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Yearling (novel)

The Yearling, 5

The fawn blinked its eyelids. It groaned comfortably and dropped its head. He tiptoed from the shed. No dog, he thought, could be more biddable.

Jody scraped his plate clean and set it aside. He lay down beside the fawn. He put one arm across its neck. It did not seem to him that he could ever be lonely again.

After describing the lovely interaction of boy and baby fawn right after the new pet arrived to the Baxters’ farm, in the next chapter Marjorie wrote:

The fawn took up much of Jody’s time. It tagged him wherever he went. At the woodpile, it interfered with the swing of his axe. The milking had been assigned to him. He was forced to bar the fawn from the lot and it stood by the gate, peering between the bars, and bleated until he had finished. He stripped Trixie’s teats until she kicked in protest. Each cupful of milk meant more nourishment for the fawn. It seemed to him that he could see it growing. It stood firm on its small legs and leaped and tossed its head and tail. He romped with it until they dropped together in a heap to rest and cool themselves.

Accompanied with the family guest, in the next week Jody went out to steal some honey from the industrious bees:

He started across the yard with Jody beside him. The fawn was close behind.

“You want your blasted baby to git stung to death? Then shut him up. With me gone, you’ll not have no time to nuss that fawn.”

With his health recovered Penny visits the Forresters:

He asked innocently, “How did you-all come out with that sorry dog I traded you?”

Buck drawled, “Why, that dog’s proved out the fastest and the finest and the hardest-huntin’ and the fearlessest of ary dog we’ve ever had on the place. All he needed was men to train him.”

Penny chuckled.

He said, “I’m proud you was smart enough to make somethin’ outen him. Where’s he now?”

“Well, he was so blasted good, he put t’other dogs so to shame, Lem couldn’t abide it, and he hauled off and shot him and buried him in the Baxter cemetery one night.”

Jody asked, “If fellers didn’t say quarrelin’ things, would they put in to fight?”

Penny said, “I’m feered so. I oncet seed a pair o’ deef dummies havin’ it. But they do say they got a sign language, and likely one passed the insult in a sign.”

Buck said, “Hit’s male nature, boy. Wait ’til you git to courtin’ and you’ll git your breeches dusted many a time.”

“But nobody but Lem and Oliver was courtin’, and here all us Baxters and all you Forresters was in to it.”

Penny said, “They’s no end to what a man’ll fight for. I even knowed a preacher takened off his coat and fit ary man wouldn’t agree to infant damnation.”

Anybody who has read the fifth book of my Hojas Susurrantes knows why such a passage can make an impression in my mind. Later in the novel Marjorie says:

Jody waited until a deep rumbling snore sounded. Then he slipped from the house and groped his way to the shed. The fawn stood up at the sound. He felt his way to it and threw his arms around its neck. It nuzzled his cheek. He lay with his head against its side. Its ribs lifted and fell with its breathing.

The fawn lay in the hedge-row in the shade of an elderberry bush. It had been almost a nuisance when he began his work. It had galloped up and down the sweet potato beds, trampling the vines, and knocking down the edges of the beds. It had come and stood in front of him in the direct path of his hoeing, refusing to move, to force him to play with it. The wide-eyed, wondering expression of its first weeks with him had given way to an alert awareness. Jody liked to work with it near.

burialThe boy called Fodder-wing died, the only human friend of Jodie. At the Forresters’ home Jodie did not know that before dying Fodder-wing had envisioned a name for his pet:

“Why,” she said, “he named it. Last time he talked about it, he gave it a name. He said, ‘A fawn carries its flag so merry. A fawn’s tail’s a leetle white merry flag. If I had me a fawn, I’d name him “Flag.” “Flag the fawn,” is what I’d call him.'”

Jody repeated, “Flag.”

He thought he would burst. Fodder-wing had talked of him and had named the fawn. There was happiness tangled with his grief that was both comforting and unbearable.

He said, “I reckon I best go feed him. I best go feed Flag.”

2 replies on “The Yearling, 5”

So you got me curious enough about this story that I looked it up to find out how it ends, and the ending doesn’t surprise me at all. My experience is that people who don’t have much contact with these animals think they are beautiful and wonderful and so on and so forth, while those of us who actually live near them find them to be insufferable PESTS, about as welcome as overgrown rats.

I’ve been told that deer are practically nonexistent in Mexico due to overhunting. Maybe the rarity has something to do with the positive impact such a story has for you. For myself, if I had to stay up every night for a week to wait for the local deer to come try the vegetable garden just so I could massacre them, I wouldn’t hesitate.

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