Two small figures seemed to creep up the snowy mountainside. The hawk staring at them through two black eyes from up above dove a few yards to their right. A mouse flinched in his sharp talons and was soon torn to pieces. Scampering among the treetops, squirrels chattered, munching their fall harvest of nuts.
A voice was heard, “Come on over here son, look at this.”
“What’d you find?” said another voice.
“Looks like deer tracks,” replied the fatherly, first voice.
“Aw, cool Dad. Think we could see one?”
“Maybe Jasper. But, I don’t know if they’re fresh, I’m not a forest ranger,” said Dad.
“OK; I just thought that hawk was cool!” responded Jasper, gazing at the cloudless, bright blue sky.
As the two hikers continued up the mountain, animals stopped to glance at the quiet party, both of them soaking in the beauty of nature, not wanting to disturb the peacefulness of the gorgeous mountainside.
Soon they had reached the peak, gazing out to the surrounding valley. They both smiled to themselves as they rested. It was the most beautiful sight they had ever seen. The little houses, looking like toys with dolls marching around and riding in matchbox cars on the twisting roads.
They sat down for a picnic of ham sandwiches and fresh, tart apples. The chill, February air nipped their noses as the sandwiches disappeared and the apples crunched and vanished. A squirrel ventured near and Dad threw him his apple core. He scurried away and up into a treetop, to feast on his own fresh supply of nuts.
The plastic sandwich bags went into the hiking packs and Jasper threw his apple core into the trees and the two took last sips from their water bottles.
“I sort of wish that we could live up here. You know, it’s so peaceful, it’s nice,” said Jasper, still gazing down at the beautiful valley.
“I don’t know. It might be nice for a little while, but then you’d miss swim team and all your friends. If they came up here it wouldn’t be very peaceful anymore.”
“I guess you’re right, but I still think it’s nice up here,” replied Jasper.
* * *
The well rested pair continued on their hike, this time downhill. At first, it seemed to go faster, probably because of their rest and meal. Soon they were halfway done with the trip down. They stopped for a drink and sat down to watch nature for a little while.
As they were standing up and adjusting their packs, cries of, “Help! Help!” were heard.
“Who’s that?” asked Jasper.
“I don’t know Jappy, but we better go and see,” answered Dad.
Quickly jamming their water bottles back in their packs, they hurried toward the sound. It was coming from slightly uphill, and to their right. Every few moments, they would pause to hear more cries for help. As they paused again, Jasper saw a figure lying on the sparkling, white snow up ahead. A moan came from the still body, and they ran ahead. As they hurried forward, a loud scream of pain from the body scared a small squirrel. Jasper jumped in surprise. They heard a rumble and snow began to rumble down the mountainside. Everywhere and everything was white.
The last thing Jasper heard was “Run!! Run, Jasper, run!!” Then everything went black.
* * *
When he came to, about an hour after being conked on the head with a tree branch, Jasper was freezing. His left-hand glove had fallen off and it felt like he was lying in a freezer.
“Dad?” he mumbled, still faint.
Struggling to get a breath of fresh air, he tried to push the whitish darkness away. But, it was no use, he collapsed after the first attempt. He backed into the deep snow, and it became dark again.
Meanwhile, at the base of the mountain, in the little valley, rescue dogs were getting ready to search and rescue. Men were strapping on their packs and bundling up warm. The whole town was in a flurry, everyone was worried, especially the ones with loved ones in danger.
Soon the search was on and dogs were sniffing the fresh white snow, searching for signs of life.
As Jasper lay there, unconscious, a warm body lay down next to him. Not a dog’s furry, shaggy small body, but a large smooth body, the body of a deer.
* * *
After that avalanche, everyone said that the only reason Jasper Lawrence survived was that a deer came to see him. Not to just see him, to warm life back into him and give strength to his small, cold body. When the rescue dogs did find him, the deer leaped away into the trees and wasn’t seen again.
Jasper liked to believe that it was the same deer whose tracks he had seen earlier with his father. Father was found not far from Jasper, still alive, but with a generous dose of frostbite on his toes and fingers. They never knew who the man who caused the avalanche was. He was found dead about twenty yards below father with a twisted ankle, probably what he had been moaning about.
* * *
Jasper grew up to work on a search-and- rescue team. He saved many people in his career, but never saw a deer cuddling a victim. Jasper had two rescue dogs in his career: Buck and Doe. He also owned a pet dog named Deer after the animal that had saved his life.