Side Project: My Forgotten Youth

So I took a break from writing the fantasy book that I have been working on and wrote something different. I woke up last night at 3:00 a.m. and had a book idea ramming itself into my consciousness. The idea wouldn’t go away. I had to write down the general idea. Below, I have written out the rough introduction to the book. I don’t plan on stopping work on the fantasy book, but I just needed a break. In my mind, this will be a very short book, less than 200 pages for sure. A middle-grade book, I think. We will see. In my head, this book is dealing with some heavy issues kids are dealing with even today. My current working title is My Forgotten Youth. Enjoy.

Introduction: The Abnormal Life

You don’t really question the things that happened to you as a kid. To you, it was just how life was and that was normal. It’s not until years later that you start to understand that your childhood might not have been completely regular. Example: My mom once told me that my father was a famous magician. I asked her why I didn’t have a dad and she said that he was busy working in Vegas and that the entertainment company that employed him wouldn’t let him take time off.

It made sense to me at the time, that my dad was a magician; too important to come and visit me. I told all my friends at school, and when they got old enough to realize it was a lie, they let me know, harshly, over and over. It was 1990 and I was eight years old. My mom would often disappear for weeks at a time, that was normal. My grandma and I would always order pizza when she knew mom wasn’t coming home. I got to the place where I hated the very smell of the stuff. Mom continually traveled up to Detroit with her boyfriends; sometimes just for the weekend, and others, for a month at a time.

We lived with my Grandma Susan. She had a little trailer that my grandpa had left her when he died. That was years before I was even born though. We all lived in Sissonville, West Virginia and my mom and Grandma had their own rooms, but I had the hall closet. It was big enough that my twin mattress could fit, but that was about it. 

One morning, I woke up before I should have. Not sure why, but something seemed wrong. Sometimes you wake up because of a noise, but you think you just woke up naturally. It was one of those times when you feel like you slept for a long time. I was wide awake. There was the sound of clinking dishes in the kitchen and I walked in, the footed pajamas I wore had a hole for the big toe on each one, but they still made a soft shiff shiff as they slid across the linoleum floor. 

The sound of my feet caused my mother to drop her little plastic purse on the side of the sink. When she did, amber pill bottles came plopping out on the counter and the floor. She was startled.

“Hey darlin’, what are you doin up?” She asked, smoothing her blond hair back from her face and licking lips that were too dry. 

“I heard something, and woke up,” I said. 

She was fully dressed in a short skirt and some of those fishnet stockings that girls loved to wear in the 80s, but that she was obviously too old to be wearing. Mom was fashionable; MTV was always on when she was home. Her bangs were the poofiest bangs in the whole town. While I always thought mom was pretty, in a “my mom” sort of way, I hated poofy bangs. She quickly picked up the pill bottles and began stuffing them back into the hot pink purse. One of them had rolled across the floor and my bare big toe twiddled it. I reached down and picked it up. It had my grandma’s name on the label.

“Oh,” I said. “This one is grandmas.”

A slight panic flashed across her eyes. “Yes, well I am taking it to get it refilled,” she said.

“Are all of those grandmas?”

She backed away from me and I was confused. “No, these ones are mine,” she said glancing towards the door. “Why don’t you mind your own business, huh? You think you know what’s best do ya? You aren’t the parent here! I am!” She screamed the last part, but immediately hushed herself, glancing towards the hall that led to grandma’s room.

“Mom, are you okay,” I asked, brushing off the harshness of her words. I learned long ago, not to take her harshness with any sincerity.

“I’m fine,” she hastily said, zipping up the little purse. It looked stupid, hot pink and almost rubbery. I thought it was like something a little kid would have, not a grown woman. She brushed tears out of her eyes. When had she started crying? Coming over, she kissed the top of my head. She smelled; sour, like ammonia. Like when our cat’s litter box hadn’t been cleaned in several weeks. Her arms were too thin, I could see the bones in her wrists. She had bruises up and down both of her arms, little scabbed dots all over.

“You be good okay. Listen to your grandma. I’m gonna be gone for a couple weeks, alright. I have a job up in Detroit I have to do. Robert says we can get some real good work this time.”

Robert was the current guy she called her boyfriend.

“Okay,” I said.

What else could I say? She looked back once, then walked out the front door.

I never saw my mom again.

The Hero We Need

The shirt says it all!

