The following passage is excerpted from Go East, Young Man, the autobiography of William O. Douglas, the longest-serving Supreme Court justice in United States history. This episode probably occurs during the mid-1930s in central Washington state.
As Prairie House was being built, I spent my time planting the meadow around the house and watering it. This was land that my predecessor had cleared of pine and fir. Soil in these forests was notoriously poor, so I decided to sow white clover. In that way I would build nitrogen into the soil and attract a wide variety of grasses that elk and deer love.
One day as I sowed the seed I heard the baying of hounds on American Ridge to the north. Before long I felt something touch my leg, and turning, I saw a doe deer standing close to me. Her eyes were dilated, she was breathing heavily, and she dripped with perspiration. Obviously she was near exhaustion, and she had come to a man for help. I had heard of such things before but had never believed them.
I hesitated but a second, and then depositing my bag of seed on the ground, said to the deer, “Come with me,” and I started walking the half-mile or so to Bumping River. She kept at my heels like a puppy dog. When we reached the river I gave her a pat on the rump; she entered the water and slowly swam to the opposite shore, where she stopped, looked back as if to say good-by, and entered a stand of alder. In an instant the dogs had arrived, baying frantically as they tried to find the scent that had disappeared at the river’s edge.
William O. Douglas was a brash, opinionated man, and a womanizer. He was also a great champion of the First Amendment, of individual rights. He was an avid outdoors-man, exploring the Pacific Northwest (and other parts of the U.S.) on foot, on horseback, and on train. He loved the varied life he found, both plant and animal.
Douglas was an ardent conservationist.