One late June evening, we sit on the deck looking over the pasture. With a flash of white, a pronghorn doe unfolds from the tall grass and stands. Because her tawny coat perfectly matches the grass, she was invisible until standing revealed her creamy belly and chevrons on her chest. Chewing, she scans the hillside.
We can’t see or her her signal but an antelope calf leaps out of the grass. Then another. A third! One begins to nurse immediately. Two run around the hill, making big loops up and down, chasing each other. Their legs are so long beneath tiny bodies that they look like daddy longlegs. They butt heads, kicking and leaping. Eventually all three nurse the doe, jostling.
As dusk falls, the doe and her babies move away, grazing as they fade into flashes of white and then into invisibility. Staring hard through the thickening dark, we see several other does cross the hill. We know all have left their calves tucked into grass clumps for the night.
I soon learn that only after mild winters will a pronghorn doe have three calves–a reminder that everything I’ve observed in sixty years here is only a fragment of all there is to see and know. No matter how frantically I write or how beautifully I describe the lives of the beings who share the prairie with me, I cannot teach what I know to anyone else. Readers see black squiggles on paper, not the taut line of a running antelope’s neck or the lush promise of the redtop she grazes or how to keep her safely perpetuating this prairie with her blood.
A hailstorm with icy stones as large as hens’ eggs pounds the garden and hayfields into coleslaw a few days later. Two flocks of ducklings on the pond below the house vanish completely. At dusk on the hillside, we see one antelope doe, one calf. Did the others die in the storm? We never see them again.
Submitted January 6, 2012 by Linda M. Hasselstrom
PO Box 169
Hermosa, S.D. 57744