I rolled out my sleeping bag on the wooden planks of the log cabin porch at Morgan-Monroe State Forest in Indiana. Nestled in a wooded valley next to a loudly gurgling brook, the cabin was a century old, but I was barely thirteen. I felt much older because the other Boy Scouts and I had hiked twenty-five miles that day. The back-country sheds and shacks we had passed, with roaming cows, pigs, chickens, and assorted other creatures, must have been like the little farmsteads my people had come from many decades before in Ohio and Pennsylvania and Virginia, unlike the treeless prairie in central Illinois where I was born. The autumn splendor of the trees and hills surpassed anything I had yet seen.
The night was cool and star-studded, and the porch was more inviting to me than the dark interior of the cabin. Wherever we chose, we lay down to sleep. The attempts to whisper inside the cabin were just audible. They thought I couldn’t hear, and they were talking about me. They were telling a lie about something I had done, poking fun at it. It was something important to me, one of the first things in my life that I was really proud of doing. I was angry and ready to go in and set them straight. But the plank floor was too comfortable, and the stars were shining brightly, and I asked God how I should defend myself, and all I heard was the music of the stars and the distant whippoorwill.
The next morning I awoke before anyone else to a misty sunrise filtering through the trees. To my surprise there was a doe and fawn drinking from the brook barely twenty feet from the porch where I was lying. I had never before seen deer in the wild. They finished drinking and the doe wandered toward me and stopped at the railing and looked at me, our eyes meeting. Then she slowly turned and nudged the fawn and bounded away.
Life was good, and life has remained so. Some things are so beautiful that they erase all thoughts of the ugly. I no longer felt the need to correct the misinformation that the boys had spoken about me. Nor did I tell them about the deer. I just proceeded to fix the best breakfast outdoors that those fellows had ever eaten, and I said the blessing.