People I’ve Met Along the Way: Me!

Apr 6, 2011 by

People I’ve Met Along the Way:  Me!

After some rather harsh criticism of my writing technique the other day, I found myself in a very reflective mood. I questioned myself, “Was my writing up to my full potential or could I go deeper into my subject matter for better descriptions and portrayals?” That’s when I decided that the next “Person I Met Along The Way” article should be about me. You already know a lot about me but if I am to continue to chronicle the events of my life and times then you should also know my frailties (of which there are many). The following is an attempt at prose by “ME” with all of my unattractive warts, and insufficiencies but also with an occasional view into my more pleasant side…John W. Strobel III

You’d never know it but I am a rather simple character who has survived nearly 80 years on this planet through guile and smoke and mirrors. I like to think of myself as a poor man’s Jack London. He was a very good writer who made his way through life pretty much on the hum cum. However, he wrote extremely popular action novels such as The Call of the Wild, White Fang and Sea Wolf among others. His stories revolved about being a lonely miner with only a dog for companionship in Alaska during its gold rush in the late 1800’s.

Looking back on my life I have done pretty much the same thing, I lack a college degree (London never got one either). I am much like the fakir who lures a rope to extend out of a basket with his flute. I have been luring ropes out of baskets all of my life. My personality was the flute that got me in and sometimes out of many a situation. Now, however, at 80 years of age I’m tired of it. I yearn for a peaceful period of time at the end of my life that might just include a few messages that I was here. That is why I write, not to fulfill some esoteric nihilist need to prove I am capable of writing but to leave footprints of my passage through this time and place.

With that said I want to try something new. I want to go deeper into whatever writing abilities I may possess and discover if I am capable of writing something other than autobiographical sketches of my life as a journalist, entertainer, husband, father and friend. I have no idea where my experiment will take us so grab the panic bar and hold on for dear life, and believe me life is dear.

THE FOREST

White tailed deer buckOn a clear moonlit night, a group of White Tail deer grazed on the verdant grass of a Sierra mountain meadow. The meadow, a clearing in the trees of the forest, was the bed of an ancient lake, long without water but now a place where grass and spring wildflowers grew in abundance and the animals of the forest gathered to feed and socialize with their newly born infants. This night, bathed in a milky white light from a full moon, the meadow was alive with visitors.

Among the grazing animals that inhabited the meadow were moose, elk, deer and rabbits. Nut gatherers such as skunks, squirrels and chipmunks were also prevalent in the wide open area. There were three doe and five fawn, only a few weeks old. The frisky baby deer with their knobby, wobbly legs and spotted camouflage coats raced about their mothers jumping and frolicking like any children will do when given their freedom. The three mothers munched the nutritious grass keeping a wary eye on the edges of the meadow, watching for any sign of danger. Hidden from view of the doe and their newborn was a great stag. His five point antlers rested majestically upon a head that contained all of the survival knowledge he and his harem of doe and his offspring might need. His mighty chest surged as he quietly snorted out his last breath before raising his head to sample the odors that wafted on the night air. He kept to himself during these nights of learning for his children but he was also ever vigilant for danger to him and his brood.

Among the fawns were two sets of twins and one single birth baby deer. The twins were all female and the single birth was a juvenile buck. He was slightly larger than his cousins and he carried all of the genes of his stag father. He was destined to one day take his father’s place watching over his own family.

The small fawn continued their romping play. Their gender didn’t make any difference to them now, they were just children of the forest learning how to play and socialize with their cousins. However, their curiosity overwhelmed them when they came upon another resident of the forest. They mingled with other forest creatures openly but their insatiable desire to learn something new about their meadow companions led them to sniff the shell of a tortoise making his way through the grass to a pool of water until he tired of their attention and snapped at them. The fawn bounded away from that danger and soon watched with great interest as the newborn rabbits scurried around the meadow, munching on sour grass one moment and jumping and playing the next. The mother rabbits also watched carefully for any signs of danger to their brood.

A mother skunk, with her twin youngsters, waddled across the meadow, sniffing the air for any sign of danger. She passed under a huge Ponderosa Pine tree that had been felled by a recent storm. A bright blue bolt of lightning had signaled the end of the huge tree when it struck high up starting a fire that burned out the pulpy center of the redwood, essentially causing its death. The tree had stood watch over the meadow for more than a hundred years but when death knocked upon its bark, it dropped its scented limbs and fell to earth to become humus, another form of the forest.

The great stag suddenly sniffed the air with new interest. The scent of a Mountain Lion came to his sensitive nose. He moved behind a tree watching with growing intensity, looking for a slinking cat that would make a meal of one of his young. The blood surged in his veins and his already razor sharp eyesight became even more intense. He dropped his head toward the ground rubbing the tips of his pointed antlers on the tree he stood behind as if to hone them for a coming fight.

