My grandmother dealt cards upon our kitchen table so we could play UNO. As she dealt our hands, I watched in wonderment as light snow scattered around the countryside, forming drifts upon dead canary grasses. Meanwhile, I ate nut-jammer cookies by the handful. Just before I turned to leave my winter sideshow, I saw something move between the drifts that appeared to be walking. It was white and thinly made, carrying itself on what appeared to be four legs. The sight of it made me pause for a moment as I felt that my eyes were playing tricks on me, but then again between the drifts, I saw another figure moving side to side in the same manner.
My grandmother, who was now standing behind me, put her hand on my shoulder. She then spoke softly, “I know what you see out there. I, too, for a time thought it odd that there was something between the drifts, but a story once told to me long ago changed my mind about that, and so I know what I saw was as real as what you’re seeing now.”
Three hundred years before the town of Donbridge came to pass, the Lenape people of the great valley struggled through a harsh winter. The snows that encompassed the region in that long winter were more than the great Lenape could bear. Food supplies were depleted and hunting was impossible. Throughout the region, deer starved, and forest animals perished beneath the thick frozen lands.
The tribe normally would turn to their holy man in a time of need, but the medicine man of the tribe had left earlier that fall in search of a destined child who would one day take his place amongst the Lenape as their leader and keeper. The timing of his endeavor was poorly placed in the tribe’s eye as his wisdom was needed to guide the Lenape during their hardest of hardships. But, alas, with all great persons of guidance, timing, although poorly to some, was perhaps meant to be in the eyes of this seasoned medicine man.
When the tribe nearly lost hope on a stiff cold morning, a flock of red cardinals suddenly appeared at the center of the camp. The flock grew to a large mass and swirled about in a cyclone of red until a snapping sound resounded and the birds vanished, leaving nothing but the medicine man and a young boy of 7 years.
The Lenape were astounded by the astonishing feat they witnessed, but the medicine man quickly quelled the side conversations among his people and revealed the miracle before them was not of his doing but of the boy who accompanied him. Moments later, the boy, seeing the devastation among the Lenape, moved from the side of the medicine man and placed his hands upon the snow-covered land. Soon, snow swirled about the forest floor, and from the frozen ice droplets deer formed from the snow. Each of these frozen creatures began clearing the snow from side to side as the wind worked with the deer, hollowing out the lands and creating bare patches where roots and streams were now exposed for food gathering. The tribe marveled at the deer as it watched them work their way through the valley and eventually scatter off into the wilderness.
For years, snows would drift in the wind, and fact evolved into myth as the people of Donbridge arrived. Many would swear if they looked out upon the valley and looked hard enough among the flakes, they could see the snowdrift deer clearing paths. Their work would be forever always freeing the land of snow, making bare patches between the snowdrifts for those in need of the earth.
As I turned to grab another cookie, I looked out over the field, and, for an instant, my eyes were clear and there stood glistening in the afternoon sun a solid deer made of snow staring back at me after it just made bare the ground between the drifts in the field. I was never sure what I saw was real, but for my grandmother the deer were more than a myth which would be forever kept alive simply by telling their tale.
Mom’s Nut-Jammer Cookies
1 cup butter
8 ounces cream cheese
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups finely chopped walnuts
12 ounces apricot jelly
2 teaspoons sugar
Dough directions: With a pastry fork, mix dough ingredients together until mixture becomes granulated. Then slowly add cold water while mixing the ingredients together. Roll together into a ball and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Filling directions: Mix all filling ingredients together and place aside.
Final steps: Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a floured surface and cut into diamonds. Next place a spoonful of filling into each diamond shape. Fold the dough over, making a triangle, and with a fork seal the edges together. Place onto a cookie sheet and bake until golden brown. Let cool and enjoy.