Dear Oh Deer!

GRIT readers’ stories of lone deer, stolen crops, giant mushrooms, and more anecdotes from life in the country.

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Ken Smith watched as two fawns in his neighborhood learned how to survive without their mother around.

Dear Oh Deer!

Last spring, a doe that’d been hanging around our farm had twin fawns. I recognized her from the year before. Most people don’t believe that deer look different enough to tell them apart, but it’s easy once you get to know them.

The doe and her babies were out in the pasture near my house every evening. One morning, as I was going to town, I saw the mother doe lying on the side of the road; she had been hit by a vehicle. I felt bad, especially for the fawns, which I was sure weren’t old enough to survive on their own. However, the next day, I saw them out in the pasture as usual, nibbling at the grass, and I started thinking they just might make it.

As the summer went on, the fawns continued to grow and were inseparable. When I fed the wild turkeys in my area, the orphaned deer picked off the extra corn left behind. When the other deer began to move on, I was hoping that my orphans would head out and follow the rest, but they didn’t.

Winter came on hard, so I haven’t seen the turkeys or put out any corn for them, but that hasn’t stopped the fawns from coming up to the house to check for leftovers; they dig in the snow looking for any forgotten corn kernels. Now I think these young deer will never follow the rest of their kind, as they haven’t had a mother to show them how. After catching them nibbling on some leaves off my lilac bush, I went out and bought them a couple pounds of corn.

I’m in a quandary: I don’t want them to stay here all winter, but at the same time, if I don’t feed them, they may not survive without their mother to teach them how to be deer. I hope they’ll eventually move on and catch up with the other deer, but I’m beginning to think I’ll be feeding them all winter. I guess that’s the consequence of being a big softie.

Ken Smith

Lake Linden, Michigan

Sharing Is Caring

I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your magazine. I continue to spread it around so that everyone can relish the information in each issue. I like to recycle my magazines by passing them on to others when I’ve finished.

Because I get several copies of each issue, I save the extra copies to give to my sister-in-law, who lives a few hours away from me. Whenever I go to see her, I bring her a large stack of issues I’ve saved, delivering them all at once for her to browse. After she’s read them, she keeps copies of her favorite issues, and again passes on the extras to her friends. Once everyone has read the magazines, they’re donated to either a hospital or a doctor’s office waiting area, or to a local nursing home. Each of your issues travels a long way and touches many people throughout this process. Reading Grit gives our group a sense of community, and something special to share.

Betty Price

Hershey, Pennsylvania

Trading Sun for Shade

Most folks can agree that mowing under the hot sun during summer is a brutal task, and finding ready-made canopies for a mower can be difficult. Commercial canopies are also expensive and time-consuming to install. Even if you do manage to find and install a store-bought canopy, they usually don’t last too long. So, I took matters into my own hands and built a personalized mower canopy from scratch. For the frame, I bought 1⁄2- and 3⁄4-inch PVC pipe for a fraction of the cost of a store-bought canopy. I can easily remove the canopy without tools, and collapse it for storage. Small screws secure the joints, so the unit can be completely disassembled to replace the canopy fabric when necessary — the canopy has sleeves in the fabric’s perimeter, so the pipes slip through quickly for a hassle-free fabric swap when needed. I hope my efforts will inspire others who need some shade when working outside.

Joe Kaye

Phenix, Virginia

Opportunity Knocks

Just recently, Grit came up in conversation with my 65-year-old father. We live on Cochiti Pueblo, which is a Native American reservation in New Mexico. My father told me that as a young boy, he received copies of the magazine, which he hand-delivered to members of our community. He explained that the small amount of money he earned helped him purchase necessities for his family during hard times. Learning this new information was such a surprise to me. I’m not even sure how my father got involved in a small business opportunity, but he loved the chance to earn for the family. After hearing this story, I’ll be gifting my father a subscription to Grit this year. I’m sure he’ll be excited to see it again.

Christine Suina

Peña Blanca, New Mexico

Salvaging a Stolen Crop

When I received a request to re-subscribe to your magazine, the large red rooster on the front of the form reminded me of an old family story. More than 100 years ago, my mother, her father, and her sister were planting peanuts in Alabama. While they were planting, they looked over and saw a large red rooster eating the peanuts as fast as they could put them in the ground. Times were extremely hard, and the peanuts were my family’s only crop, so my grandfather came up with a plan to get them back.

They caught the rooster and brought him into the house, where my grandfather then proceeded to perform surgery on the rooster and extract the peanuts. He opened the rooster’s chest, poured the peanuts out, and sewed his chest back up. Afterwards, the rooster went on his merry way, and my family had their crop back.

My mother sent this story to your magazine, and it was published. As I grew up, I always took pride that they’d gone to this extreme to save the only means of food supply they had. When I was young, I sold Grit magazine subscriptions, and always used this story as a selling tool.

Aaron Maze

Arab, Alabama

The Magic Mechanic

I read the latest issue of Grit as soon as I receive it. Stories like “New Year, Old Memories” from the January/February 2019 issue are the reason I enjoy this magazine so much. In her letter, editor Rebecca Martin invites readers to submit stories that make our communities distinctive, and it made me think of a funny story my uncle told me about growing up in rural Wisconsin in the 1940s.

Uncle John developed a reputation as a skilled mechanic at an early age from working at an implement dealership. He was asked by a local implement dealer to go to a farm to fix a grain binder — it wouldn’t tie knots to secure bundles of oats. When John arrived at the farm, the farmers, speaking to each other in Bohemian, were angry that the dealer had sent a kid to fix the binder. After all, how could a kid possibly repair the binder when the farmers themselves couldn’t do it?

John went to work repairing the knotter, and drove the binder around the field of oats once he was done to confirm that it was fixed. When he’d finished, he motioned for the farmers to meet with him by the grain binder. Then, speaking in Bohemian, John explained how to repair the machine if the knotter ever became a problem again. Those farmers were chagrined to learn that my uncle could speak both English and Bohemian, but the whole thing gave John a good laugh!

Bernard Schwetz

Cary, North Carolina

Massive Puffball Mushrooms

For some reason, my yard has been producing puffball mushrooms non-stop for the past year. I’ve had a bumper crop! These mushrooms are so large that I can cut them up and fry them like slabs of French toast. Because I get so many, I’ve left a few just to see how much they’ll grow. The one in this photo (at left) is my biggest yet!

Karyn Flynn

Troy, Michigan

Forest Fashion

I enjoyed Clyde Myers’ article, “Get Crackin’,” in the September/October 2018 issue. Black walnuts really are a tough nut to crack! If you’re going to shell off the green husk, be sure to wear gloves, or be prepared for your fingernails to look like you’ve been working on your tractor all day.

Black walnuts aren’t just a delicious treat; you can use them to make beautiful buttons for coats, sweaters, and various other projects. Use a band saw to saw off slices from the walnut, then carve and round them into buttons. From there, just sew them onto any project you’d like. It’s fairly simple to make these buttons yourself — all you need is a little practice in finding the perfect section of a walnut to use for the button.

Larry Trekell

San Augustine, Texas