Tony Vagneur: Slowing down to take a moment with deer friends
They came a few days ago, around 10 a.m., and made themselves at home. A doe and her fawn. The doe needed a nap, it appeared, and the fawn spent her time munching on lawn grass and sniffing out more exotic plants beyond the immediate yard.
The mother picked the perfect spot for a snooze — right up next to the tall, withering flowers in the bed along the grassy walk, underneath the spreading branches of a very large box elder, just off the front deck.
Lunchtime came for me, and she was still there, the fawn continuing to nose around the yard. I wondered, and suspected, she might be the same doe who had been camping out in the flower bed directly at the end of the walk, immediately in front of the satellite dish. She flattened the mountain daisies down so very neatly and made a really nice cocoon out of the space.
About 1 p.m., the doe got up and she and her fawn munched down on lawn grass for about 30 minutes and then the doe laid down again for another half-hour or so. Then, the next time I looked, they were gone, out of sight.
The next day, it appeared they had returned, with a dry doe, but wait! This time there were twins, a little older, and the mother looked to be standing watch while her offspring nosed through the grass. The dry doe lay down in the perfect nap spot from the day before, and I watched to see what the dynamics might be between them.
Shortly, the mother took off at a slow jog up the hill, one fawn following her, until the second realized he’d better get going and bounded off at a bouncing, juvenile gallop to catch up. How strong those knee tendons and ligaments must be? Orthopedic surgeons take note.
Work on my corral fence proceeded along until I needed to run some water into the post holes I’d started — my God, after three months of hardly any rain, the ground is parking lot hard. As I walked back to the house and turned the corner to access the hose bib, there was another deer, one that hadn’t been there before, a yearling perhaps.
She took notice of my arrival without picking her head up, although she did stop chewing, and with one glassy, brown-eyed look, not of fear but of disdain, gave me the “I was here first, you back off.”
“OK, OK, you win,” I thought, and laid down along the side of the house, next to a rock garden of small stones. A break was welcome, anyway.
She was grazing her way toward me, apparently without fear. Maybe it was ignorance or naivety, or just natural trust, but I found it quite intriguing. She worked her way around the house, coming now within a couple of feet from my boots. In the back of my mind was the cow elk that once attacked me, coming at me with sharp front hooves flying, head down, and convincing me to leave her in the hay shed she had broken into.
Was this deer going to have the same reaction at some point? Would she suddenly realize I was the enemy, or at least something to fear, and decide to run me out of her little spot of lunchtime grass?
It might have been easy to jump up and scare her off (deer are more timid than elk), but curiosity on my part wouldn’t allow that. How was this going to end? It’s amazing how fast deer chomp and chew, and before thinking much more about it, the deer was within inches of my leg, and I was very careful not to move.
She sniffed me up and down my calf, and then began licking the knee of my pants. Aha, earlier I’d moved a block of salt in the horse pasture — maybe that was the draw, a grain or two, although it hadn’t touched my knee.
I gave a low hum, getting her used to my voice, and said very quietly, “OK, sweetheart, I have to get back to work.” As though she understood, she turned a bit to her left and munched herself away from me.
Today as I write this, I’d earlier looked to see who or what of the deer population might come to visit, but there was not a sign of one in my neighborhood. But I can tell you, the angle of the rising sun makes my green, well-irrigated lawn resemble more a minefield than a smooth expanse.
The deer ate what they wanted and left the rest for next time, leaving gentle pock marks. That’s the way it should be — I’m happy to share with them, well, except for the flowers. Hopefully, they found another peaceful, shady spot in which to nap.
Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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