Rescuing Cairn [Part 2]

When walking in the woods, I generally keep to the trail, leaving the remainder of the forest to the wild things. But rules are generally meant to be broken when it comes to helping creatures of the wild. This is the story of how I came to know Cairn, tiny creature of the wild wood.

[this is a first draft of a work in progress]

As I walked up the road after lunch one day in late June, I heard what sounded like a cross between a baby’s cry and that of a kid goat coming from the woods along the road. It came twice more and I thought the thought I often have when walking these Pennsylvania trails: “Leave the wild things to the wild.” Anyway, I was running late for a meeting already and any distractions would pose a problem. So I left the wild thing to the wild and kept walking.

An hour later, my work done for the day, I decided to write some poetry ­– a promise I’d made to myself for several weeks now, but failed to keep. This day I was intent on following through because my inner poet was crying for attention. So, as I walked past the tired old gazebo that no one every sits in, I heard another distressed cry from the thick of the woods. My first thought was to leave this wild thing alone as I always do. A second cry came fast this time and I realized that I had no choice but to see what the trouble was. I followed the sound to a rock precipice overlooking a thicket of dense trees and brambles. Looking directly below, I spotted a small porcupine, about the size of a grapefruit, only covered in sharp, black spines. Sensing my presence, it quickly scurried back into a rock cave (I was currently standing on the roof of this small cave). 

Taking the long way around, I chose crossing a thicket of brambles over risking a meeting with the porcupine’s mother. Another cry, more insistent this time, begged me to follow. Moving as quickly as possible over craggy rocks, rushing past sticker bushes intent on grabbing my legs, I managed to skirt past large patches of poison ivy and avoid eye-poking branches as I followed the cry to the boggy valley below.

[{OR use this alternate para to the one above?} More cries pulled me into the thicket. Blackberry thorns scratched my ankles, poison ivy brushed my arms as I pushed back eye-poking branches to clear the view only to find more brambles and branches. Still unable to see much in this mess of forest, the cries directed each step as I stumbled over a jumble of jagged stones.]

I stopped, scanning the rocky floor for any sign of life. Looking toward the road where I’d been standing unscathed just a few moments before, I caught my first glimpse of her tiny head, soft and brown, jutting out above the craggy rocks which bound her to this wild place. Straining her head upward as she let out another cry. The baby deer was clearly stuck and in distress.

Approaching slowly and speaking softly to her, I looked around for signs of her mother, but found only fresh deer droppings where the porcupine had been. The fawn stopped crying and seemed to know instinctively that I was there to help. Touching the bare spot on her forehead and stroking the soft fur of her delicate ears, I eased my other hand alongside her tiny body and into the gap between a boulder and old oak that was holding her tight. Clearly tired from trying to get free, she didn’t seem to have strength to do more than hold on. With her front legs clinging to the edge of the hole and her rear legs pinned close to her sides, there was no room to maneuver her from this tight spot. 

Realizing that she’d probably been stuck there for hours, I worked quickly. Pushing in against the stone that held her, I finally reached her backside, only to discover her haunches soaking in a cold underground stream. Unable to help her out with a nudge from behind, I clawed at tree roots and dark earth with one hand, while holding her backside, hoping to keep her from slipping into the frigid stream below. Cold permeates these woods, even in summer.

[to be continued]