Program 12: Cleo Johnson and Lady

Late game warden and life-long hunter, Cleo Johnson talks about his special relationship with an orphaned doe he raised from birth, and the five-year friendship they shared.

 

Transcript:

Cleo Johnson and "Lady"  

Cleo Johnson and "Lady"

 

Gregory L. Sharrow
Deer Stories is a documentary series from Vermont Folklife Center Media that explores hunting from an insider’s point of view and is drawn from interviews with hunters from around Vermont. This is Deputy Game Warden and lifelong hunter Cleo Johnson.

Cleo Johnson
I’ve got a unique story to tell you about deer sometime when you want it.

Gregory L. Sharrow
How about now?

Cleo Johnson
Well, okay. I was telling you, I was living over here and I was the Game Warden, the Deputy Game Warden. Well, somebody called and reported a deer being born up on West Hill and it had fallen into the—the deer that was born fell into a stream. Well, I went up after her and she was practically dead. I mean, she couldn’t, she was in the water and she couldn’t even lift her head up. She was just practically dead! I got some milk, put a little whiskey into it, and gave it to her. And I brought her to.

Well, I was marked as her mother by being brought to and I was the first thing she saw. I raised her, give her milk and cut brush for her and gave her a little grain, and I kept her for five years. Had a, built a pen out there for her and I used to let her out of the pen and run for the porch over here and she’d beat me to the porch. Jump up on the porch and come into the house. And she’d go into the kitchen where my wife was gonna give her a cookie or something. Wherever I went, I don’t care where it was, anywhere I went she was right with me. I’d go upstreet with her, go into the store, she’d follow me right into the store, the post office, hardware, anywhere I went she was there! You know, people would see you come into the store with a deer following you, they’d think what gives? You know. I’d go upstreet on a Sunday, kids come down, running down from the church, screaming and hollering. I’d let ‘em play with her for maybe ten, fifteen minutes. I’d just say, “Come on, Lady!” I’d head for home and she was right with me. Then after five years people had been trying to raise a cub bear or something and got mauled by it, so the Fish and Game Department, they passed a law making it illegal to keep any wild animal.

Well, being a Game Warden, I couldn’t pinch somebody for raising a ‘coon while I had a wild animal myself! So I had to get rid of her. I took her way up in {Bingle} to a orchard up there where there was a lot of good feed and with the help of my dad I finally got away from her. Of course, I never knew what happened to her, but she was in good feed and whether she made it through the winter or not, of course, I didn’t know because I—well, I didn’t want to know what happened to her because she was my pal. Yeah.

Gregory L. Sharrow
You’ve been listening to the late Cleo Johnson of Rochester, Vermont. Deer Stories was produced by Eric Heilman and Gregory Sharrow for the Vermont Folklife Center of Middlebury, Vermont. I’m Gregory Sharrow.