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Author Topic: The Second Button Down - by Dave Bulla  (Read 542 times)

Offline Terry_Green

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The Second Button Down - by Dave Bulla
« on: April 22, 2003, 02:50:00 PM »
The Second Button Down
by Dave Bulla

Ever had a mouse fall on your chest inches from your face when you were asleep in the woods?  No? I did and it tends to give you a reason to stay awake if you know what I mean.  In my case three Novembers ago, it gave me about a half hour of special memories to cherish.
It was one of those perfectly crisp November days when a wool jacket and pants feels just right and the afternoon sun gets just warm enough to induce a sleepy feeling while you are snuggled down on a hillside waiting for something to happen.  I'd been set up on the southeast side of a wooded bluff topped by a shelf of broken rock and overlooking a timbered creek bottom.  The rock shelf made a decent back rest and being on a hill I got the feeling I was in a recliner.  Three draws came together below me and my hope was to ambush a nice Missouri whitetail as it came from it's bed at the upper end of one of the draws.  I fidgeted around a bid to get as comfortable as possible and ended up more or less laying on the ground with only my head and shoulders propped against the rocks and my longbow across my legs.  After several uneventful hours I had reached that quietly alert, almost hypnotic state when you are totally relaxed in body and your eyelids get droopy but your ears and other senses are highly tuned and waiting to hear distant footsteps long before any animal is visible.  I watched through half lidded eyes as plate sized sycamore leaves fell lazily to the ground fifty and sixty yards away and marveled that I could hear them tic past small twigs on the way down to the ground where they rustled to a stop atop others that had already fallen.  This was my favorite part of bow hunting.  Being so relaxed yet so attuned to the sights, sounds and smells of the autumn woods without a care in the world.  Just the persistent and pleasant hope that you will see an animal or something special, something unanticipated or new that you've never seen before.
Between the warm sun and my comfortable position, I was soon so close to sleep that I could scarcely claim I was awake but I was alert enough to hear a very high pitched squeaking sound to my right about six feet away.  When I rolled my eyes that way I was surprised to see a little brown deer mouse come out of the leaves with four or five very tiny, still hairless babies clinging to her.  Some were clamped down on a teat and some were hanging on to her back and Mamma was having a tough time getting anywhere.  What was she doing?  Why was she out and about with those tiny babies?  I couldn't think of an answer so I just watched to see what I could learn.  For some reason she decided to climb up a little three inch diameter sapling to about four feet high.  Suddenly, one of the babies lost it's hold and fell, landing in the leaves.  It began a pitiful squeaking.  This was getting interesting.  I was totally engrossed and wondered how Mamma with all her other babies would handle the situation.  Well, Mamma seemed to know her business and climbed down the tree and gathered the fallen baby in her front paws and gave him a bath right there fussing over him and acting for all the world like any human mother who just had a close call with one of her children.  She then cradled him between her forearms and chin while making her way towards the rocks I was leaning against and disappeared from my field of view somewhere to my right never knowing she was within feet of me.  
I lay there thinking how rare it must be to see something like that and surprisingly, about how pretty that mouse was with her soft brown colored body over a creamy white belly, little jet black beady, bulging eyes and delicate whiskers.  I'd never really looked at a mouse as a thing of beauty, they are just a nuisance in most cases but in her natural environment she was a wonder to see.  Not like when you see one in the basement and instantly worry about damaged property and urine soaked items under a nest of white fluff.  No, this was an entirely different experience.  Not unlike the difference between seeing a filthy lion in a dirty cage at the zoo and seeing a clean, healthy one hunting in the wild.  I had to savor it knowing it was something unique.  
Figuring the show was over I was soon back in my half dozing state dreaming of big bodied, heavy racked bucks, my ongoing quest for a white tail that dresses over 200 pounds and all the similar fantasies that go with deer hunting when it happened.  Kerr-plop!  A tiny baby mouse landed on my chest about two buttons down from my chin.  I experienced an instant "WHOA!  what the heck?" moment before I realized what had happened.  The rocks above me were typical of Missouri in that they were riddled with cracks that ran deep into the hillside making perfect hiding places for all kinds of small critters.  Mamma mouse must have had her nest in one of them or perhaps she had had reason to leave her nest and was out looking for a new location.  She'd ended up directly above where I lay and the little baby had fallen out only to land on my chest.  Remembering Mamma's careful attentions earlier, I decided to stay still and see what would happen.  Seconds later I heard a rustling above my head followed by delicate scratching noises as Mamma climbed down from the rocks, across my right shoulder and down into the leaves by my elbow.  This time she didn't have any clinging babies to worry about so I figured she must have stashed them in some attractive crevice above me.  She began casting back and forth like a beagle looking for a rabbit track and made her way down past my hand with a little pause to sniff my glove.  Seemingly unconcerned, she continued towards my feet with additional pauses to sniff my boots.  I began to have concerns that she would go running up the inviting looking tunnel formed by my pants leg that was gapped open on my right leg but instead she decided to avoid the strange smelling tunnel and come up between my legs.  WHEW! I thought, that reminds me of the song about of the Mississippi Squirrel Revival (remember that one?) where the squirrel gets into church and runs up somebody's leg and the whole congregation goes nuts a prayin' and confessin' all sorts of things.  I was beginning to relate a little bit too directly to that song and I was still a little concerned because Mamma was still headed towards a rather tender area but at least she was on the outside of my pants so I figured I was safe for the moment.  Suddenly, it appeared a new crisis might occur.  Mamma started to sniff and lick at my bowstring causing me to fear she would start to chew on it.  Luckily, she decided she didn't like beeswax and Dacron and continued on in her search.  She crossed over my thigh to the left then back again to the right before she stopped to sniff the air somewhere around my belt.  I swear I could see concern on her face as she sat there sniffing and wiggling her whiskers.  Suddenly she must have gotten a whiff of junior cause she made a beeline to him and scooped him up in her paws.  She looked like she was hugging him and began to give him a bath just like she did the first one that had fallen only this time she was so close to my chin it was a strain to see her.  She spent a good full minute rolling her baby over and over like a little ball while licking and grooming him right there on my chest.  She only stopped occasionally to look me in the eye as if to say "Don't mind me, I'll be out of here in a minute.  I'm just doing my duty as a mother."  When she was satisfied all was well, she tucked junior under her chin and scooted back up across my collar and past my right ear on to somewhere higher up in the rocks.  
This time, the show was indeed over as Mamma must have gotten all her brood safely to their new home or wherever it was she was taking them so I didn't see her any more.  But to this day I can see her in my minds eye.  Washing, licking, rolling, cuddling that little pink and gray baby next to my second button down.....  You know, I don't believe I ever did see a deer that evening but I honestly can't remember for sure.  It seems ironic that a hunt that started out in search of an animal the size of a deer ended with such strong memories about a tiny little antlerless creature who's weight could be measured in grains instead of pounds.  In fact I feel it's safe to say that the whole experience constitutes one of my most vivid and cherished hunting memories.

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