The Stranger: Generation

In the fifth story about the Stranger, our hero is getting old. It is time to hand the herd off to younger and more capable deer. Only who is more capable? After a series of disasters and personal tragedies, the Stranger is left hurt both physically and mentally. He plans are left in ruins, and he finds he has to begin all over again. How he can adapt to these calamities will test the strength and resolve of the Stranger.

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4. BLOWUP

 

 

It was getting on to mid-summer and it was time. He had been training Young Bambi, Koren, Delon, and Stuben and they looked as ready as when Gorro, Balo, Stabo, and himself had fought Razor. Galin, and his brother and sister were learning but still needed more training in herd leadership that would continue after The Season, assuming they were all still alive. He finally felt ready to do what he wanted to do since his fawn died, call a herd gathering and ask them to accept Balo. He had wanted to do this for a while, but wanted to be sure the others were ready. Now he was sure they were ready as they were ever going to be. It was time. After feeding and training for the night was done, he spoke to Bambi, Faline, Claris Carie, Balo and Stena.

"Would you come with me for a while?" he asked.

They all stepped away until he was sure they could not be heard. He then turned to face them.  "I feel it is now time to call a gathering of the herd and turn over leadership to you Balo. The children are trained, Galine and the other are learning well thanks to Bambi and Stena. I feel it is time for me to go."

Bambi just nodded. Claris smiled and rubbed the side of his face. Only Carie spoke up.

 "I still say you are not that old and can continue for a while, at least until after The Season and the hunts."

"No, the herd needs to get use to a new leader before then," Bambi said. "I agree, Stranger, now is the time."

"What will you do," Claris added.

"I will talk to the children tonight and explain and then tomorrow call the herd together," he told them. "Bambi if you will take Galin, Garten, Galene and Garla. We know they will not be remaining and this does not concern them." He next turned to Balo. "Are you ready?"

Balo hesitated and then looked at Stena who kissed him. "I am as ready as I will be," he answered with confidence. "I will do my best."

"I know you will," he said. "I will ask the herd tomorrow to accept you are herd leader. I do not think you will have any problems. The herd knows I have been getting you ready. Besides I and Bambi will still be here and you can always ask us."

"And after Balo?" Carie added.

That drew a harsh look from Stena, but no words. He turned and answered sternly. "After Balo, that will also be decided by the herd at that time. That will not be necessary for several seasons."

With that, he turned and they all left for their bedding places. Carie said nothing to him for the rest of the day.

That night, after the others had eaten and Bambi led Galin and his family aside for training, he did something unusual. Rather than take all of them out for training or mock combat. Instead he got them all together in the meadow and then in front of them all, he lay down on the ground. Claris came up and lay beside him like she did when they were young.

“All of you lie down, tonight’s lesson will be short and then I have to talk to you about something very important.“

Stena and Balo who knew what was coming, lay together near them. Next to them Delon and Karlene lay down close together, Stuben and Young Faline, next to them, with Koren, Charlene, and Young Bambi on the end.

 Bambi and I have been teaching you now for over a full season. You have all learned well. The  teaching is now over. Soon all of you will start families on your own. You are full adults now and from here on I will start treating you like adults. I have taught you everything I can,” he told them. “I will know when winter comes if your listened well enough.”

“How is that Father?” Stuben asked.

“If you listened, you will be alive. If you did not, you will be dead,” he told them flatly.

That seemed to shake them up which he wanted to do. He then made the most serious face possible. “Although we played this as a game at times, this is not a game. If you do what we taught you wrong, if you make a mistake, it is not that you get to do it again the next night. You will be lying dead in the meadow or the forest with blood pouring out of your bodies. Then Man will come, cut off your heads, and put it in their Man caves. Then they will burn you and eat your bodies. All the time they will be happy and enjoy themselves, because killing deer is fun for Man.”

That was the one thing they had to understand. To make a mistake around Man is to die, and die horribly. He went on as serious as possible. “Understand this,” he said. “Man does not need to kill us like the bear does, or the coyote does. Those animals kill for food so they can live. Man has all the food he needs. He can get all the food, and all the meat he wants, just for the asking. This I know from my time with Man. He kills us not to live, but for fun. That is why he does not belong in the forest like we belong. We are here for a reason, Man is not. I wish I could change that, but I cannot. That is the last thing I want to teach you. You are now on your own. Bambi and I have done all we can. This will be my last lesson as herd leader.”

That got their attention. They all looked at him in shock.

“I am old and soon I will pass from here. I am the past, you are the future. Take what you have learned, and when the time comes teach your children. That is the only thing I will ask of you. In passing on what you have learned the memory and lives of Bambi, Faline, Claris and myself will have counted for something and in a way we will still be here.”