My family and I enjoy going down to the Smokey Mountains. It makes no sense because we hate going to Myrtle Beach and the Smokey Mountains are basically Myrtle Beach without the water. However, we love this place and come sometimes twice a year. It’s one of our favorite places to visit!

This year, we have been staying at the Dollywood Dreammore Resort and it’s been pretty great. There are always a couple of standard events we do every time we come here. We always eat breakfast at The Apple Barn, and we always eat dinner at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen.

As we were waiting for a table yesterday evening, we decided to sit outside in the rocking chairs and watch a lightning storm roll in. As we sat there, my son Nikolai was running around playing on the patio. Suddenly, a woman fell while walking by the curb. My little two-year-old son ran over to her, gently picking up her bag and trying to help her up as well. I ran over too, but she was already mostly up when I got there.

She turned to me and asked if he was my son. I said, “Yes, he’s my son.” She got tears in her eyes and said, “You’re doing something right.” She wasn’t hurt, she was just overcome with the emotion of the situation. I walked back to my little rocking chair, stunned in a way; feeling an overwhelming sense of unearned pride.

My girls, Kat and Ellie are fantastic! They are shining lights and amazing young women. I couldn’t be more proud of them. They aren’t perfect, but they are turning out to be fantastic Christian ladies. However, my little boy is only two; seemingly too young to be aware of honor, chivalry, or a sense of protection of others… Or so I thought.

His boyhood instinct was to run over to this woman and help her. As she said, maybe this old dad is doing something right. Maybe his momma is as well! Whenever one of us sneezes or coughs, Nikolai will always ask, “Daddy, are you alright?” and I or whoever sneezed will say, “I’m alright, thanks.” Compassion, love, and care; are common instincts we couch in Christian morality in our household.

I look around at the instability of our world. I wonder if maybe there were more Christian moms and dads out there who lived lives reflecting Christ, maybe we wouldn’t have as many issues in society as we do right now. Maybe if we lived like Jesus, we would have more little boys who would run to the rescue and fewer of them who run into places with murder in their hearts.

P.S. Nikolai’s shirt was perfect tonight!

D. Michl Lowe

The Coming Of Nikolai

Let me talk about the end of 2018. Kyle and Natalie, our music pastor and his wife, came to us and told us that they were pregnant with their third child. I don’t remember the exact date, but it was mid-2018. In my heart of hearts, I can assure you (my reader) that I was done having children. All through college and perhaps even before that, I had always said that I wanted two little girls; no more, no less. And at that moment, I had my two girls and beyond that, Ellie was already seven years old. Having another child wouldn’t make sense at all.

However, when our friend’s words rang in my mind, a spark began to burn inside of me. I couldn’t shake the idea of another child from my mind. It nearly consumed me. God was pulling at me, causing me to question my conviction. At first, I didn’t talk to Alicia about this. How could I? If I told her about it, she would get excited and if these feelings turned out to be nothing, just a passing fancy, then I would have hurt her a great deal. Inside myself though, I knew she wanted more children. She had always said four, but we had compromised on two. She always said no way to three because she didn’t want the third to be left out. Or for there to be a middle child.

I went and spoke with Kyle about my feelings and thoughts. His immediate response was, “You need to have another kid!” Now I know he must have been a little biased since he and his wife had made a very similar decision. I spoke to him about my hesitations. About all the reasons why it was a crazy idea, why we shouldn’t do it. And then I said that despite all that, I was still convicted about it. I didn’t know why. He told me that he had similar feelings before they had made their decisions and that he had come to have peace about it through prayer. He told me I needed to be in prayer and that I should seek Christ’s will. While I appreciated his enthusiasm and advice, I was still unsure.

I went home and spoke to Alicia about it. I came out of our closet just before bed and said, “What would you think about us having another kid?” She stopped. “Are you being serious?” she asked. “Now, you can’t just bring this up with me, if you are serious you need to let me know. Because I had a peace about us not having any more kids, even though it’s something I have really wanted. You can’t just throw this out there you know.”

I paused in the doorway, considering why I had even mentioned it without having come to a solid conclusion just yet. “I haven’t come to a consensus yet on how I feel, or what God is telling me about it. I don’t have peace, but I felt like I needed to tell you what was on my heart. What do you think about that?” I can’t be sure, but I remember her beginning to cry. “I have a peace about it, I say let’s do it!” I regaled her with all my logical reasons as to why I thought it was a bad idea, and still she held firm. When I spoke to my mom and dad about it later, they held to my beliefs about the bad idea of having another kid. It would be too hard, too expensive, and just overall not a good idea. I didn’t have peace about it. I wasn’t sure.

