Thursday, November 12, 2009


Practically all year they graze and drink together, walk side by side or in single file, keep each other company, and even lick each other…or themselves…because they can.

But when the leaves fall and the smell of crisp, dry foliage fills the air, they become, shall we say, frisky and downright mean toward each other—and anything else in their way.

Rutting season is here. It’s when I feel trapped in my house and don’t hike for fear a buck will charge, ’cause they never pay cash.

On a recent hike, one scoped me while Shiloh was off trail relieving himself. When my hiking buddy calmly said, “Turn around,” and I saw this 14-pointer leap over the wood fence aiming toward me, I almost relieved myself. Fortunately, he made an abrupt 120-degree angle and headed up the hill. What a relief.

And yesterday when a 5 by 5 (ten tines on his beams) looked through our garden-level window, his knees at my eye level, and he started scratching the ground, lowering his ears, and steering his rack toward me, I closed the blinds.

He then turned left, snorted at his contender on the other side of our fence, and Mr. Testosterone Two, in turn, wheezed his reply.

Elks bugle; mule deer wheeze through their noses like elephants trumpeting through their trunks (sec 0:17 on clip). Hormones drip from their noses. I saw it. As many times as these powerful animals have been in our yard, I have never heard them make that sound.

All day long, they engaged in a standoff, each on one side of our fence, posturing like little kids who have to pee. Hindquarters lowered, knees bent inward, small movements back and forth, eyes watering, then a quick rearing of the head with a snort.

What a tedious chore this hostile escalation is. Occasionally, one of the adversaries will lie down and drink a beer, while the other rolls his eyes and exhales, miffed because he was so close to engaging. These two are proof that evolution can go in reverse. They’re supposed to be challenging each other for female access, but yesterday no does were to be seen in our yard.

At dusk, with the smell of musk overpowering the aroma of cracked leaves, I heard the neighbor dog whimper and felt the earth move beneath my chair. “Quick!” I shouted to my daughter, and we ran to the living room window. There were Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, horns locked, buck snot flying, doing an intimate tango, and destroying one of my gardens.

Crack! Two large pieces of pottery holding my stand of parsley ruined. Over bricks and flagstone, scraping and dragging their hooves across the ground, they forced each other from one side of our yard to the other. While it was as exciting as the Thunderbirds flying over the house, it was clear how much these horny deer could destroy.

Finally, one sperm donor heard his mommy calling him home for dinner, so he extricated himself from the lovelock and sprinted east through the woods, his hungry rival trailing close behind.

So now my backyard looks like the war zone it was. Jack-o’-lantern remains are strewn about. Deep, muddy gouges slice through the carpet of green grass. Flagstone is scratched white and peppered with mud. Chunks of fur lie on the grass and rock.

And the dazed doofi didn’t even leave me an antler.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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