Once in days gone by, there lived a happy family on a cattle ranch that was as big as a Texas brag. In those days there were still many wild animals that roamed the ranch, both by day and by night. Now it happened one year in the early spring that the oldest son went out riding his horse through the fields. Several of the dogs that helped the cowboys herd cattle came along with the boy for the ride, for they were always eager for adventure.
In the midst of crossing the open fields, the dogs began to bark wildly and to circle around something they discovered in the pasture. The boy quickly rode over to see what all the excitement was about. There in the grass, curled up and terrified, was a little spotted fawn. The startled boy jumped off the horse and rescued the helpless creature from the snapping jaws of the aggressive dogs. The boy looked all around for the mother doe, but she was nowhere to be seen. If he left the fawn all alone, surely the cowdogs or the wolves that lived in the nearby woods would eventually kill it. With that in mind the boy made a fateful decision. He lifted up the frightened fawn, placed it on the saddle in front of himself, and took it to the safety of his own home.
Well, as you can imagine, the whole family was more than a little surprised to see such a helpless and fragile creature. The boy's mother, remembering when her own children were young and vulnerable, took an old baby bottle she had saved, filled it with warm milk and honey, and began to feed the hungry little fawn. After his encounter with the dogs and the jolting ride on the horse, the bottle was a real comfort, even if it wasn't quite the same as it's mother's milk had been. Soon somebody came up with the name “John Deer,” and from that time on he would be just like a member of the family.
Now John Deer was not the first animal to be adopted into the ranch family. There already lived in their house a large German Shepherd dog named Jill and a little kitten named Fool's Gold, who was a beautiful yellow with black stripes. It took a while, but eventually both Jill and Fool's Gold became fond of John Deer. The kitten and the newly adopted fawn became such good friends, in fact, that at times they even drank milk together from the same bowl. Before long, all three animals could be seen playing together, as if none of them knew that they were by nature supposed to be the worst of enemies.
After some weeks had passed, John Deer became quite comfortable in his new home. The woman would regularly feed him his favorite food, grapes, and John loved to spend time playing soccer in the yard with the children. It was a kind of deer soccer. The children would clap their hands and whistle, which made John leap up into the air. Then they would kick the ball hard and John would charge forth and push it around the yard with his head. The great thing about the game was that everyone had such fun, and no one had to lose.
At other times John preferred to be inside the house where, along with his animal buddies Jill and Fool’s Gold, he was welcomed to come anytime. For reasons John only knew, his favorite resting spot was the family couch. He developed the habit of climbing up on it, curling up in a corner, and watching TV along with his human hosts. This new addition to the family was proving to have quite a colorful personality.
Then one day something happened that changed everything. As John Deer was lying on the couch enjoying his usual view of the corner of the room with the TV, out of the side of his eye he noticed something very strange high up on the wall. He had caught sight of a figure that seemed very unusual, but somehow familiar to him. The sight stirred powerful feelings from deep within. John leapt off the couch, approached the wall and stood up on his hind legs while lifting his nose high into the air to sniff the strange object that had so captured his curiosity.
Fascinated but a bit confused, John had discovered the mounted head of a large buck that the family had hung on the wall. The buck was as John himself would one day be, a magnificent and stately creature, with eight sharp points on its perfectly-formed antlers. Perhaps it was the antlers that were especially interesting to John, for he had only recently begun to sprout two short antlers of his own. From that day forward, John Deer began more and more to sense things changing inside. Something good was happening deep down in the place from which all of his feelings came.
Not long afterward, while following the woman and the beautiful German Shepherd on a walk, John raised his sleek head to notice a herd of wild deer moving in the distance through the green summer meadow. It was as if fireworks were exploding inside, and without hesitation he began running out towards the wild deer. Then suddenly, as if he had reached the end of a long rope, John stopped dead in his tracks and looked back in the direction of the woman and the dog. Back and forth he gazed, from the herd of wild deer to the adopted family. Finally, with one long last look, he slowly returned to the woman’s side.
As John Deer's antlers began to grow longer and thicker, he began to take trips by himself away from the house and out into the surrounding fields and woods. The family thought he might be visiting the wild deer that roamed the area, but no one was quite sure—and John would always return by nightfall. But while he always returned to his adopted home, John was spending more and more time alone out in the yard under the big oak tree, and less time in the house with the family and the other pets. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that by now both of his bosom buddies, Fool's Gold and Jill, had begun families of their own. Twelve puppies and a litter of hungry kittens can distract even the best of friends.
Then it finally happened. The day came when John Deer left home and did not return. The family became worried. Had he gotten lost? Had John been shot by a hunter? Would they ever see him again? The answer came a few days later when the father was driving his car by a herd of wild deer and recognized John among them. The man immediately stopped his car, got out and whistled for John—a sound the deer knew well from his extended time with the family. Cautiously, John left the other deer and came up to within a few feet of the man. But John Deer would not come any closer, and would not allow himself to be petted—for things were different now.
The man looked up to see a young doe not far away. She had followed John as he left the other deer and stood half way between him and the herd, concern etched upon her delicate face. By this time John Deer had also turned to look at the doe. Then, as the man turned to get back into the car, he knew without a doubt that John had left the ranch family for the very best of reasons—to start a family of his own. He also knew that because of John’s choice, he would never return to visit the family that had so lovingly raised him. For John had gone back to his own kind, from whom he had come, and among whom he belonged and would be most happy. The human family would certainly miss him. But they would be content knowing that John Deer had finally become what he was meant to be all along.
In the months that followed on the ranch, someone from the family would occasionally see a buck standing proudly in the midst of a herd of grazing deer. One of them would whistle loudly and then watch as all the deer looked up to see what caused the shrill sound. Everyone agreed that there was one buck in particular that looked a whole lot like John Deer. And that very buck was the one that would continue to stare at the humans long after the other deer lost interest and went back to their grazing. It was as if John Deer knew that he shared something incredibly special with the human family. It was a most wonderful kind of sensation that no other creature, whether man or beast, could possibly be expected to understand. They shared a deep down appreciation for other living beings who were different from themselves, and a sense that each had a rightful place on this marvelous planet we all inhabit together.