Eli took a big breath of air and slowly whistled it out again.” Smell that Bobbie?” he grinned as he took another one for good measure.
“That’s fresh, clean juicy air! ….That you can’t get in the city!” he offered.
Bobbie agreed with him as he picked up a giant pine cone for his collection.”What’s the matter, you’re not into breathing?”. was Eli’s response.
Eli’s family had built a cabin at the edge of the forest five years ago when he was just six. He could not appreciate it then as much as he did now. He figured by now he knew every inch of that forest, clear to the top of Bull Mountain. There was, of course, no bulls, but there were a lot of other critters; foxes, squirrels, a skunk or two, and beavers up at the lake. And, Bobbie reminded him; that deer that they saw from the last time they visited.
Bobbie asked; “We goin’ to the top today?” Eli looked up into the sky and replied; “Looks like it’s going to be a good one, but we better take our packs in case.” With that reminder from mom to be sure to take water and a compass, they took off for Big Rock, the first step in the journey. It was also a meeting place for them if they got lost or anything bad happened. You could still see the cabin from there, way down into the valley.
Breathing hard, they made it to the rock, broke out the water and shared an apple. They finished it and threw the core into the bushes. A squirrel who had been following them, grabbed it and sprinted up a tree. Bobbie was sure he heard him say “thank you”.
Eli laughed and turned to him with the comment: ” When you get as old as I am, you’ll know that squirrels don’t talk. ” You see Eli was six months older. With that, off again.
The leaves had covered the path so it slowed them down as they tried to get their bearings. They could see Beaver Lodge, so they could not be far off course, but the climb was way more difficult. It was then that they could see some movement in the leaves over by a fallen pine tree. They moved closer to investigate.
Eli was the first to peek over the stump……”Bobbie, It’s a baby deer”, he called. “And, he’s trying to get up. He’s hurt bad!” Bobbie ran up to see the poor thing lying there with blood all over his side from a tear in his back leg.”What are we going to do?” He asked. ……..”Well, stop the bleeding first”. Eli said, as he took off his shirt to tear it into strips for a bandage and tourniquet. He had seen this done before in a movie with a crippled horse.
The fawn was still struggling as Eli tried to finish. “Water!”he called to Bobbie. He then poured the water into the deer’s mouth, as he stroked him as he would a puppy. Finally, he calmed down, worn out from the loss of blood and the activity.
“We can’t just leave him here”. Bobbie figured.
“No we can’t. The coyotes will eat him. Or worse a bear, if they around and smell blood” Eli shuddered at the thought. He was also shivering from the cold breeze and reached into his pack for a jacket. There was a piece of rope in there that he quickly wound around the fawns legs. Bobby warned; “What are you going to do? He’ll be helpless!”
Eli grunted and shouldered the deer… It did not seem to be that little as he stuck his head through the bound legs…Whoa!……..He staggered back a bit…. then started downhill. Then he hesitated as he turned to what he thought was the path. Bobbie cried; ‘That’s it… we’re lost. Drop the deer or we’ll never make it out of here !”
“Gimmie my compass” Eli replied. “Our cabin is due south”. He located a landmark downhill and made for it. Just then he tripped over a rock and tumbled to the ground, deer and all…. along with the compass that disappeared into the leaves. He rolled over to comfort the fawn, and felt the steady breath on his cheek
During all of this; a pack of coyotes had assembled above him, sniffing the air and rumbling in soft growls.
Eli said to Bobbie; “Grab a big stick” I’ve got my pocket knife, Now sharpen the end and give it to me. Make one for yourself !”
Then, moving their backs against a big rock ledge, they stood their ground…….. waiting.
The coyotes leader moved forward menacingly. Eli began barking and howling. So did Bobbie. They hesitated. Eli lunged forward and struck the leader full on the head. Bobbie followed with a blow to the one beside him. Both retreated yelping. The other three turned also in retreat.
They were none the less, followed at some distance away, all the way back to Big Rock. By then, it was getting dark. Eli had lain the deer down and tumbled onto the ground exhausted. He reached into his pack for his flashlight.
Though he could barely see the lights below, he could just make out their cabin.
Meanwhile, his mom had become worried that the boys had not returned. A Ranger had stopped by at the nearby station. She had called him telling of the boys failure to return before dark as promised.
Bobbie said, after some minutes; “I think I see something down there”. Sure enough there were several lights coming up the trail a half-mile down.
Eli grabbed his flashlight and turned to Bobbie saying;” How’s the Morse code go?” Oh, yes … – – – … ”’ That’s it! ” Soon there was a flashing of lights answering them. Seeing that, the eyes of the coyotes turned away, and they retreated into the dark forest.
The Ranger was the first to arrive. “You boys O.K.? and Who’s that with you?”
“Sir, it’s a baby deer, badly injured. Can you take him to the hospital?”
The Ranger could see all of the blood on Eli’s jacket and wondered if Eli was hurt. Eli said “No, , Eli pleaded please, let’s hurry.
His reply was, yes, but how did he get here with you? ……….The response was “I carried him down the mountain”.
The Ranger shook his head in disbelief and said; “That was a brave thing to do…both of you. There are Bears up there. Where did you get the strength and courage?”
Eli replied; “You can do anything if God is on your side. Besides He made the deer just like you and me, and he expects us to care for them.”
Bobbie summed it all up, “Maybe he even made the Coyotes….Think they’ll be OK.?
God smiled. It was a very good day for everybody……even the coyotes.