Elsewhere, out of sight–thank goodness–the traffic was winding in and out, up and down, frantically seeking to suck as much delight out of this Memorial Day weekend as possible here in Door County, where tourists outnumber locals in some places during the summer.
Not everywhere in Door County, though. Most tourists think Door County begins just north of Sturgeon Bay, not realizing that they’ve been in the county for 20 miles before they ever reached Sturgeon Bay.
We headed toward that lower 20 miles, through the little-traveled farm country roads, dipping down into Kewaunee County, then west into Brown County. Our destination: the Animal Eye Clinic, also the location of Eaton Highland Farm, where our vets are licensed red deer breeders and venison producers.
Lady, whose chronic eye problem was the reason for this trip, rode contentedly in the back seat of the car. Cool temps were counteracted by warm sunshine. The farther we went, the more we had the road to ourselves.
It’s nearly an hour’s trip, but we don’t mind. We pass working farms where, this time of year, farm families are more concerned with spring planting than with holiday treks. We saw them, plowing big fields, or working by hand in garden patches, an American flag flying here and there as the only nod to the holiday. Dairy farms, both corporate and small-scale, and herds of black-and-white cattle, fill the air with a pleasant, inoffensive hay-and-manure aroma.
George had an assortment of hand-picked tunes on a flash drive plugged into the car radio, and our conversation was sporadic. Good sounds, good scenery, room to let the mind roam, occasionally sharing thoughts, coasting below the speed limit because there was no one around to care.
Normally, the Animal Eye Clinic is busy on their one afternoon a week when they see patients. Today, they let us in special to get the eye drops Lady needed. Dr. Gretchen Schmidt, dressed in rumpled clothes, her hair a bit wind blown, answered us with a grin when thanked for letting us stop by.
“We’re farm people. We’re always around,” she said. “And now, of course, the babies are coming, so we’re always here.”
The babies are the red deer fawns, being dropped at all hours of the day and night. Dr. Schmidt and her husband, Dr. Sam Vainisi, prowl the fields where the deer roam freely, binoculars to their eyes, checking to see that all goes well with the mamas-to-be.
“We had one coming out backwards last night,” Dr. Schmidt said. So we knew that rather than being up early, she likely hadn’t been to bed yet.
We got our meds, and as long as we were there, picked up a couple venison steaks, some venison bacon and hotdogs, and some jerky sticks–looking a bit like the Pupperonis Dr. Schmidt gives out to good dogs after an exam.
We wandered out into the farmyard, as far as the first of the fences, and peered into the far pastures, where alert ears swiveled and inquisitive eyes peered in our direction. From so far away that I had to shoot through several fences to get even a poor photo, they knew there were strangers on the property. Unlike cattle, the deer–all 250 head–were both nosy and wary.
We lingered a bit, let Lady sniff and snoop around the yard, and then headed back the way we’d come, through the redolent farmland, delightful strains of Mark Isham’s “Tibet” providing the perfect audio accompaniment to the peaceful scenery. Past tiny churches, country cemeteries with veteran’s flags aflutter, across little streams, skirting pastures with cattle or horses, we wended our toward Kewaunee, then north to Algoma, where we parked at a rest area along Lake Michigan, a good sniff stop for Lady.
The lake was striped in shades of blue, with tiny waves lapping daintily at the shore below the bluff along which we walked. Herring gulls soared lazily, white scorings on an azure sky, while a tern folded its wings and plunged headfirst into the water to grab some lunch. A robin, full of himself and full of his raucous call, perched on a fence post and dared us to walk closer. We did. He left.
So did we, after a few minutes, back along our slow road, leaving the highway for the tourists. We arrived home relaxed, with most of the day still stretching out before us and nothing on the schedule. It had been a sweet, lazy, Saturday morning. It was perfect.