During this time, I was working up in the sound booth for our local church. I can’t tell you what the sermon was about. I can’t tell you what really was even going on in my own mind at that moment. However, while working the sound for our Facebook live feed, Pastor began to speak and my heart suddenly lurched. All I can recall is that for a moment in time, Pastor was no longer speaking to the congregation, God was speaking through him to me.

All my fear was gone. All my reservations were gone. The logical reasoning, I had built up in my mind seemed like foolishness. God had a plan. I didn’t know what it was, but He had one. I needed to trust in His ability to see us through the challenges. Which is interesting. Nikolai was born on August 31, 2019. It was a mostly uneventful birth, but just a day after he was born, he had to be taken to the NICU because he had an infection in his blood. He was there for about a week until he was strong enough to come home with us. It wouldn’t be the last time one of my kids had an extended stay in a hospital.

Looking back at this time now, after Niko was born, Alicia was able to take off enough time from work so that she could get all the way from the beginning of school in August to Christmas break staying at home with him, fantastic. But God took us a step further. One month after Christmas break, the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 hit and we worked from home for the most part until that Summer, giving Alicia just about a full year of staying at home with Niko.

Even when we did have to go back to work (sorta) in the next school year of 2020 in September of that year, Niko was able to only go to daycare part-time, Mom and Dad kept him two days a week, saving us money and allowing him to spend a lot of time with family. God has a way of working these things out. In ways, we will never understand and will often never see until a long time later.

Now, I continue to look at my son (he’s two and a half now) and Kyle’s little girl and I think about these kids. Who they are becoming and who they are right now. The world is a better place with them in it. A friend of mine recently went through a similar situation as I did and I got to hold his little girl (just a couple months old now) in my arms. We were at dinner with them the other night and I looked over at my son and then down at this little girl in my arms. What a blessing children are. I feel like the meaning of life and love and laughter are brought into clarity through these kids. They will grow up in our church, they will be loved by everyone in it, and they will be loved by us. There will be difficulty, pain, heartache, and tears, and it will all be worth it. All the difficulty that comes with having kids and raising kids will be worth it.

D. Michl Lowe

A Mother’s Discipline

At one point, I don’t remember my age, I had done something wrong and needed to be punished. My mother sat me down looking out a set of windows that faced the backyard. “You sit here until I come to let you up!” She said. I pretended I didn’t care, that the punishment was no big deal. She then went over to the telephone on the wall and called down to the neighbor’s house just below us. These neighbors had three little girls and a little boy. The middle little girl was Ashley, mentioned above. “Hey Chris, would you send your kids up here to play in Michl’s treehouse for a few minutes? Thanks!” and then hung up the phone. I didn’t hear this conversation.

What I saw next was the point of the exercise. All my best friends suddenly appeared and began playing in my backyard. “Hey, mom!” I yelled. “The girls are here; I’m going to go out and play with them!” I was very excited. Mom came into the room. “Oh, I’m sorry, but little boys who don’t listen to their mommies don’t get to go play with their friends. So, no. You are not going out to play with them.” Big tears welled up in my eyes and began running down my cheeks as I suddenly understood the reason, I was facing the backyard. The kids were only playing back there for maybe five minutes at the most, but it was enough to get my attention as a little kid, four or five years old. “Now, if you decide that you are going to listen to mommy for the rest of the day, then maybe tomorrow we will invite the kids up to play with you and then order some pizza for lunch as well. Does that sound like a deal?” It did. Like I said, I don’t remember what I had done, but to this day, that lesson has stuck with me. Take away what is most important to a child and be willing to give it back with a bonus… good parenting advice.

Speaking of eating pizza, it shouldn’t be understated that getting pizza was a big deal when I was a kid. We didn’t have a lot of money because mom and dad were shoving all their extra money into savings to be able to afford to build a house later. Once, Chris Bloss and Mom took all of us kids to McDonald’s so that we could play on the playground there. You weren’t allowed to play on the playground unless you bought something, so Chris and Mom bought a Diet Coke to split. All of us kids had Fox Kids Club Cards. A card you could get from the local radio station that would get you all kinds of cool stuff as a kid, but mainly for us, would get us a free small fry from the Mcdonald’s. So, we brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, got our free fries, and then all ordered water, also free and since a diet coke was bought, were allowed to play in the play place.

