My grandmother always wore her house dress and cooking apron when she took me blackberry picking. We would burst through the porch door and head toward the heavily wooded forest behind her cottage, at the edge of which stood thickly tangled wild blackberry bushes. My grandmother would watch me pick one berry at a time and place it in my small container. When she wasn't looking, I would toss a blackberry into my mouth instead of in the Tupperware, melting it's juicy goodness on my tongue and mashing the bitty seeds between my baby teeth.
One day, I ventured past the blackberry bush and into the wooded forest, just beyond her line of sight. When I came back, I gripped a deer antler with two prongs in my fist. I asked her why it was on the ground instead of on the deer.
"Because the deer have an itchy velvet on their antlers. Sometimes it gets so bad that they rub up against the trees to make it feel better. All the scratching makes the antler fall out." Then she took my hand and showed me a bark-worn spot on a neighboring tree where a deer had come to scratch.
I don't know how she knew that.
Nineteen years later, I found a similar bark-worn spot on a tree while leading a group from Outdoor Bound on a hike through Fahenstock State Park in Upstate New York. To my own surprise, I easily recounted the plight of the deer and their itchy antlers. I was so shocked that I had remembered this tidbit that I went home that night and looked it up on the internet to make sure it was true.
Two days after that, I received an email from a girl that had come on the hike with us. She loved the story of the deer so much and recounted to me how her brother, a geologist, always told her fascinating stories of nature like the one about the deer. He had passed away recently and my story reminded her of his love for the outdoors.