My Forty Years Scribblin's
Personal Memories
The Pet That Wasn't

This piece was written in 1997 and published in the Spring, 1997 issue of the Charity Peak Outlook. An orphaned fawn is tamed.


During the years 1916-21, the Jewett family of Evaro raised a little buck deer. This pet thrived on the "milk of human kindness" to become a beautiful four point specimen of his kind. Through his grown-up years he had worn a red flannel collar to warn people of his special status and prevent his falling to a hunter's bullet. I wish I could remember his name. Migrating lumberjacks from four logging camps in the vicinity amused themselves by teasing him, which contributed to a bad disposition.

Swan Johnson's son Ralph worked with his father, and together with his sisters, Dale, Hilda, and Carrie, lived at the Johnson camp. Dale, the eldest, was our teacher in the Evaro school. Hilda was out of school. That left Carrie, the twelve year old, to walk to school alone. The animal, at his obnoxious worst, transferred his grudge against the lumberjacks to defenseless Carrie Johnson. The route to the Johnson logging camp led up (now) Mercer Lane. Teacher left home early to get a fire going and try to warm the schoolhouse before the students arrived. She also stayed late in the evening to get ready for the next day and do the janitor work. The deer frequented the area around the camp where he picked up tidbits and a lot of attention both good and bad, and finding Carrie trudging homeward one evening, put her up a tree and kept her there until Hilda came looking for her. Henceforth Hilda carried a full grown club, walked her sister to school, and met her at four o'clock each day.

The most convenient transportation of that day was a touring car with the top down, called Kelly's Stage. Came the day when "Teacher" received a message to dismiss her students at noon, board Kelly's stage on its return trip from up on the Flathead, and attend a teacher's meeting in Missoula. I took Carrie home with me and she cried all afternoon, so terrified of the deer that she wouldn't go home alone, and had to wait until Hilda would meet her at four o'clock.

Now we had moved from the canyon to a log cabin that sat across the railroad tracks and the highway from the entrance to Mercer's lane. Sometimes the deer could be seen coming down the lane—probably looking for Carrie—and would fool around along the tracks where the men had loaded logs on flat-cars. We kids liked to yell at him and watch him paw and shake his horns at us. We knew that the red collar was to protect him, but it didn't do much for us. We always stayed close to the house, though he never crossed the road.

Then one day we heard that the deer had been shot. The strip of red flannel was found with the refuse—along with the feet and the beautiful antlers. I'm sure there was plenty of distress in the community, but the grown-ups had little to say. Most of them understood, first hand, a family's need for meat, or possibly the decision to eliminate a hazard. I found myself in a void, on the borderline between the adults' train of thought and a child's disenchantment. My small cousin, Lillie, spoke for both of us. "Did they have to kill him?" I saw the anger in her small face. My own thoughts tilted away from the grown-ups' reasoning, and my sympathy went out to her. There was no acceptance in her shrinking figure and her drooping pigtailed head.