By Scott Warner

In the dim gray pre-dawn light, the doe and her six week old fawn stole quietly down through the woods until they reached the edge of the meadow. The doe paused and surveyed the area while the dappled fawn obediently curled up in the underbrush. Even in the muted illumination, the scene was idyllic. The trees had reached their peak of spring verdancy, the tall lush grass was lapping gently in a slow breeze and the wildflowers flashed every color of the rainbow. When the doe was sure there was no danger, she led her fawn slowly through the meadow to the chuckling stream.

Upon reaching the creek, the fawn sunk down in the grass while the doe again paused to assess the situation. The ever present barn swallows acrobatically looped and darted above the water. There was a heron hunting fish upstream, it would provide raucous warning if any danger approached from that direction. In the other direction, two ducks slowly paddled in circles. There was no other observable movement, so the mother doe stood watch upon the bank as the fawn daintily entered the riffles and drank.

The fawn was already at the coltish stage with legs longer than necessary for its body. The doe waited patiently as her youngling enjoyed the pleasures of the creek. The fawn watched a school of minnows that were too fast to touch. It was delighted by the crayfish squirting away from its legs and tried to chase them. Only when the fawn had finished with its watery amusements and had concealed itself in the foliage by the bank did the doe deign to drink. When she had slaked her thirst, they started back for the woods along a different track. By now the sun had made its brilliant appearance and the meadow was ablaze with morning light. When the doe and the fawn reached the trees at the base of the hill, there was a small interval of short grass.

It was here that the fawn chanced upon a toad. The fawn was elated by this new play toy, prancing around it in rings trying to goad the lumpish olive toad into motion. But the toad was adamant and held its ground stoically. The doe watched her fawn with knowing eyes and made no attempt whatsoever to halt the fawn?s cavorting. By instinct the doe understood that this was something the fawn must learn for itself and there was only one way that it would learn it.

Inevitably the fawn tried licking the toad to force it to jump. . . . and immediately reacted as if it had touched its tongue to an electric wire, spinning around in circles like a cyclone while shaking its head violently. Then it sprinted away in the wrong direction as fast as it could run. The toad remained perfectly motionless while the doe dutifully chased after her wayward but wiser youngster.