N. C. Wyeth illustration, Jody Finds the Fawn, The Yearling, Margaret Kinnans Rawlings
Jody scrambled down from his perch and ran to the place where he had seen the fawn tumble. It was not there. He hunted the ground carefully. The tiny hoof-marks crossed and criss-crossed and he could not tell one track from another. He sat down disconsolately to wait for his father. Penny returned, red of face and wet with sweat.
“Well, son,” he called, What did you see?”
“A doe and a fawn. The fawn were right here all the while. He nursed his mammy and she smelled me and run off. And I cain’t find the fawn no-where. You reckon Julia kin track him?”
Penny dropped down on the ground.
“Julia kin track ary thing that makes a trail. But don’t let’s torment the leetle thing. Hit’s right clost this minute, and likely scairt to death,”
“His mammy shouldn’t of left him.”
“That’s where she was smart. Most ary thing would take out after her. And she’s learned the fawn to lay up so still hit’ll not git noticed.”
Illustration by N.C. Wyeth. The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
“Hit was might cute spotted, Pa.”
“Was the spots all in a line, or helter-skelter?””
“They was in a line.”
“Then hit’s a leetle ol’ buck-fawn. Wasn’t you proud to see it so clost?”
“I was proud, but I’d shore love to ketch him and keep him.”
Jody talking to his Pa, Penny, after seeing the fawn.
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Chapter 11, pages 97 -98
I have owned an exquisite old copy of The Yearling with the wonderful illustrations of N.C. Wyeth for several years. The book sat on an easel with this colorful book cover (the same illustration is also in the book), decorating our guest room. I decided this summer to read it again. It has been awhile, a long while, though I did see the movie not too long ago starring Gregory Peck, who was also Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.
The book made me cry, several times, and it kept me as captive as Jody’s fawn, Flag, who he tried to domesticate. The book has some rough spots with scenes of hunting and fighting and the language may be offensive to some these days as it is written in the vernacular of the south and the central backwoods of Florida just after the Civil War, but, I find it to be an endearing story of a young boy and his love of wild animals – and of his love of his father.
That is what The Yearling is really about to me. Jody’s love for his father and Penny’s love for his son. It is about Penny Baxter and the lessons he teaches by example: to be kind; to only take what is needed from the land; to try to get along with each other and with the neighbors; to work hard and to take the time to slow down and enjoy the beauty of nature; to set food and provisions by for harder days; to solve a problem by thinking it out first. It is also about growing up and family and consequences and choices and mostly about being honest and true.
I read The Yearling again this summer and it captivated me once more. I also learned that you can tell the gender of a fawn by the configuration of its spots. We have scampering around our yard and through our flower beds twins and a single fawn. Like all babies, they are as cute as can be and often up to mischief. By the arrangement of the spots, we have two girls and a boy. The boy is one of the twins and they are a bit smaller than the other fawn. His spots are certainly in a line, while the others wear theirs helter-skelter.
I will admit that I needed to read the story aloud a few times to get the rhythm of the language and to figure out what a few words were. It took me awhile to understand pizzened meant poisoned. Fortunately, it didn’t take Penny any time at all as he refused to set poison around his property to fend off the marauding wolves and bears after a flood devastated the area.
The Yearling is still a good read with messages and wonderfully descriptive passages about a time long ago when the backwoods of Florida were still untamed and dangerous and where families lived and worked hard and told stories and appreciated the land they were on.
What are you reading this summer?
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