Thursday, April 10, 2008

oh, deer

I got home fairly late last night from my office, around ten p.m., and as I drove into the driveway spotted a yellow tabby cat running from the back of the house into the woods. The cat stopped just inside the tree line, and sat on a little hill, waiting for the car to go in the garage.

This wasn't great news - I immediately started thinking through the complications of incorporating another feline into an already ego-laden mix. When I got upstairs I headed right out to the back deck to see if the cat had come back.

It sounded like someone was hammering in the barn. I realized I hadn't yet seen my husband, and wondered if the horses had knocked a board loose or something. Maybe he was out there fixing it. But in the dark? The barn lights weren't on.

Back inside getting my barn shoes on, I was surprised by my husband wandering out of the bedroom, and it hit me - something strange was going on outside.

I hightailed it out there and came face to face with Keil Bay, who was, shall we say, knocking on the stall door with his knee. The front field is resting until the end of April and the horses are so ready for night-time turn-out. I turned on the lights and looked in the stall mangers. Empty. Keil Bay stood his ground, staring me down. WE NEED HAY.

I distributed hay and got everyone munching. Came inside to have a snack and take the dreaded antibiotic, then upstairs to check email. After ten minutes or so I heard Salina trumpet. It's her "someone is doing something he's not supposed to" call.

Back downstairs, back into barn shoes, I listened out the door. It sounded like someone was banging the gate to the front field. Aha - they're planning a paddock break! I took the big flashlight and headed out there.

As I went through the backyard gate into the barnyard, I realized there was a herd of deer right there with me. At first I thought Rafer Johnson had escaped and multiplied! But he poked his head out the back door of his stall and said hello, and I turned back to the deer. They did not run or whistle in fear. They just stood there, hoping, I suppose, that I would toss some hay and go back in the house. We stood all together for awhile under the crescent moon. It seemed none of us were going to make a move, so I upped the ante a little and turned on the flashlight. They didn't budge. I turned the light onto them, one by one, and checked them out. There were no deer in the headlight eyes. They calmly stood watching me. The horses by now were completely intrigued and all standing at their respective paddock fences watching the show. It really did look like an audience and a stage, with a spotlight dancing wildly over the cast and backdrop.

I took a few steps toward the deer. They continued to stay put. It was only when I got halfway across the barnyard that they hustled into the woods. Even then, they stayed close, not bounding down toward the back, but hovering, still hoping I would leave.

I checked out the gates to the front field. No tampering detected. Horses still had hay. I said goodnight a second time and came back up to the garret.

A few minutes later I heard a flurry of sounds outside my window. Walking of many feet, munching of grass. Had the horses escaped to this side of the house?

It was the herd of deer. They came back out of the woods and marched right down the drive to my window, where they stopped and grazed. After awhile, they continued down the drive to the strip they love, and perhaps after that they jumped the fence into the front field and had themselves a feast.

Deer represent gentleness and awakening to new adventure. In Celtic lore, deer are fairy cattle and divine messengers.

It was a busy night! (and I'm leaving out the whole section of the story where the yellow tabby returned to the front porch for a 3-way stare-down with Apollo Moon and Dickens E. Wickens, who had to be carried bodily in)


Mamie said...

This is the kind of post that brings me back again and again to your blog. Beautiful.

billie said...

Thank you, Mamie. I so appreciate your words. I am eagerly awaiting Peggy's response to the closet challenge today! I am still feeling liberated by posting that photo, inspired by you. :)

Victoria Cummings said...

I have such mixed emotions about deer. I love them, but they carry Lyme Disease here and eat all our plants. So, we chase them away. I was just reading an article in the NY Times about how deer have multiplied to over 7 times the number that can be sustained here in a healthy environment. They are being killed by cars more frequently and are starving. Several people I know have rescued orphan deer, which you aren't supposed to do. I hope I'm never faced with that choice - I don't think I could just let a baby deer fend for itself.

billie said...

We have a fairly long hunting season here and between that and death by vehicle, the herds seem to be relatively controlled. I've actually seen less deer each year we've lived here.

Matthew made the observation this morning that this is really their space, and I guess that's how I think about it. We're sharing it, if anything.

Given that I am taking antibiotics for a tick bite, you'd think I'd make some connection and chase the deer away, but I never seem to. We don't have the Lyme disease numbers that you do up north by any means.

I read someplace at some point about "deer stations" you can install at the edges of your property - the deer rub between two panels that applies something similar to Frontline for dogs, ridding the deer of the ticks and breaking the ticks' breeding cycle. There were mini versions as well, for mice!

All that said, I am very seriously considering getting a small flock of guineas and have actually located a guinea farm nearby where we can get eggs and hatch them out ourselves, or get keets already hatched.

Rising Rainbow said...

Those deer are eating the grass you are trying to grow up for your horses. They're probably thinking you're saving it just for them. lol

billie said...

MiKael, you cynic! :) With my very easy keeping five, we can afford to share with the deer.

Grey Horse Matters said...

The deer can be brazen at times, I once came home to find a deer on my front stoop eating a wreath on the front door. She wouldn't leave until I blew the horn. We have them here almost everyday and they drive the dog's crazy. Like Victoria said they are a nuisance and they eat all our plants and shrubs, but there is no way to stop them coming in the yard and so they are here to stay. I like the fact that they were not in the least afraid of you and came back after you left. I guess you're not very scary.

billie said...

Oh my - eating your wreath! I can see if you have so many and they're so bold, it could be a problem. Here, they're a welcome part of my landscape.

Of course, I even get a kick out of the carpenter bees, so... :)

Creatures I can do without include fire ants, fleas, ticks, flies of all kinds.