Watching the Kids Play

I have this big machine thingy called a Cyclone Rake—bought it many years ago, love it still. To keep it going I’ve rebuilt it several times, each rebuild involving modification or replacement of some part that wore out. Thoroughly patched and substantially redesigned, it still pulls behind the tractor to vacuum up our vast tree-droppings of leaves from the forest surrounding our yard. The tractor’s six-foot mower deck sucks them up, squirts them back through a big tube to a heavy whirling impeller that beats them to bits and shoots them on back into a Volkswagen-sized canvas bag on wheels. When leaf fall is heavy the bag fills quickly.


I pull each load to a certain spot down by the woods and dump the leafy fragments onto what soon grows into a substantially large leaf pile, bigger than your customary family room and three feet deep. There they lay, becoming vast quantities of seasoned mulch by spring. Then we put them just everywhere, in flower beds, raised garden beds and everywhere else we want to nourish naturally and discourage weeds. In a good year we use up the whole pile by around early fall, when the next batch is due to start falling.


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We live close to nature here. Every year we see the mama turkeys leading their new crop of young turklets all-in-a-row along favorite well established paths, a guardian mama always bringing up the rear. Once a fox walked by the front steps just as my wife stepped onto the front porch. He paused to look straight into her eyes, she looked back in mutual acknowledgement, then he walked on and quickly melted into the woods.


Another time we saw three raccoon children “hiding” from us behind the large potted plants placed down our front steps. One peeked around his pot from the left, another peeked around her pot from the right, a third peeked over the top—too cute to be true. More often we see a new mother doe teaching her fawn, its spots just fading, how to live on this land—where to leap barriers, where to find the most plentiful hickory nuts and acorns, the tallest softest grasses for an overnight bed, the tightest cedars for shelter from wet weather.


One day as we headed out down the drive, we chanced to notice activity over by the big leaf pile. Stop the car. What we saw were six fawns frolicking. Ranging in size from mere babes who still had their fawn spots to half-growns the equivalent of 10-year-old human children, they were leaping for sheer joy—playing in the huge leaf pile I had made over by the woods. We watched in fascination as they leaped in the leaves—straight up, then sideways, then high into mid-air and twist about on the way down—all six of them leaping for sheer joy, playing in the leaves, exhibiting the exuberant abandon of children everywhere, having fun.


A single mama looking on serenely, serving her duty as nanny, while the kids played.


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