Looking back at that, it was a little sad, but we didn’t care. We got to play on the playground and had some of the best fries around. Once, when the Bloss’ dad Tom got a bonus at work, Chris decided to buy all of us kids a Slurpee from the Kmart. Back then the only flavor was cherry. She handed them out to us kids and each time she gave one to a kid that kid would say, “Thank you!” and then she would move on to the next kid. Not me though, she handed me that thing and I immediately began downing it. I only made it several slurps in when it was suddenly snatched from my hands. “Next time, you will remember to say thank you.” My mother said. I cried, but you better believe the next time something came along like that, I was the first to say thank you. Manners were important. To this day, I still have a habit of saying, “Yes sir and no sir”, which has fared me well.

D. Michl Lowe

The Ninja Kitty And The Trailer

Around the time I was seven years old, my mom and dad decided that we should move to a new house. They had purchased the land from Don Bloss and we would be moving to the other side of the Bloss girl’s house onto the land they had bought. However, the house had to actually be built. So, they started to build, but also put our little red house up for sale at the same time. As it happened, someone bought our house before the new house was done being built.

We were in the middle of the build for the new house and now had no house to live in while it was being finished. What could we do? Mom spoke with a friend of ours who agreed to allow us to rent a trailer down the road from Sissonville Elementary. It was a very small trailer! In fact, it was only two bedrooms and one of those bedrooms was packed floor to ceiling with our moving boxes. As it was, my bed was placed in a small walk-in closet.

When we first arrived at the trailer, we brought Samson (my dog) and BT, our kitty cat. I remember we got them down out of the car and Samson immediately began running around the small yard peeing on everything and BT ran off into the woods. We were a little concerned about BT, but she was an inside/outside cat, so she could take care of herself. Leaving her some food and water out on the porch, we waited to see if she would come back. When we woke up the next day, the food the water was gone, but there was still no sign of BT.

We left out another round of food and water and left for school and work. When we pulled up to the house from our day, we saw BT on the porch drinking some of the water we had left. However, the moment we got out of the car, she ran off again into the woods. This continued for a couple weeks. One day though, we got out of the car and the food and water were untouched; we didn’t see BT. We continued to leave fresh food and water, but each day that we came home, it was untouched.

This might sound like a really horrible situation, and it was, but in my seven-year-old brain, I created a scenario that made it easier to deal with. In my mind, I forced myself to believe that BT had decided to live out the remainder of her days in the woods hunting squirrels for her food as a Ninja Kitty. I often would imagine her hopping from limb to limb chasing down the squirrels; oddly enough, she was also wearing a Ninja Turtle Style mask on her head in these imaginings as well. We never saw BT again.

Sometime after that, we started to notice a smell coming from inside the trailer. It started off not that bad, just a mild sickly-sweet odor, but then it started to get worse. It became so bad that when we would open the door to go inside, we would have to turn back around and nearly punk off the porch. It was really bad! Dad decided that he would put on his overalls and crawl up under the trailer to see what was going on. When we got under there, he found a large hole in the flooring panels under the trailer, it looked like something had chewed the hole open.

Upon sticking his arm up into the hold, he felt something large and furry that wasn’t moving. Immediately, he thought “oh, no. BT has crawled up in this hole and died. Michl is going to be crushed.” But it wasn’t BT. When dad crawled back from under the trailer, he pulled out a river rat that was as large as BT from there. All told, it was nearly three feet long including the tail. We found out later that our neighbor had been putting out poison for the rats from the river just beyond his house and the poison was meant to make the rats want to drink a lot of water. So, they were supposed to go back to the river and die down there, but for some reason, this particular rat decided to come under our house to die.

Looking back on this time now, I am wondering if perhaps BT got into the poison, he had put out and that’s what really happened to her. I guess that’s a much more realistic explanation for what happened to her, but honestly, I like the seven-year-old explanation better. Sometimes, we encounter situations in young lives where it’s easier to believe the make-believe rather than the somewhat harsh reality of life. As a kid, I think my mind preferred to live within that fantasy instead of actually facing the death of a beloved pet.

We were in the trailer for nearly a year. Most of my memories there were of riding my bike along the flat blacktop road that led up to the house. I mentioned it was a small place and we were there during the Christmas holiday. There wasn’t enough room for an actual Christmas tree, so we settled on a little Charley Brown Christmas Tree that was set on top of our kitchen table. There was only one gift that I remember that year and it was a red microscope, complete with little slides that had sections of bugs, leaves, and other little things to see close up. For all the scrimping and saving our family was doing at the time, this was one of the best Christmas’ I can remember.

