Caught in the same old rut
I was peacefully sitting last week on one of my rock perches, a place I go to unwind in the expanse of my backyard up the Frying Pan. I was gazing out across the peaceful valley, quietly contemplating the intricacies of life, when a sudden movement alerted my senses.
I swept my eyes in time to see a bighorn ewe sporting short, pointed horns. She trotted purposefully across the slope not twenty feet below me. Close behind her strutted a full-curl bighorn ram whose intentions became very clear the closer this couple approached.
Sitting still — they didn’t know I was there — I became the unwitting voyeur to nature’s most ancient calling. To watch this ram pursuing this ewe was a potent lesson in reproductive biology that stays with me still. Here was a virtuoso display of glandular gusto.
While the ewe trotted steadily along, the ram pulsed behind her with potent male machismo. His mouth hung open and his tongue lolled out with lascivious intent. His eyes appeared to be rolling around in his head, the yellow orbs flashing with an impassioned drive that reminded me of certain college chums from my youth.
There was no sheepishness for this horny pair of bighorns (ovis Canadensis) as they passed by, fixated on primal courtship. It was apparent, however, that the ewe had not the same burning intent as the emboldened ram. He, trying to mount her on the run, was so starkly amorous that I almost had to avert my eyes in discrete modesty. But I didn’t.
I watched closely as they disappeared into a nearby ravine, a cloud of dust marking their assumed coupling. I thought of bounding from my stone bench to watch, but could not justify the intrusion without demeaning the sacred and profane act. Ever the naturalist, I somehow controlled my prurient animalistic curiosity.
Still, I allowed my imagination full license in picturing the consummation of an otherwise clandestine courtship, and I wished those sheep a good outcome with the birth of a healthy and rambunctious lamb come springtime.
I declined to describe this event to my wife that night, sensing that she, of loftier sensibilities, might regard my crass observation as deserving of censure. Regardless of my naturalist’s obsession, what I had encountered could only be deemed nature porn, a moment of wild ribaldry that could give rise to other notions requiring my wife’s compliance rather than her approbation.
I woke early the next morning, still infused with the image of the PDA enacted by those sheep. I brewed a strong cup of coffee to steel myself for the rigors of yet another day saddled behind the insatiable word processor — my vocational ball and chain. Glancing out the window into my yard, I saw through the dim morning light what appeared to be a bristle of moving shrubbery.
As my sleepy eyes found focus, the shrub morphed into an enormous buck mule deer (odocoileus hemionus) charging about after a harem of doe-eyed does. The pursued females dodged between gaps in our lilac hedge while the buck struggled through with his headgear, a stately array of pronged antlers.
The buck, I noticed, wore the same expression as the bighorn ram of the day before. His mouth was agape, his eyes wild with desire, his body lithe and powerful as he advanced on these demure does with the authority of nature’s deepest directive: procreate the species at all costs!
I won’t describe what happened next. Suffice to say that nature had its way with these animations of life, these players in the great drama of existence, these wild and handsome beings whose tendencies are uncompromised by vanity or self-awareness.
Try as I might to shield my wife from this seminal act of headstrong reproductive fervor, the preponderance of raw nature infused both of us with a spark that translated into a knowing glance. Long autumnal nights are purposeful (for other things than binge-watching Downton Abbey), and it’s useless to deny our own animal instincts as the sun dips below the infinite and timeless horizon.
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