to the forest, where she lives with her family. Once she ventured into the yard, leading two small spotted fawns. After that, she did not return.
“You know, Yo-chan, I feel kind of sad that she doesn't visit,” Yat-chan said one warm summer afternoon as they worked together in their daikon field. “I miss her.”
“Yes, Yat-chan, so do I,” Yojiro said, leaning on his hoe and looking off toward the forest. “And so does Petunia. And I think Ichi, Ni and San do, too. But,” patting his wife affectionately on the shoulder, “such is the way with wild things. She is where she belongs.”
“Thank you, Yo-chan,” she said, giving him an affectionate look as she touched his arm “for taking care of her and letting her stay as long as she wished. I wonder how those fawns of hers are?”
“Such is the way with mothers, isn't that so?” he said, smiling as he did whenever his wife sat looking at the photos of their three children, wondering in her mother's heart how they were.
“Yes,” she replied, “ yes it is.”
In : short story
Tags: fiction short story grandfather story fable children's story george polley