D. Michl Lowe

The Snakes

When I would go to my Aunt Sherry’s house to spend time with my cousin Randy, we would often make the trek down the road to the local swimming hole. The Little Kanawha River and Little Spring Creek came together in a “T” about a mile down the road from his house. It was here, just beyond the bridge of Little Spring Creek that we had a small sandy beach that resided below the limbs of several trees. It was shady, cool, and slightly deep compared to much of the river. Water that reached our shoulders wasn’t common in the Little Kanawha River around where we were familiar.

So, we would head down there and wade out into the middle of the water, playing as children often do. However, each time we ventured down to that area, there was always a constant, up in the branches of a beech tree, there was a family of black snakes. The beech tree was very large, larger around than I could reach my arms, even today. It was also hollow. On top of the tree, it had been hit by lightning, so it was sheared off at a completely horizontal angle, creating a flat area at the top of the tree where the snakes curled up with each other.

As we swam below, we could look up and see the coils of the snakes drooping down over the edges of the flat area. One of them in particular was extremely large. As a kid, I remember him being at least ten feet long. However, in talking with Randy recently, he states the largest was more like six feet, but I will swear till the day I die that it was at least ten feet long and ten inches around the waist.

The interesting thing about these snakes is that we didn’t mind they were there at all. For one, they never bothered us at all. They stayed in their tree. For another, we understood that black snakes killed and ate poisonous snakes like Copper Heads and Rattlers. They also ate river rats. We knew we didn’t have to worry about those issues at our swimming hole. You might wonder how we knew how big they were if they were always in the tree.

If we sat on the sandbank long enough and quiet enough, eventually the snakes would get hot up in the tree. So, if we were fishing down there on the bank, or just hanging around, sometimes we would see a snake drop down out of the tree and splash into the water. It would bob to the surface and wind its way through the water to the base of the tree and slither up the hollow to get back to the top where it would curl up again. We could see how long they were as they swept through the water. I remember ten feet; Randy, not so much. He says six or seven.

D. Michl Lowe

The Boat

Time spent at Aunt Sherry’s house was cathartic in a lot of ways. Thinking back on that time there was a lot of downtimes; time spent just lazing the days away. However, there were also times when Randy and I would come up with some crazy idea and start something that would be special in some way. Ideas that in retrospect were stories from childhood that would stick with my mind and grow into tales of meaning and adventure.

There was an old barn across the road from Randy’s house. It was falling apart. The walls were leaning at an odd angle and walking into it, you always had to watch your feet for fear that there might be a copperhead lurking under each board. Truthfully, there most likely was, but when we entered that place, it was with a purpose. Usually, it was to get boards. The rusty nails didn’t offer much resistance to our yanks as we would cart tons of this stuff over to the river and up into a tree to make our treehouse. One summer I came back to Aunt Sherry’s only to find that Randy had built an elaborate spire of platforms and walls, and even trap doors into the tree.

At one point we were “fishing” for catfish one night and decided that building a fire on the wooden floor of one of the platforms was a great idea. Twenty minutes into the fire and the fire itself suddenly disappeared in a bright flash. Having burned a hole through the floor, the entire campfire fell right through it and landed on the ground twelve feet below in a spectacular explosion of sparks. We howled in laughter.

One time, we were hunting through the old barn and came across a large tractor tire insert. It was the large rubber part that would go inside the hard ribbed rubber outsole of the tire. Upon examining it, it was clear that if we blew air into this tire, it would expand and become a huge innertube. At first, we were thinking about how neat it would be to go down the river with this large innertube, but as we talked about it, an idea wormed its way into my mind. What if we strapped boards to the top of this and made it into a boat?

So that’s what we did. Taking rope we lashed a platform of boards to the top of the innertube and created a fine boat. We went into the woods and cut down some small trees and removed the limbs to make some twelve-foot-long poles to act as quant poles used to push us through the water instead of paddles. My Uncle helped us to load the boat into the back of his truck and then drove several miles up the river. After unloading the boat into the water, we set sail down the river back towards Randy Allen’s house.