He felt his eyes burning and noted tears in Claris and Stena who understood well his meaning. He also saw Carie walking closer to them, yet still standing. “Now for the announcement,” he said loudly so all could hear. “Tomorrow night I am going to call the herd together for a gathering. At that meeting I will step aside as herd leader. I am too old to do this any longer.  I will ask the herd to accept Balo as the new herd leader. I have trained him for several seasons and he knows as much as I do. I am asking all of you to support Balo as the new herd leader. I am also asking you to help him with the herd. You all know how to do this. If there are matters you do not agree with, tell him in private. Balo has never questioned my position as herd leader. I expect all of you to do the same. Am I clear on this?”

There was not a word. Whether they did not understand him or were still getting over the surprise he was stepping away as herd leader, he did not know. He lay there patiently waiting for someone to speak up. Finally Stuben broke the silence.

“Forgive us father, but this comes as a surprised.” The others were still struck mute. “We all knew you give the herd to Balo someday; we just did not expect it now.”

“I am not giving the herd to Balo.” he said letting his voice rise. “I am asking the herd to accept Balo as leader. There is a great difference. The herd must decide if they want Balo just like they decided if they wanted me or Bambi. I believe the herd will accept Balo without challenge.”

“Unless they want their tales pounded,” Delon added.

“Delon, it does not work that way,” Stena chided him. “Stranger is right, the herd must decide. You father will deal with any challenges unless several males come forward at once.”

“That is where the rest of us come in,” Young Bambi said. “As my father told me, an individual challenge must be met by the new herd leader. Attacks by many will be met by many as my Father did with Razor. As you all know, as soon as Stabo thinks I am ready, I will ask the herd in my forest to accept me as herd leader.”

“Young Bambi is right,” he told them all. “Now again I ask, will you all support Balo?”

“I will,” Delon said first. He looked at his father with a look of pride in his eyes. Karlene nodded her approval.

“I will also,” Young Bambi spoke up. “I also would like your support when I ask to be herd leader.”

“No problem with that, my friend,” Stuben turned and said to Young Bambi. “I also agree with my Father, Balo is the best choice for herd leader; although two nights ago you did not seem so old when you spared with me Father.”

They all smiled and he was thankful for his son, but he also remembered just how tired he was when they were done.

“I agree with Stuben,” Young Faline said beaming.

“I also agree,” Koren said.

“And I,” Charlene told them.

He looked around, there was agreement. Now all he had to do was call the herd together. His job would be done.

“And who follows Balo?” Carie asked loud enough to be heard halfway across the meadow.

He suddenly got very angry and shot to his feet and glared at Carie. “As I told you before, that will be decided when it is necessary and it will be decided by the herd.”

“Your son should follow you, it is only right,” she bellowed back.

“It will be done this way as long as I have anything to say about it,” he said now getting very cross.”

“But you are no longer herd leader,” she snapped back. “You just said you are just an old worn out deer.”

“That is wrong of you to say that,” Stena said now getting up along with Balo and Delon. “He chose you, Carie, not the other way around.”

“Because your mother could not have any fawns. Now it looks like your Father cannot either. He no longer gets a say in who is herd leader.”

“Yes I do, and if you do not believe me, try me,” he said looking at Carie ready to hit her if necessary. He would not be talked to like that from anyone.

“Or what.” she hissed back “You will stomp on me like you did Tarro and Razor? Big male, big deer; you cannot even make a fawn anymore you are so old and worn out. Stuben should be herd leader and that is the truth. He should follow you as is his right as your son.”

Now they were all on their feet. He saw Bambi and Faline looking at them and starting to walk this way.

“And what of Delon,” Stena yelled. “He has as much right to follow his Father as Stuben has to follow his. We will settle this at the proper time.”

“No, we will settle this now,” Carie came back. “My son is stronger than your son and my son is wiser than your son. He will follow his Father. In fact he should follow him now.”

“No he will not,” he said and walked up to Carie. She looked at him and for the first time he saw a glint of fear in her eyes. “You will keep your silence, Doe!”

“Or what,” she said and brought he left leg up to try and hit him in the face. He saw it coming and dodge left and brought his left leg under her right leg knocking it out from under her. She fell on the ground like an old tree. At once he was on her. He brought his head to look right into her eyes. “Leave,” he ordered, "Or I will. . .

“Stuben,” he heard Claris call out a split second before something had hit him knocking him aside. He lost his balance and fell over onto the ground. By reflex he spun quickly getting his feet under him and shot to his feet. He looked straight into his son’s face.

