The land comes alive

My afternoon walk was brightened by my encounter with this fellow stroller. Hickman County, Tennessee, September 2015

My afternoon walk was brightened by my encounter with this fellow stroller.
Hickman County, Tennessee, September 2015

“The land comes alive through its wild creatures.”  — Charles Fergus

When I was employed by the Tennessee Department of Conservation, one of the foresters with whom I worked heard me say my fiancé was from Hickman County.  “Hickman County?” he said. “They got more deer there than people!”

I had to agree with that.  In the many years Jeff and I have been travelling together through the highways and byways of that lovely county, it seems that we always see at least one deer as we drive along, and often more than one.  Though I hardly ever notice until Jeff points them out to me, I delight in seeing them.  If you’re ever traveling on I-40 between Memphis and Nashville and want to see the home where Jeff grew up, take the Bucksnort exit (I am not making this up; it’s exit 152).

So, when we were visiting Hickman County a few days after Daddy’s memorial service in Georgia, I took my camera as I headed out for a late afternoon walk from his sister’s home. I was hoping to catch photos of at least a few of the ten wild turkeys I had counted as we drove down her street earlier that day.

“You might see a deer,” Jeff’s mother reminded me, and sure enough, I had not gone 500 feet down the street before I caught a flash of movement a short distance away.  An enormous doe with a long, fluffy white tail had spotted me before I spotted her, and she trotted away from me, then turned to look back, curious yet sensing potential danger.

I stood very still and snapped this photo of her, then decided to walk slowly toward her in hopes I could get a bit closer.  No such luck.  The moment I took the first step in her direction, she bounded into the woods with that graceful speed that so impresses me.

I did see some of the turkeys, too. I even saw one of them take off and fly a short distance, but when I pointed my camera at them, they insisted on showing me only one angle.

Nobody's Thanksgiving dinner

More than any other season, autumn reminds me of the wildlife that become a bit more visible as they forage or browse among foliage that is already beginning to thin out.  The weather grows cooler and it’s an ideal time to enjoy being outdoors.  Why not take a stroll and watch with joy as the land comes alive?


  1. Judy in Pennsylvania

    Loved going with you on your stroll and seeing the deer and turkeys. Touching base with the world of nature and opening our hearts to the beauty and wonder of it all has such a soothing effect us. Thank you for giving me that bit of inspiration to begin my day. Maybe instead of walking our dog in the neighborhood this morning, we’ll take her out to a friend’s farm and see what we can discover there. We’ve never gone out to see the area in the early part of a day. There are fields of cows, an apple orchard, woods and paths and a stream…… I just now asked my husband about it and he enthusiastically agreed. Perfect!

    • Judy, that sounds wonderful! I hope you and your dog have a great time on the farm. From the way you described it, it sounds like a canine paradise! Have a relaxing and refreshing weekend.

  2. blseibel

    I have been to Bucksnort! We used to live in Humphreys county in McEwen when we were first married, which is just north of Hickman I believe. Once day while driving the county roads, could have been in Hickman County for all I know, we were headed down a narrow dirt road with fencing on both sides when 2 deer coming bounding across the field jump the 1st fence and clear the 2nd in one leap RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR CAR! You never forget those moments. We saw our share of turkey too. I love those nature excursions.

    • It really is a small world, isn’t it? We’ve had those near miss experiences with deer bounding out in front of our car, and the terror of wrecking into them is surpassed only by the thrill of seeing their agility in getting across safely. Daddy always told me that the deer is the most dangerous animal in North America, because of all the car accidents they cause. I’m glad Jeff has such a sharp eye for them because it’s kept us from accidents more times than I can remember. I guess that’s a skill that comes of living where there are more deer than people! 🙂

  3. jholley1954

    That is some beautiful photography! Haven’t told you in while, Julia, but I do so enjoy reading your blog and seeing your inspiring photos. It’s always a lift to my spirit!

    • Thanks so much, Judy. It brings me joy to know you are reading. I have been so happy to be back in touch these past few years, and it was wonderful to see you and Kay at Daddy’s Alabama service. Love to both of you! ❤

  4. Jack

    The blood lust of my youth has yielded to something different in my older age. While I’m not averse to pulling the trigger every once in a while, I get as much of a thrill from the preparation of going hunting as I normally do from the hunt itself…really, more of a walk with a gun. The gold finch on my bird feeder rivals the approach of a strutting turkey (that’s a complete lie, the turkey is much more enthralling but far less frequent).

    If I knew how to send you a photo, I’d send the most magnificent one taken from a game camera last spring about 50 yards behind my house…would that I could get all those turkeys that close to me when it’s time to hunt them! You’d be impressed with the quality of the photo, and the subject matter too!