Several times during the journey, we got stuck on sand bars or other obstacles, but we managed to get ourselves free and continue on. After what I remember to be a long time, like nearly an hour, we arrived at the section of the river behind Randy’s house. Since things had gone so well, we decided to continue going. We continued sailing down the river until we got to the old swimming hole where the snakes hung from the giant beach tree. We continued on. However, it was just after this point those things got a little hairy. With the addition of the creek water entering the river at the swimming hole, the river itself got much swifter, deeper, and wider.

It was becoming much more difficult and often impossible for us to steer, slow, and especially to stop our boat. In the end, after trying for some time to get the boat over the side of the river so that we might walk home and have Uncle Randy come to retrieve our boat with his truck, we were unable to stop it. We abandoned our boat, which continued to sail down the river without us. I like to think that somewhere down there it made it out to the ocean and saved some shipwrecked sailors.

D. Michl Lowe

The Bear

When I was a young boy, I spent some time at my Aunt Sherry’s house around ten or twelve. My parents would send me there when I was driving them bananas. There were several times that I went to her house which was always fun for me because my cousin Randy was there. He was several years older than me, but we played well together. Her house was a small one-story place with a large kitchen in the front and a little living room set in the back.

In front of the house was a large mountain and their house was set in the middle of a small field with a river that ran behind that.

One day, we had been playing down in the river below the house trying to catch craw-dads. Coming out of the water onto the sand bar, we saw large tracks. Having studied Boy Scout books (even though neither of us were a part of the Boy Scouts), we knew these tracks were bear tracks. They were very large! We followed the tracks up into the field behind the house and moved up the yard following the tracks in the wet grass.

Yet, upon coming to the paved road we lost the trail. Seeing bear tracks of course made us excited, but also a little frightened. Black bears in these parts were no joke. We had heard stories of hunters who had shot bears with an arrow only to have the bear continue to charge them and kill them when the arrow had not done enough damage.

Several days later, we were coming back from our swimming hole when we decided that we needed a snack. While ideas like this were not common, we decided to not go home to get a snack but to head up onto the mountain to get some blackberries. Randy knew of an area on the side of the mountain called the Blackberry Maze where there were many bushes of blackberries. There were so many in fact that the paths between the bushes made a large maze on the side of the mountain, thus the name.

So off we trudged into the mountains. It wasn’t a difficult climb, but the closer we got to the maze, the thicker the brush became. Coming out into the maze, the bushes were taller than me and the winding paths were close nit. They hadn’t been created by people, but by the animals who frequented the area. Off we went sampling the fresh berries. Picking and eating the berries was fun and made you feel like you were a part of the land. We were natives in a natural world living off of nature—freedom in the truest sense of the word.

That’s when we heard it; a snorting sound coming from the edge of the maze, outside of it, and inside the dense brush of the forest. Both Randy and I stopped. Turning we looked at each other.

“Did you hear that?” I asked. “Yes,” Randy replied, whispering.

“Is that what a bear sounds like?” I asked. “Um, I’m not sure,” Randy said.

We heard that distant snorting again, and this time the brush on the side of the maze began rustling and swaying. Something significant was coming this way. Something that made our skin crawl and our imaginations light up.

“We need to get out of here,” I whispered and Randy nodded his head. He led the way out of the maze and once he got to the edge of the area, he jumped up and swung himself into a tree. I followed and soon we were both sitting in the highest branches of a tree off to the side of the Blackberry Maze.

“Can’t black bears climb trees?” I asked, upon settling myself into the crook of a limb. Randy looked over at me, “Yeah” he said. We both began hopping from limb to limb down the tree as fast as we could, but upon coming to the bottom of the tree once more, the noise from the side of the maze came again louder this time. We both froze.

Then, out from the brush at the side of the maze, stepped the largest example of this creature I have ever seen. A buck stepped into the area of the maze. Not a bear, a buck. A deer with antlers as wide as a car bumper stepped through the brush. He snorted and bounded over to our tree. Now in the years since this happened, I have been told this is not normal deer behavior, but I can attest this is true nonetheless. That deer came directly below our tree and scraped his antlers on the bark. He then proceeded to stamp his hooves and circle the tree for the next hour, not letting either of us come down.

I can only guess as to his motivations, but my assumption is that he had himself a girlfriend somewhere nearby and our presence was disrupting his ability to give her attention in a “baby-making” sort of way, but this is only an assumption. Maybe he didn’t like us eating his berries. Either way, after that hour he seemed to lose interest and wandered off. We were able to come down and head home. That’s the story of how I thought we were being chased by a bear, that turned out to be a deer.