“Do not try and hurt my Mother,” he said tersely. “I do not agree with everything she has just said, but she is my Mother and I will not let you or anyone else hurt her.”

“Then you tell your mother to keep her mouth shut,” he said glaring at his son.

“She is part of the herd too, Father,” Stuben said glaring back. “She has her say also.”

“Very well then, I have heard her say,” he told his son. “Now I will hear what your think.”

“Very well,” Stuben said standing back and holding his head up high like a senior male in the herd. “What I said before I meant. Balo is best deer to lead this herd after you. I admit I am not ready to be herd leader right now. I will not admit to anything else. After Balo steps aside, I will present my claim to the herd as leader. I do this because I think I am the better deer.”

“You do,” Delon said sarcastically. “I rather doubt that.”

“We can find that out right here and right now,” Stuben said and dropped his head.

“Fine,” Delon said and dropped his.

“ENOUGH!” he heard a loud voice from behind him. It was Bambi.

Everyone turned to see the large deer standing as tall and erect as he had ever seen him. “As a deer who has been herd leader longer than any, of you this is the perfect way to break up a herd.” Bambi said and looked at all of them with contempt. “What The Stranger said is right. When it comes time for Balo to step aside, the herd will decide who will be leader, just like it will decide if Balo will be herd leader now. It is not up to just you. If you want to challenge the decision, by all means go ahead, that is your right. It is also the right of Balo to pound your tails into the ground for doing it.”

“Says the male and doe that cannot make fawns either because they are so old,” Carie said. That one even shocked him.

“You have no right to insult my oldest friends, doe!” he growled. “Get out of my sight.”

“Says the herd leader,” she said with a grin and turned away. “I doubt that too.”

That finally got to him he leaped over and brought his front leg and kicked her in her tail. Carie tried to kick out with her rear legs but he was ready for that and pulled back too quickly for her to hit. He was also ready when Stuben brought down his head, He turned and dropped letting the young male charge over him.  He brought his velvet covered antlers up and dragged them along the length of his body. It did not cut into him, but it certainly hurt. He quickly pulled back as not to give Stuben a chance to attack again. He looked his son right in the eyes and smiled broadly.

“Son, I taught you everything you know about fighting, but I did not teach you everything I know about fighting,” he told him. “You can go with your mother.”

He did not tell him that almost tired him out, but he dare not show it.

Young Faline looked at Stuben and his mother walking toward the woods and looked at the rest of them. “Excuse me,” she said and ran off after Stuben.

He got a hold of himself and took several deep breaths and looked at Bambi. “That could have gone better.”

“Indeed,” Bambi said.”What brought that on?”

Stena yelled out, “That DOE! said her son was better than mine. I should pound her tail into the ground.”

“No, Stena,” Balo said. “That is not worthy of the mate of the herd leader. If she bothers you, tell me. I will take care of it. Forgive me Stranger, but what are you going to do now?”

For once in his life, he did not know. He did not believe this was happening. He had always taught his family they were here to help the herd, not themselves. It now appeared some of his family did not learn this most basic of all lessons. His plan to leave the herd leadership to Balo with no problems was now in ruins. The entire herd must have heard their argument. He could not believe that after all his teachings they could be having an argument like this.

“May I make a suggestion,” Bambi said politely.

“Please do,” he told him.

“Do not call for a gathering tomorrow night.  Let this settle for a while. Balo, I must ask you to be patient.”

“I understand,” Balo said.

“Why,” Stena spoke up. “Why should Balo be patient because that Doe thinks her son is so mighty? If we do that, all we do is admit that they are right and there is no way I am going to do that. You must call for a gathering tomorrow night, Father, whether they want it or not.”

“I think Bambi may be right, daughter,” he told her.

No, Father, I must disagree,” Stena argued. “This needs to be settled now to show the herd just who is leader here, you or Carie. Besides anyone with any sense know Delon is a better deer than Stuben. He is more sensible.”

“Daughter, you are starting to sound like Carie,” he said as a warning.

“No I am not,” she told them. “I am giving a mother’s opinion. I am not insulting my mate, nor our oldest friends, but I do believe Delon is a better deer. I do not accept we delay the gathering.”

“I have to agree with my mother on this,” Delon spoke up. “I will not be the second deer to Stuben.”

“You are what the herd says you are,” he said.

“I am sorry, but I have to agree with Stranger and Bambi,” Young Bambi said. “This herd is not ready to choose a new herd leader.”

“So you agree with Carie?” Stena came right back.

“No I agree with Bambi and Stranger, and yes I think you are starting to sound like Carie.” Young Bambi said.

