A common exclamation by a Minnesotan driving on a country highway, walking on a trail, or glancing at a ditch by the woods at dusk is, “Oh look! A deer–no, three deer! I see a fawn!” Unless your car is about to hit the deer, the sight is magical. But the deer haven’t always been around.
When the founders of Valley Grove Church came from Norway in the 1850s-60s, white-tailed deer flourished in the forests and along the rivers and streams of southern Minnesota, welcome food for the new settlers. In the following decades, enterprising hunters sold tons of venison locally and to butcher chops and restaurants in the expanding Twin Cities. Newly-cleared fields for the immigrants’ crops meant less habitat, and by the late 1880s deer were rare. Through the passage of game laws and effective natural resources management in the 1900s, deer returned to Minnesota and the Valley Grove area.
Marlene Halvorsen from the Valley Grove Preservation Society remembers when the deer were returning to the area.
The deer also were scarce during our dad’s childhood and into his young adulthood which explains his lifelong obsession with searching them out, and the gleam in his eye whenever he saw one or more of them (he didn’t hunt). When we were kids, Sunday afternoons were devoted to driving through the woodsy areas of Goodhue and eastern Rice County so we (he, but we got caught up in it) could catch sight of deer. Even in the 1950s deer were not plentiful in this area.
I’ve been weaving across the width of my tapestry. The centerpiece burr oak seems a bit endless, so I am happy to make progress with this deer on one border. It felt rewarding to add a couple of shots of yarn in the background color, finishing the tail. Now, back to the tree…