Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Deer Who Loved a Dog

Gretchen was a Dachshund, not a Mini Dachshund, but smaller than normal for a registered Doxie. She loved the outdoors, particularly where she and her people had just moved to. A wide expanse of green lawn, held in by a short white picket fence, was all hers to roam, roll in, chase balls, and even to sit and gaze at the great forest beyond.

For the first few days, while the household was in the usual turmoil of moving in and getting settled, Gretchen would take her favorite toys outside and lie just inside the fence. The forest held many strange and wonderful smells for her to sniff, and perhaps, even to daydream a bit about where...or who...or what...those smells came from. Her tiny black nose would crinkle up and go a mile-a-minute, trying to track down and isolate each whiff that came to her.

Then one day, something more than a smell came up to the fence. Gretchen stood up and backed slowly away. She didn't bark. The something was large, very foreign to the little dog. She wasn't afraid, just wary. Her female person came out of the house, walked up to her, and said, "It's okay, Gretchen. It's just a deer, a doe, and she won't hurt you."

Her person picked Gretchen up and stood watching the doe watching Gretchen. The doe's nose twitched, she stretched her neck out over the fence and seemed to sniff the air. Satisfied that there was no danger on the other side of the fence, she turned and slowly moved away.

The next morning, Gretchen went out to lay in the sun on the deck. She had hardly laid down when something caused her hair to bristle. She growled low in her throat as she walked down the steps and over to the fence. She sat down, and stared at what was in front of her: 6 deer, 5 does and 1 buck.  The buck reached over the fence as far as he could. Gretchen stood her ground. He st--re--t--ch--ed
over the fence a little bit further. Gretchen moved a couple of inches forward. The buck reached towards her with his long tongue, barely missing her twitching little nose. Gretchen moved again, and this time, the buck's tongue reached her nose. He swished his tongue around and around while Gretchen stood stock still. Then, the buck drew back across the fence and moved away. Each of the does came forward, stretched their necks across the fence and touched Gretchen's nose. When the last doe had touched her, the small herd moved back into the forest.

For the next several years, the same does and buck  came every morning and evening to the fence, as Gretchen's people kept fresh hay for them to feed upon. Each year, one or more of the does brought their new born fawns to feed, and when they were old enough, they too reached over the fence to touch the little brown dog's cold, wet nose. Summer, winter, rain, shine, or snow, Gretchen went outside to spend time with the deer.

Then one day, Gretchen's life came to an end. She died peacefully in her persons' arms as they cried over her. They decided to bury her next to the place in the fence where the deer had come to visit, day and evening, year after year. They made a grave for her, and planted a small tree in the center. Then, they stood back and watched as the deer came to visit again. Only this time, there was no little dog to greet them.

The next morning, Gretchen's persons were standing on the deck when the deer came for their breakfast and their morning visit with Gretchen. Once again, she wasn't there. The buck walked over to the grave and sniffed around it. He leaned hard against the small picket fence. Again and again he pushed at the fence. One of the does came over to help him. They pushed. They pushed again. The fence gave way, and the two deer walked over it to reach the grave. They walked around and around the grave, while Gretchen's people watched in amazement. Then the rest of the small herd came over and walked around it. A moment more, and all of the deer laid down, surrounding the grave. They paid no attention to the humans watching them, stunned by what they were seeing.

After more than 1/2 hour, the deer finally rose, finished eating, and faded back into the forest. Evening came, and once again, the deer went to the grave, walked around it, and laid down in a circle.

For the next few months, day, evening, through hot sun, cold rain, and deep snow, the herd of deer went through the same routine, never missing a day. Then, sadly, Gretchen's people moved away, content only in knowing that their beloved companion was kept safe by the deer who loved her.


This is a true story, told to me only today by two of our best friends who came to visit and bring a new toy to our injured Corgi. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you felt the same awe ( and got the same goose bumps) as I did upon hearing it...the love of "wild" animals for one so small, not one of their own.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Paderewski and Paso Robles, California

After a more than six weeks absence, I'm back. I'm going a little out of my usual blog posts to talk some about one of the most famous composers of all time, and my own little Victorian town on the Central Coast of California.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski was born and raised in Poland and became one of the most revered concert pianists of all time. In 1913, however, his worldwide legacy as a pianist ended due to a combination of what we now call tendonitis and arthritis. He was looking for something to heal or help his pain, when his doctors told him of the healing waters of sulphur springs.

In Paso Robles, California, there are many, many underground sulphur springs. Somehow, the Polish doctors had heard of this tiny Victorian town ( not quite so tiny today, just small) and told Paderewski he must go at once to La Ciudad de El Paso de Robles, in the United States.

Paderewski arrived here fron San Francisco on January 17, 1913, in his own private rail car. Citizens from all over came to greet him, as most had not only heard and loved his music, but many played his concertos and solos themselves. Doctors here began his treatments with the sulphur waters, and amazingly, his hands began to heal.

Through the years, even though he began to tour again, he made Paso Robles his home, and even began buying thousands of acres here to become a "gentleman rancher." The main contribution he made to this town was the fostering of the great Zinfandel grape varietal, for which our town has become very famous.

Paderewski decried the terrible things that were happening in Poland during those years, and did not return to Poland until 1918, when the Versailles Treaty returned Poland to an independent country. He became the First Prime Minister of the Independent Poland until 1922, when he resigned and returned to international concert touring. He died in New York in 1941 and was temporarily buried at Arlington National Cemetery. In 1992 his body was returned to Poland, where it now lies in the Royal Crypt of the Warsaw Cathedral.

From 1913 until 1941, he returned often to Paso Robles. He owned two ranches with land that covered three miles east to west and four miles north to south, most of it planted in Zinfandel grapes. He was a highly respected and beloved member of this town.

In 1991, the Paso Robles town fathers decided to have a Paderewski Festival, highlighting his life and his music. Next Thursday, November 8th,  El Paso de Robles ( the Pass of the Oaks) will begin celebrating four days of the life and musical heritage of Ignacy Jan Paderewski in our 21st annual Paderewski Festival. At 12:30 on Saturday, November 10th, there will be an unveiling of a life-sized statue of Paderewski which will stand in our City Park near our historic Carnegie Library Museum.

At 4:00pm on Saturday we will host the  Paderewski Youth Piano Competition Recital.

We will have several Dignitaries representing the Republic of Poland staying here for the entire festival.

From a tiny Victorian town, once nothing more than a rest stop for weary stage coach travelers along the Camino Real Trail, to a small Victorian town now world-renown for Paderewski and  Zinfandel wine, El Paso de Robles has come a long way! We've only lived here 11 years, but we love this town and the great community spirit everyone here has. We are proud to live here and be a part of the "music and wine" heritage Paderewski left behind.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.