“Stop!” Delon said out loud. “Do not ever say my mother is like Carie.”

“Then please ask her to stop sounding like her because she is not listening to me, or Stranger or Bambi.”

He could see the red flash in the eyes of Delon who took a step forward and put his head down. “You will not say that and walk away from here.”

“And you are going to stop me?” Young Bambi laughed as if he heard something funny. “If case you have forgotten I am stronger than both you and Stuben. If I did not have my own forest to try and lead, I might challenge both of you.”

“That is not polite,” Bambi said.

“Polite no, the truth yes,” Young Bambi told them all. “In fact I am going back to the Man path forest now. “You can all mess up this forest as much as you want. Just do not come into my forest to do this. Stabo and I will throw you out. Stranger, Claris, Bambi, Faline, you are all welcomed in my forest if this forest goes bad.”

With that the young male turned and started walking toward the Man path forest. He never looked back at them.

Koren, Karlene and Charlene stood up together. “Do not look at me,” Koren said. “I think you all have taken leave of your senses.” With that they followed Young Bambi back to the Man path forest.

He noted the light increasing in the sky.  “We should leave, more than enough has been said for one night.”

He walked away feeling lower than he could remember. This felt worse than losing his fawn. It was  not one deer that was lost to him, almost his whole family had rejected what he had tried to show them. The family he thought was so ready to lead had shown themselves to be more interested in themselves than anyone else. It left a bitter taste in his mouth and sickness in his stomach. It was not bad enough they had said that to him, but the whole herd had listened. What would they think? Why should they listen to anything he said now?

He turned and looked at Galin and his family all standing together, Galene with her mouth still open in shock.

"I am sorry, you all heard that," he said in a low voice. "I thought my family was ready for this. I was wrong. The teachings I believed I had given them, were not learned after all. It looks like I failed completely when I trained them. For that I am truly sorry."

"Stranger do not think, , , , " Garten said and then trailed off as he turned around and walked alone into the forest.

He rested alone near the pond that day. After the greater light was overhead, he heard banging noise from the Man cave. It did not sound like Men were back to hunt, but instead they were working on the Man cave. Then the noise stopped as the greater light started to set, and there was quiet for the rest of the day. It was near the time the greater light was setting that he first heard the noise. At first it was just voices that got louder and louder. He woke and raised his head.

It sounded like loud voices now coming from the clearing. It sounded  like deer arguing.

He listened for a moment and then shot to his feet. It was Stena's and Carie's voices and they were yelling at each other again.

“Well I am still herd leader and this is still my problem,” he said to himself and started off toward the clearing at a quick walk. It did not take long before he could understand what they were saying.

“You think your son is so mighty,” Stena called out.

“He is better than yours,” Carie yelled back.

“I said I would prove that right here and now,” Stuben yelled out.

“If you say so,” Delon called back.

“I will say who fights here,” Balo yelled. “I was chosen by the Stranger as herd leader.”

“We can see about that too,” Stuben said. “Right after I pound Delon’s tail into the ground.”

That is when he reached the clearing his face was hot and his body filled with rage. The five deer were all standing close to each other. Both Stuben’s and Delon’s heads were down ready to fight with Balo looking to join in. Carie again tried to strike Stena who jumped back and turned quickly kicking out with her rear legs. It was a big kick and would have serious hurt Carie if she had not leaped aside.

“You can all start by fighting me,” he said.

They were so busy yelling at each other they never heard them approach. He stood there shaking his head. After all his and Bambi’s teachings, after all their efforts, it had come down to this. He was so mad he could not get words out at first.

“I am sorry, Father but you taught us. . .”Stena started to say.

“I have taught you NOTHING!” he yelled at them. “That is obvious to me now. Oh you certainly learned how to pound each other into the ground, but the most important thing NONE of you have learned. That is you are here for the good of the herd; not the other way around. After all this time, I have failed in the most important thing; to teach my family that one simple item. Thank you all, you have just convinced me that all my efforts here in this forest were a complete waste of time. Now ALL of you get out of my sight,” he told them and turned his back on all of them.

“But Father. . .” Stuben started to say.

“LEAVE!” he shouted with his back still turned to them.

He heard them all leave taking different paths. He bent over and put his head close to the ground and closed his eyes that were watering.

“It was all for nothing,” he said out loud. “I have failed.”

With that he started to walk away toward the top of the hill by himself.

“Stranger,” he heard Claris call out from behind him.

“I need to be alone," He called back to her. At least Gorro, Stabo, Koren and Young Bambi turned out right.

With that he walked into the dense forest and left everything behind.

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