    • Jack, you can send the photo(s) as attached files via email to, and hopefully I could post them right here.

      Daddy once wrote an essay about just what you described; the thrill of hunting without shooting the prey. He referred to it as “counting coup” (he was one-fourth Chiricahua). I wish I had a copy of that essay; perhaps it can be found among his papers as we go through them. I remember the ending sentence: “I have counted coup, and the deer have walked.”

  5. I looked out before breakfast this morning and saw two bucks locking horns, a doe,and two fawns. Wish you were here to have seen them. Enjoyed your visit so much. Wish it could have been longer.

    • WOW, I wish I had been there to see them too! What a great way to start a day. Thanks for hosting us, and for your always-fabulous cooking!

  6. Julia, I really smiled when I read that Bucksnort is close to Only. Only in Tennessee! We often see deer in Bristol (Tennessee and Virginia) when we visit. How they loved the blueberry bushes that Bill’s brother planted for their dad! They didn’t get too close to his bee-hives though, imagine that. 🐝 Did someone say RAIN? I know ya’ll are monitoring this hurricane just as we are….. closely! We’ve had rain for one week and anticipating another seven days, even heavier. Of course I went to Piggly Wiggly grocery today for provisions. I’m so glad that you were able to visit with Jeff’s mom and sister on your return trip home. I hope that these days are somewhat easier for each of you. Grief of this magnitude is hard to describe. We’ve shared so much and it stands to reason, we’ll certainly share this time of loss. 🙏 Love,Sheila

    • Sheila, I have always suspected it was deer who made short work of my previously lovely blueberry bush in our “lower 40” — I had forgotten (or maybe never knew) that Dr. Vann kept bees. I LOVE honey of all types and used to put tons of it into my tea before the fasting blood sugar levels crept into diabetic range. We’ve got rain here too, but we are hoping and praying the hurricane stays east of us. I love hearing “Piggly Wiggly” as it reminds me of my childhood. I haven’t been inside one in years, but it’s nice to know they are still around.

      I was thinking the other day about how strangely parallel our lives have been since we first met on this blog. Providential, I think! Thanks so much for your consistent presence and encouragement. Have a wonderful weekend! Love to you too! ❤

  7. Connie

    Julia, thank you for so eloquently introducing others to the place I call home. I thought it interesting that someone mentioned Only in conjunction with Bucksnort. When I try to tell people where I am from & mention the Bucksnort exit, many people are aware of it since it is such an unusual name. I usually point out that we have some other places with unusual names like Only, Fly & Spot. ☺ Thank you for reminding me how special my home county is. I am glad you were able to spend time with Jeff’s family. So sorry I couldn’t be there to share in your sorrow over losing your Dad. Please know I have helped carry that burden for you from afar. And lastly, one other tidbit about Hickman County….almost anywhere we go we run into somebody from Hickman County. Blaine vows that Hickman County is the site where the Garden of Eden once stood. 😃 Love you girl!!

    • Connie, what a delight to hear from you here. You hold the distinction of being the first person with whom I ever saw Hickman County. 🙂 You and I were friends before I ever even knew Jeff. Someday I want to find that photo we took of us together on New Year’s Day (which I took with my camera timer). We were holding up our Christmas gifts to each other (books, of course). If I scan in some of those photos I took of you I might just feature one here. So many happy memories! I appreciate your being with us in thought and prayer, as you have so many times in the past. I’m also remembering how happy I was to see you at Jeff’s Daddy’s funeral over 26 years ago. Love you too!!

  8. Julia, are you as waterlogged as we are? We’re still at 428 and glad we’re at a high elevation. Some houses around us on the inlet side of Garden City have 1-2 feet of water inside their ground level rooms. This is our situation without the hurricane, That’s a blessing!
    Bill’s granddaddy was actually the family beekeeper, probably why they love honey so much. When Bill’s brother, John, wanted to follow the tradition and started beekeeping with three hives, he placed them on his dad’s hillside so Dad could enjoy the ritual, even as an observer. 🐝
    I thought Piggly Wiggly might bring a smile…. even without mentioning butter beans! Thinking of ya’ll this rainy night. 🙏 Close in thoughts, Sheila

    • Sheila, the rain was steady all day, but was beginning to let up by night time. For us, it’s been just enough to be pleasantly cozy indoors with the kettle on. I am so thankful the hurricane seems to have stayed mostly away from the coast, although I hear Charleston has gotten some flooding. I’m glad you are high and dry, or at least mostly so. Thanks for checking in and letting me know all is well. Pleasant dreams!

