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Deer are daring this year

The 12-point buck was standing in the middle of Memorial Drive, a block from home. I braked about 15 feet away.

He stood still. He looked at me, and decided to show me who was boss. Frankly, I was enjoying just looking back at him in all his big boy splendor. He was huge – the size that hunters pray will walk into their gunsight.

I had just run all the last-minute errands before leaving for our New England Thanksgiving. Naturally, I was in a bit of a hurry, thinking of all that had to be crossed off my To-do List and my Take List. But this handsome deer was too splendid to wish away.

Most often I see a cluster of white-tailed does scurrying across the road as I slow down. I’m usually hoping that I stop before the next doe follows. In the same instant, I’m checking my mirrors to make sure I’m not about to be rear ended. Seldom does the opportunity to simply appreciate these graceful animals present itself.

So, I waited, and watched. He still didn’t move, except flaring his nostrils a bit.

Fully muscled, he had a strong neck and shoulders. I was drinking in one of Mother Nature’s most elegant creatures, and no one to share it with. This encounter was mine alone. He was BIG. He was regal. And he was arrogant. It was two o’clock in the afternoon.

Initially, I thought I should toot the horn, shoo him away, and get on with my day. But after he stood his ground, I changed my mind. Let’s see what this guy is made of.

I observed him long enough to count his horns and notice the many subtle shades of his coat. He wasn’t merely tan. Some of his lighter patches held scars. I guess these boys don’t make it to 12-points without a few skirmishes.

After a few minutes, which thankfully seemed much longer, he raised his chin, and trotted off across the back lawn of a nearby home. I watched him stop, start, and stop again, before disappearing around a hedge.

As I unloaded the car in the driveway, I thought about my other more routine deer encounters. In four decades of living here, I’ve hit three, and one hit me. That’s not really a confusing statement.

That deer, another big buck, was in a hurry to cross the road… so much so, that he ran right into my driver door. The first I saw of him was his head framed in my window at the same time as the loud thump. It was evening. I was going about 50 mph, and I saw him fall in my rearview mirror. I stopped, primarily because I was shaken. I watched him struggle up, take a few wobbly steps to the shoulder, and collapse.

I did not grow up with deer populating our roads, and backyards. When we first moved here, I was not prepared for the intense watchfulness one must master, especially at dusk.

My first deer encounter, soon after our arrival, was difficult. Driving home with groceries, my 7-year-old daughter was in the front seat, her 4-year-old brother in the back. It was twilight, snowing lightly. and I never saw the doe and her fawn until it was too late.

The twin thuds were heartbreaking. I stopped and said, in my no-nonsense voice, “Do NOT leave this car.” I put on my flashers, got out, and walked around the hood to find the doe dragging herself toward the snow-covered field. I couldn’t see the fawn anywhere.

I really didn’t want to find him, but I needed to make sure he was off the road. I walked around the car once – nothing. Finally, on my hands and knees, I spotted him, inside the right front tire. I had to kneel behind the tire to reach him. He didn’t respond as I pulled his small, speckled body to the side of the road, fervently wishing that he were not tightly curled up as if asleep. I covered him with some snow, and stood over him for a minute, very upset about what I had done. I remember offering a prayer. I looked up to find both children staring, standing in the headlights.

At the dinner table that night, my husband, Tom asked his usual, “Well, what happened today?”

Before anyone else could speak, our boy piped up, “Mom killed Bambi.”

In the forty years since, I’ve never forgotten what he said, just as I’ve never forgotten sliding that small oval of baby deer to the berm.

That is probably why my recent encounter with “The King of the Hill” in the middle of Memorial Drive was so stunning. I’ll remember him also, a strong survivor in our deer-filled countryside.

Sadly, our deer collisions are routine.

Oh, Lord, if only you hadn’t made them so beautiful….

Marcy O’Brien lives in Warren with her husband, Richard, and Finian, their placid Maine Coon cat. Marcy can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com

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