Corn Damage, 3 of 3

Suzanna looked doubtfully at the tall, thick-bodied tan dog facing her. The man at Mora had generously loaned Gerald one of his three English mastiffs to test the theory that it would keep the deer from her cornfield.

“His name is Duke,” Gerald said, stroking the black-muzzled head. The dog’s tail wagged slowly as it studied Suzanna with sleepy brown eyes.

“He seems very docile,” she said.

“They were bred to hunt and are said to be very protective.” Gerald shrugged. “I guess we’ll just have to see.”

She nodded and watched as Gerald and the dog headed toward the cornfield, their own two mixed-breed dogs romping alongside. The mastiff majestically ignored the other dogs and Suzanna’s lips twitched. Then she shook her head and went back inside.

The barking began at daylight the next morning: high yips from their own dogs and a deeper, more solid sound. Suzanna rose and went to the window. The mongrels were at the edge of the corn patch, dancing around each other. As she watched, Duke appeared at a steady trot, circling the field.

Suzanna grabbed her shawl and went out onto the cabin porch, where she could see the entire patch. There were no deer in the corn. Duke circled the field again, stopping occasionally to mark its boundary, lift his head toward the hills above, and bark menacingly. There were deer on the hillside, moving steadily upward.

Suzanna turned toward the house. Gerald was standing in the doorway, watching her.

“How long will it take a puppy to grow to Duke’s size?” she asked, and he chuckled triumphantly.

from Moreno Valley Sketches II

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Corn Damage, 2 of 3

“The ears probably wouldn’t have ripened before the first snow, anyway,” Gerald said as he studied the deer-damaged cornfield. Beside him, the hired man Ramon nodded sympathetically.

Suzanna’s eyes narrowed. “You don’t know that,” she said. “And if some had, then I would have saved them to plant next spring.”

Gerald shook his head. “It’ll take years to get a strain that’ll grow at this high altitude.”

Her chin lifted. “Then it will take years. You want to stay in this God forsaken valley, don’t you?”

He continued to study the damage. “I just don’t think a fence is going to keep the deer out,” he said mildly. “They can jump pretty much anything you put in front of ’em.”

“Then what would you suggest? Those mongrel dogs of yours have proven themselves useless.”

Gerald shook his head without looking at her.

“There is a man at Mora who has dogs called masteef,” Ramon said. He held out a hand, waist high, palm down. “They are this big and used for hunting.”

Gerald turned his eyes from the corn. “Do you think he would sell?”

Ramon shrugged. “When we were there last month he showed me puppies.”

“Ramon, you are an angel,” Suzanna said.

“We don’t know that this will work,” Gerald warned.

“It’s certainly worth a try.” She gave Ramon a brilliant smile and he grinned back at her sympathetically.

from Moreno Valley Sketches II

Corn Damage, 1 of 3

Outside, the dogs were barking wildly. Indians? Suzanna twitched the window curtain just enough to peek out without being seen.

Then she saw the reason for the barking and sprang from the window to the door. She ran wildly across the yard toward the field of knee-high corn, pulling off her apron as she went. The deer were everywhere and she charged in among them, waving the apron, crying “Shoo! Shoo!”

Both the dogs plunged in after her, rampaging through the corn, and the deer fled. Chest heaving, Suzanna stood in the center of the field and surveyed the damage. Some of the plants were completely uprooted. She wasn’t sure if the deer or the dogs had wreaked the most havoc.

Suzanna lifted her hands to the sky helplessly, then looked down at the dogs, who were lying, panting, at her feet. “You weren’t much help,” she said irritably.

She looked around the field again and her jaw tightened. As soon as Gerald returned, they were building a fence.

from Moreno Valley Sketches II