  9. MaryAnn

    Your deer encounter brings a huge smile to my face. I adore seeing them! This week at small group Bible study, that we host, Paul was telling the story of when we are riding the motorcycle, I pat his leg with my hand shaped in a sign language “d”, so he will know he MUST stop! (Like Jeff, I see them more often.) He told the story of one of our favorites sightings. It was summer, so we left home very early. We were on a backroad near the Pacific Coast at about 6 am or so. A beautiful doe was out in the field. We stopped & turned off the motorcycle. She looked at us for a while. Paul said, “It’s okay we will not hurt you, we only shoot w/ a camera.” After watching us for what seemed a long time, she flicked her ear & 2 lovely, small fawns came out from the bushes. It lives in our memory as if it were yesterday.
    I am 1/4 Cherokee, so I can say “I count coup” like your wonderful father when I only shoot w/ the camera:).
    You are in my thoughts & prayers more so than usual. I love you!

    • Mary Ann, now I know where your lovely olive complexion comes from. Thanks for sharing the story of the doe with her fawns hiding in the bushes. It makes me smile. I bet that Mama deer and her little ones were counting whatever is the animal version of “coup” that evening! Thanks so much for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.

  10. Julia, we’ve ventured out very little for 3 days. How about ya’ll? We walked over to the oceanfront yesterday when there was a break in these downpours, just to check on our beach. There’s several feet of erosion but could have been worse! We ‘re so fortunate to have the “little cottage on the hill”! I enjoyed seeing (listening to) “The envelope please”! 😉

    • Hi Sheila, the past month has been a total blur to me; it’s hard to remember what we’ve done when. Jeff and I have had to make a few trips out to look at flooring, cabinets, countertops, appliances etc. for the new addition (Matt’s apartment/guest house at our York home). I feel so disoriented that I hope I don’t look around three months from now and say “Who picked THAT out? I think it’s tacky!” 🙂 Hopefully Jeff will keep me from making that sort of error. I have thought of you with every reference we’ve seen to the floods in SC, but I keep reassuring myself that your comments indicate all is well. Your “little cottage on the hill” is a nice mental picture to keep with me. I can see inside the windows where Walter and Jack are snug and cozy. ❤ I love beaches in the rain, but that's easy to say when we are far and away from the flooding. Thanks for keeping in touch and letting us know you're OK.

  11. Those turkeys have a wonderful blue tint in the autumn light. We used to see turkey’s on our walks in nearby Almaden, but I’ve not seen them for several years. Seeing your photo reminds me how much I miss them, and how I miss walking and hiking too. I hope my surgery gets me back to a place that I can once again enjoy the trails.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the local views.

    • Alys, when I first saw that photo I thought there must have been something wrong with the color settings on my camera. I went back and checked the photos I took just before and after that, and they seemed norma. Then looked at some photos of wild turkeys online, and realized it wasn’t my camera; that’s how they looked in some of the online photos too, which must have been taken in the evening. It’s funny how our eyes compensate for the varying degrees and colors of light, without our even realizing it. The camera often sees things we miss.

      I need to find out the details about your surgery. I’ve somehow missed the message where you must have told us about it. I’m missing a lot recently, with all that has been going on. I’m sorry you have to have the surgery, but hopeful that it will get the results you need and want. I’ll try to get in touch by email to find out more. Love and warm wishes to you. ❤

      • That’s one of the things I love about looking at nature through the lens: it gives me a laser-focus on what’s immediately in front of me. Case in point, I spotted a ‘wolf spider’ in the center of a flower this morning, one I would have missed entirely otherwise. It was creepy and fascinating, sitting there quietly in the middle of a bloom.

        I suspect turkey’s feathers have a bit of iridescent to them that may bring out the blue in the photos. I wonder if that is it?

        I’m having surgery on my foot and ankle to repair a near-complete peroneal tendon tear and to remove four cysts that have formed inside the tear. I’m scheduled for November 4th. Feet elevated for two weeks post-surgery, no weight-bearing for five weeks. I’m dreading it, but look forward to returning to all the activities I love. I’m feeling like a slug without all my beloved exercise.

        • Oh, Alys, I’m so sorry about your foot. I hope you have plenty of great reading material and classic movies at hand! I wish I could be there to serve you tea and scones all day and make the best of a difficult time. May the those weeks be a gift of respite for you that passes mostly pleasantly and with minimal pain. I trust you will keep us posted! ❤ ❤ ❤

          • Thank you, Julia. I’m going to take a moment to savor that fantasy of a good visit with the two of us enjoying tea and scones. Lovely.