Suddenly it was there, slinking low to the ground, moving in spurts, its attention on the group of grazing animals in the meadow. The huge female cougar did not notice the stag, who remained deathly still, waiting for the right moment to attack. The cat moved toward the edge of the forest toward a clump of high grass. Her intent was clear she was out for a meal and carrion to take back to her den to feed her three new cubs. She needed the protein to replace her dwindling supply of milk for the cubs. She paused once again, raising her head slowly until she could see the five fawn playing not more than fifty feet from her hiding place. Her mind raced with memories of former hunts, she planned her angle of attack seeking out the largest of the fawn she knew would be the slowest to react from her charge. Her brain computed the distance between she and the fawn as she came up from her crouch to make the run. Just as she did she felt a searing pain in her ribs. Her concentration on the meal she was planning for her brood caused her to neglect her own safety. In the split second that it took for her to raise from her crouching position she lost all thought of safety and thought only of food.

The stag had moved quietly, gracefully across the soft humus of the decaying trees that made up the floor of the forest. He was upon the cat in a matter of seconds and wasted no time in lowering his head and thrusting one of his sharp tipped antlers into the side of the lion. Her scream from the pain and being lifted aloft by the huge stag caused an instant migration from the meadow. The fawn immediately came to their mother’s side and they all raced for the safety of the forest. The rabbits ran for their burrows and the mother skunk raised her tail in a defensive position, ready to spray anything that might endanger her young.

Time was frozen for a few seconds as the lion, blood spurting from its side, flew through the air, screaming as only a cougar can. The cat landed on its feet, still shocked by the attack, but quickly computing in her head the source of the danger that had caused her the pain. She backed away from the stag as he lowered his head, ready for another charge into the fray, confident that he would prevail. He charged the cowering lion seeking to end the confrontation with one final surge and then slicing into the body of the cat with his sharp hooves. The stag had not attained the stature of king of the forest by allowing lion, bear or other marauding creatures to injure him. He was wise in the ways of self preservation and he was sure the outcome of this battle would be like all of the others, a chastened, wounded opponent slinking off to tend her wounds while the he repaired to his harem of doe and their fawn.

The giant cat had other ideas of survival though. Between the two animals were many battles, some had occurred over food, some over mating, and some over territorial declarations. The cougar claimed a four square mile area around her den as her home territory and woe be to any intruder who might try to move in. She defended her territory with ferocity along with her sharp claws and large canine fangs. She was a death machine in most battles and was prepared to fight to the death to protect her territory and her young. The meadow sat on the edge of her proclaimed homeland so she was used to hunting there. She was not used to being attacked by a huge male deer and had she been more cautious in her approach toward her intended victim she would have sensed his presence.

The stag also claimed the meadow area as his own territorial home. He, however, moved about in his passage through life. He spent the late fall months and winters in the lowlands grazing on field grass. He also performed his duty as a breeding buck, during rutting season which lasted through the month of November. Once he had mated a number of times with the doe in his harem (One stag could impregnate 25 doe or more in a rutting season) and passed on his gene pool to his offspring he returned to grazing, losing interest in the doe.
The soon to be mothers ate voraciously during their pregnancy, gaining weight to take them through the bitter winds and cold of winter until they delivered their newborn in the forest dens near the meadow. The stag watched over his brood but only occasionally participated in socializing. His role after the birth of the young was as a selector and protector. As selector he had the difficult duty of killing any fawn that was born with defects that might be passed on to future generations of his kind. He performed his selection duties with some indifference, instinctively knowing he was strengthening his progeny. However, today, there was no indifference in him. He had gathered up all of his muscular power to protect his herd in attacking the cougar. He readied himself for a second charge at the big cat that was crouched in front of him in a defensive position. The stag suddenly leapt forward, head down, antlers ready to gore his nemesis. His sharp hard horns got only a portion of the cat’s side, not enough to lift it into the air but enough to do further damage.

Great squeals of pain and fear rent the air from the cougar as she turned to escape the thrusts of the stag. In her mind the cougar saw danger and wondered what the pain was about but she also remembered her cause. The need for food for herself and her cubs had brought her to this place where only moments before she had gazed upon a meal that would satisfy all of her needs. Her mental acumen turned her from a hungry hunting mother cat to a wild defensive fighting feline, claws extended, fangs bared, using her screeching growls to warn the attacker that she would not be an easy opponent.

