July 17, 2014
They trotted on spindly legs out of the south forest late in the afternoon, crossing the low road and coming up into my yard, below the finch feeder. They munched on wild violets and the leavings of tomatoes and strawberries, which I toss out for the birds but I have never observed a bird eat a strawberry top.
I have seen groundhogs, No-Tail the squirrel, a chipmunk and a feral yellow cat chowing down on fruit, and now, these two, slender young women, dappled and delicate. This was their first outing without their mother.
Deer are ubiquitous. Every time I write about them, readers respond with deer observations of their own. But after a year at Genehouse, a cycle, for me deer stand in for death. One of “my” fawns from last year was shot and killed and dragged itself back into my yard and expired, and I watched turkey vultures and crows, over two weeks, render the darling into a skeleton.
They walked on up to my front yard and onto the driveway, seemingly without a care in the world. They sniffed the air, their olfactory senses firing electrons down their spines and causing their white tails to wag.
In the early twentieth century, deer were hunted to near extinction. In 1930, it was estimated that only 300,000 whitetail were left in the country. Today there are 30,000,000 deer and not nearly enough habitats to support such a population. I can envision a time when housing deer and Canada geese in hotels will be profitable.
They ran down into the huge grass bowl, seemingly dancing on hind legs, grunting and rambunctious. Yet, the siblings were in grave danger. The grass bowl lies below Clifton Terrace Road. And the fawns were too thin, too young to be without their mother, too lacking in savvy. Which made me surmise, the mother might be dead.
This is the golden age of anthropomorphism of animals. Who knew “Roadrunner” cartoons would lead to this? Godfrey, my town, has a pet cemetery. Dogs and cats, descended from wolves and mountain lions, now rule households. I’m right there. Scout the Cat is a literary figure—I made her into a literary figure—and her partners No-Tail and Crow. You can treat your pet for cancer; you can replace Fido’s knee. Piggy can donate a kidney to you.
The wonderful cartoonist and satirist Wiley Miller, in his comic strip “Non Sequitur,” has a character named Danae, a wise and wisecracking little girl who currently is traveling in a time machine to find an era when humans weren’t “stupid and annoying.” She ends up with the dinosaurs.
Deer have become outdoor pets—year round cute, cuddly, tear-inducing, storybook producing ornaments. Hell, even snakes and spiders, the fear of is lodged in our reptilian brainstems, now have their own Hollywood agents. Suzy Snake and Sally Spider, those unlikely, cut-up kids about town star in, “The Adventures of Hosey and Arachny,” coming soon to a multiplex near you.
They ran up the east side of the bowl and stopped at the metal guard which lines the side of the road, protecting cars and drunk drivers from plummeting to their demise. I put my binoculars down and shut my front door and shuddered.
And waited for the sound of a collision.