            It will be a strange November in many ways. It will be the first Thanksgiving in a decade without our friends which makes me sad, but since I’ll be just three weeks out from surgery, it will be a blessing in disguise. I won’t be tempted to do all the decorating and fussing that I normally do. Our friends have a wedding to attend in Alberta that week, so they’ll be celebrating in a different way. It will also be C’s first week home since leaving for college so I’m imaging a quiet week at home just the four of us. I hope it pours rain. That would be the biggest treat of all.

            You’ll have a different Thanksgiving yourself this year. I wish you fortitude and grace as the day approaches.

            • Thank you Alys. I will be wishing you a long weekend of rainstorms that stop just short of causing floods or other problems. How cozy that would be for Thanksgiving! The Christmas after Jeff’s diagnosis, when the bad news had just kept coming with each new scan, it was a very atypical holiday for us. For only the second time in 33 years, I did not decorate a tree at all. Drew and Megan were in Kansas City for Christmas with her family that year (they had been with us for Thanksgiving), and the only decorating we did was the luminaries that are a tradition in our York neighborhood. Nonetheless it was a beautiful time of peace for us; we rested from the endless medical grind that was already in full swing, and just enjoyed the quiet hours we spent together at home. Sometimes life throws us a curve ball or two to show us there is more than one way to celebrate. May all of you enjoy a uniquely beautiful holiday!

              • You’ve capsulized all that is good about the holidays, Julia: time with the ones you love.

                I’ve always enjoyed decorating the tree, but found last year to be a bit of a struggle. This year will be up in the air too, depending on how I feel. The boys loved decorating when they were young, but have largely lost interest. I realized how much the tree trimming was about them. I’ll have to see where things go this year.

                Thinking of you.

                • Thank you Alys, I’m thinking of you too! Decorating the tree long ago became mostly about the kids for me too, but Drew and Matt both stayed interested even into their adult years. While Drew was at college, it meant a lot to me that he always wanted to see the tree up and decorated when he came home for Thanksgiving. We have all grown into the stage where other demands on our time are more urgent, but I’m thinking I will try to make time for the tree this year. I didn’t do the grand York tree last year, just the one in Alexandria. Maybe once every 2-3 years will be my new schedule. It’s nice to see it as an optional activity, instead of an additional task on the must-do list.

                  • Julia, that’s a great way to look at it. Optional, and hopefully pleasurable. I remember our first tree when we were first married in living in Mike’s townhouse. We only had a few ornaments between us, so we went to an import store and picked up a few affordable wooden ones for our tree. Many of them broke over the years, but I still have one or two. Since then, we buy one each year, sometimes from a trip, and let the boys choose one each year, too. Add to that the little pine cones and paper-frames they made in pre-school and grade school and it all adds up to a tree of memories.

                    • Yes, I often say that my Christmas tree is my scrapbook. I’m glad you still have some of your original ornaments from the very first years together. Those are extra-special, just as the ones made by young children are. Most of those precious handmade ornaments of ours have held up well all these years, though a few have deteriorated over time. I still decorate my cabinet doors with the construction-paper wreaths, stars and reindeer they made in kindergarten and first grade. And I proudly hang the thumbprint ornaments alongside the Waterford crystal and glass ones. A great deal of what’s on my tree did not start out as an ornament, but I tend to find objects in my travels to turn into mementos to hang on the tree. I still plan to turn some of that oak sawdust into an ornament as we talked about, complete with the tiny scroll you suggested. Ever since I decorated our first tree, one of my favorite ornaments has been a tiny glass “fruit basket” that belonged to my Daddy when he was young, and which hung on our family Christmas trees all the years I was growing up. It will be extra-special this year.

                    • Our trees sound similar in many ways. You’ve also just given me an idea for a way honor my dad at Christmas as well. When we left Canada, we left behind most of our possessions, including tree ornaments, so I don’t have anything from my childhood. But as we “chat” here, I’m thinking that I might fill one of those glass balls with some of his postage stamps. I wonder if the opening would be large enough for that to work. Stay tuned…and thanks for planting the seed.

                      I’m so glad you have the “fruit basket” for your tree. It’s special indeed.

                    • Alys, you could probably use one of those tiny tweezers to arrange the stamps inside. I remember the lovely table you made from the stamps, too. It’s wonderful to create something with these priceless mementos. Be sure to let us know how the ornament turns out. ❤

                    • Julia, that’s a great idea. I’m having fun imagining the possibilities, and may add a few other things as well. I have tweezers for scrapbooking. I’ll give them a try.

                    • Please let me know how it goes! Something tells me you will get yours done before I get mine done, and I might get some good ideas.

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