Ed Colby: Oh deer – Mystery surrounds a doe
Despite being a little long in the tooth, Linda and I both have excellent memories. We remember the same events. On the details, however, we sometimes beg to differ. Take the story of the mutilated deer.
When she heard Spot bark, Linda looked out the window. Spot cautiously ? suspiciously, even ? investigated something behind Linda’s piano studio. He would gingerly approach, lift a front paw like a pointer, then back up. Then he’d do it again. He acted spooked.
When we looked behind the studio, we found a deer ? a mature doe ? lying on the ground next to our welded-wire farm fence. The fence was smashed down where the deer had tried to jump it. Rigor mortis had not yet set in. We guessed that she died during the night.
Emboldened by having his owners at his side, Spot sniffed at the carcass and growled.
It had been mutilated. It had a bizarre incision on the side of its belly ? the size and shape of a medium-sized watermelon. Within this ellipse the hide was gone. The opening looked like it had been cut out with a scalpel. This was a surgically perfect incision, not a laceration. Linda and I both agree on this.
The deer was inside our fenced property. Somehow she got in. Maybe she got dropped out of a flying saucer. Maybe we left the gate open. She apparently died trying to get out.
We now arrive at a fork in the road. Here Linda’s account takes a macabre turn. When she tells this story, the animal’s body cavity is empty ? it contains no vital organs.
I have no such recollection. Of course we never took a photo.
A hollow deer carcass in our back yard would to me have been so beyond comprehension that I would have called the Division of Wildlife or maybe the sheriff.
It is true that not long before we had had an unfortunate disagreement with our local (now retired) wildlife officer, and it is true that Linda always spoke of him in a highly unflattering way. If Linda had said, “Oh, I know they’ll send over that so-and-so, and he is not setting foot on our property,” I suppose that could explain why we didn’t call. As for the sheriff, well, what would he know about a mutilated deer?
But we concur on the incision. What, or who, could possibly have made it? There was nothing unusual at the scene ? no alien or human footprints, no coyote or mountain lion tracks. We found no heat-scorched flying saucer launch site, no trail of blood across our property, no tufts of deer hair, no bits of hide, no sign of a struggle, no evidence of violence.
It was hunting season, so it didn’t surprise me to find a dead deer. But there was no obvious wound other than that gaping, clinically precise oval of missing hide.
We decided not to eat that deer. We still had to get it out of the back yard. When we tried to pick it up, we found it was too heavy for the two of us. I made a plank ramp to drag it up into my pickup truck. Here Linda adds an unsettling detail. Its precision, along with the clarity of Linda’s conviction, troubles me. She insists she distinctly remembers that when we dragged the deer onto the truck she saw blood sloshing around inside the deer’s empty stomach cavity.
I hauled the deer to the Anvil Points dump down past Rifle. I dropped it into the “dead animal pit.” I remember the ravens, and the stench.
Linda almost always proofreads my columns. When she read this one, she said, “I’m not so sure we didn’t call the Division of Wildlife or the sheriff. I remember somebody in a brown uniform, I think.”
She might be right, but I don’t remember it that way.
[Beekeeper and ski patroller Ed Colby’s column runs on Tuesdays. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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