As the huge stag thrust toward her the third time she rolled on her back and struck the prodding deer with the claws of her forelegs, not trying to use her claws to grip and grab hold of prey as she would use them in a hunt, but to do as much damage as she was capable of to her adversary. She caught the stag’s nose with her right paw and tore through the outer skin of his nostrils, blood trickled from the wound but did nothing to change the stag’s attack. The sudden change in the cat did not deter the stag from his inbred survival instincts so with a toss of his head he reared up on his hind legs and came down on the cat’s body with his hooves, slashing and cutting in a stiff legged attack. He reared again but the cougar had had enough. She rolled onto her feet and swept to safety atop a giant granite boulder. She turned once, looking down on her assailant and screeched a farewell cry, then limped away to her den and her hungry cubs to to nurse them with a diminishing supply of milk and to recuperate from her wounds. There were deep gashes in her side but not life threatening, she would live to hunt and fight another day.

The stag, his protective instincts placated turned away from the scene of the battle and returned to the quiet stillness of the forest melding into the rich red and brown colors of the bark of the cedars and pines. The blood was still pounding through his body, the excitement of the fight not yet dampened by time. He drug his nostrils through a clump of moss stemming the trickle of blood then he raised his head and snorted, a buck cough some call it, to let his attentive mates and children know that it was once again safe to return to the meadow. He positioned himself between two huge cedars and watched as life once again claimed the quiet stillness of the grassy plain. Without knowing why, but extremely satisfied he watched as the doe moved cautiously back onto the meadow, their instincts on high alert for any new danger to their fawn.

Knowing only that a danger had been deleted from their nightly visit to the meadow the doe returned to the life giving grass while the fawn excitedly nursed from their mother’s swollen milk glands. Without knowing why, the doe accepted their role as mothers, mates and inhabitants of the forest with satisfaction. Within their being they realized they were performing as they should, they were a part of a larger population of forest dwellers, whose priorities were to be among those who would be declared the fittest so their genes would be passed on to the next generation of inhabitants of the forest. Their purpose was fulfilled as the genes grew ever stronger and they birthed better and better examples of their kind. And the forest grew older and older as one generation after another brought their unique presence to the meadow seeking only food and peace. A quiet breeze swept across the tops of the trees of the forest, whispering a note of welcome as if to say to the stag and the doe and their offspring and the other meadow inhabitants, “Welcome home, we are one…”

Author’s note:
OK, so there you have it, my unqualified attempt at prose.  As for the subject matter of the foregoing essay; I have enjoyed many hours and days in forests and never feel closer to my creator than when I am standing next to a huge Ponderosa Pine with its crackling pieces of bark protecting a soft inner core of life. Isn’t that the tale of life, whether a tree, a cougar, a deer or a man, a hard outer surface protecting a soft inner core of life. As I said earlier, “dear life” for when we become the humus of the future we may lose conscious awareness of our surroundings but we are still part of the forest of life.

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5 Comments

  1. Ruth; I didn’t mean to give the wrong impression. The harsh criticism I spoke of was a friend’s way of goading me to improve my style and content. I used the word harsh because it cut to the bone of my creative mind and caused me to re-think my role as a writer…I am actually very grateful for that critique as it led me into “The Forest”…Thank you for your kind words and I am working on a sequel at the present time…Hopefully Brooke will see fit to publish it in Moments Count Journal when I submit it to her…JWSIII

  2. My dear Mesdames Hubbel and Morask, and my dear friend Bill;

    What kind words of encouragement you give me. Your support comes at a very special time in my writing career as I had taken to heart the harsh criticism of another reader and was on the verge of giving up storytelling. “The Forest” was a last ditch effort to see if I could find a writing style and pace that would please those who read it. It’s very curious too that I wrote “The Forest” in less than an hour. I sat at my computer and meditated about the the subject for ten minutes or so revisiting meadows and forests that were such a special part of my younger life. What I imagined before I began to write was a place I dearly love and only wish I might visit again. I would be a much more keen observer of the life that abounds in meadows this time. In my younger days meadows were to be crossed to get to the lake or river I wished to fish, although I never missed the beauty of them, even tramping through enroute to a date with a trout. The impact of your kind critque and that of my friend Bill Nelson, is enough to get my juices flowing again to write a sequel to “The Forest”… Thank you again for your words of encouragement. JWSIII

  3. John, you are an excellent writer! I enjoyed this piece and was completely immersed in the words. You will write more won’t you? Love it!

  4. Donna Morask

    Excellent and riveting. Your story both captivated and filled me with anticipation, as I felt one with the cat, then the stag, then the cat, then the stag…. A master story teller is how I read you good sir. A fan of London, I can tell you in my opinion, he’s got nothing on you. When a writer takes you there and all else around you fades away, you are reading words of a master. Thank you for the experience. I watch for your pieces, John and will continue. Namaste.
    Donna

  5. William (Bill) J. Nelson

    I read the DeWolf article before yours and greatly enjoyed both greatly.
    Keep up the fine work.

    Bill