Two Good Women

I tossed another log in the stove. Out beyond the bridge, I watched two deer step across the circle drive. “Sam, the deer are headed toward the apple trees again. Oh, there’s a little one, too.” I lost the fawn behind the parked teardrop camper. And then, through the binoculars I noticed the healthy, bushy-tailed fox.

“There’s a fox, too, following the fawn.” Sam looked up from his paper. “Wait. It’s not a fox. It’s a coyote, big and brown, handsome black tail. He must have eaten well this fall. It’s going after the fawn!”

The moms disappeared into the woods. The young deer, white flag raised in alarm, bounded and zig-zagged into the brush beyond the apple trees instead of following mama into the woods. Mr. Coyote loped after. A long moment later he came out of the brush, alone, crossed the drive and headed toward the open field. Whew.

“He didn’t get the fawn,” I said. “I’ve never seen a coyote this close. I’m not going outside.”

“Aw, the coyotes won’t hurt you,” Sam said as he went back to his paper. I still wasn’t going outside.

Sister K.S. called the next day. “Miss Ellie has made do for forty years with that old summer kitchen off the back of the house. Let’s go see her new kitchen.”

Miss Ellie grew up in an 1850s red brick house built by her great-great grandfather on a rise along the Mississinewa River. White limestone lintels grace the tall windows. Inside, the floors and walls are still straight as a die. Made from native trees on the property, the original untouched walnut doors, cupboards and woodwork are superb. K.S. attended grade school and graduated with her, and still lives only a few miles away. Not many of us enjoy the cheer and comfort of a well-built piece of historical architecture or a sixty-year-old friendship.

An herbal guru, including medicinal remedies, Miss Ellie still cans and freezes fruits and vegetables, putting up enough to see them through the winter, and then some: tomato juice, apple pie filling, cherry jelly; gallons of dill pickles, dried peppers, a crock of sauerkraut; freezer slaw, sweet corn, and sugar peas. Today “organic” gardens are something of an achievement. Hers has never been anything but.

She met us at the front door, her hair pulled back into a bun. We stepped into the tall hall and down into the old living room where I noticed her gun-safe. They say she’s a better shot than her husband. As we passed through the covered porch, I saw knives and saws on a side table. She helps Billy butcher deer, hunted and otherwise.

“Did K.S. tell you about Billy makin’ ’at dere jerky?” Miss Ellie laughed as she handed me a cup of tea. Although ninety-nine percent of her speech sounds like a schoolteacher, she had slipped into the common vernacular.

“Uh, yes. I heard about that.” [See Jerky and Pears]

“Well, we had another road-kill. When a button buck got hit right next to my mailbox, I called the conservation officer and then K.S. She drove straight over, still in her pajamas, although she made time to tie a couple of scarves around her neck. [See The Red Truck] She backed up to where I stood guard. We looked at each other and hoped no one would drive by. I took the heavy end at the head and shoulders, and said ‘On the count of three, up and in.’”

Later at the local bar Billy chuckled as he told a buddy, “Both of them sixty-eight years old . They throwed that deer in the trunk.”

His buddy took another drink, thought about the girls taking care of business and said, “Well, I’d call them two good wimmen.”