Personal Musings

Deer in Autumn

Even though my sneezing and itchy, red eyes protest otherwise, autumn is my favorite time of year. I love going for walks in the woods during this season of ever-changing colors from green to red to yellow.

As my wife and I were walking down a trail yesterday, we interrupted a group of six deer munching on acorns that had fallen along the path. Five of the deer moved off the path about twenty yards away as we began to pass through. One deer stayed put, lowered her head, took to a defensive stance, and pinned her ears back.

It’s possible it was a he and not a she, though I didn’t see any buttons on the top of his head if it was a he. Males grow these around four to five months but noticeable antlers don’t appear until over a year old. This appeared to be a dominant and seasoned female based on its size. You know these things when you grow up with a dad who was a hunter, even if all you liked to shoot was aluminum cans in the creek near Hill Cross Road.

I see deer every day where I live, and always laugh because if my dad were alive (today is his birthday) and able to go on walks with me how he’d get a kick out of seeing our suburban deer who show little to no fear of humans. The bucks are a bit more elusive; but as a trail runner, it’s not an uncommon occurrence for me to see a monster buck with an unfathomable antler spread while out and about. I give those jokers a wide berth — lots of testosterone pumping through their loins.

As we continued down the path, I reminded my wife that a deer can indeed do a number on you if it feels threatened — and the pinned back ears and stance were a warning. I’ll pause here and say I do not live in fear of the deer, but they are wild animals and any wild animal, even a cornered squirrel, will go ape s—t on you if it thinks it’s in danger.

With That Said, Family Story Time

It happened to my Papa Pillow years ago when a deer found its way in through his truck window which was rolled down as he drove. I don’t recall the extent of his injuries but he looked like he’d been in the ring with Mike Tyson in his prime for a round. The deer batted him in the face with his front hooves. It had gotten stuck in the window when it jumped across the road, timing my Papa’s passing through perfectly. Well, not perfectly really.

I believe my grandpa’s collarbone was broken in the bout, too, but don’t quote me on that. It’s been almost two decades.

Back in the woods, my wife and I walked past the lone deer to our left while the other five deer of varying sizes — mamas and their now unspotted babies — looked on, curious at the upright, hairless chimpanzees in their midst.

Exiting the woods, the colors of the trees come into view all around us. Soon, they’ll all be on the ground blowing in the wind, blanketing my yard. I don’t bag their beauty in plastic and ship them off to a landfill. I collect them all and let each leaf break down naturally over time with the little help of a string trimmer, returning to the earth as compost and humus — and boy do I have a lot of it come spring for my gardens.

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