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The Dinner Party

** If you are squeamish, you might want to skip this week’s post, but remember to come back next week.**

For the past 15 years I have had a love/hate relationship with the neighborhood herds of white-tailed deer. At first, seeing these animals running through our yard was thrilling. Discovering the leftovers of their overnight feasts on our landscaping was not so thrilling. I researched and then bought deer-resistant plants. They didn’t enjoy my new offerings, but they still ate enough of them to ruin the garden. I tried every possible foul-smelling yet humane way to deter them from eating my flowers. Usually, the only creatures successfully deterred from the garden were the humans. When we installed a fence 5 years ago, the deer buffet closed and the nightly floral binges ceased. Since then, the deer stay on their side of the fence eating the sacrificial landscaping and I happily grow my flowers inside the safe zone.

It is not unusual to see deer sauntering past our fence or resting under the pine trees. We’ve even found one standing on our front porch. However, when I woke up and saw one reclining comfortably against the fence watching the world go by, I was surprised. She wasn’t bothering me or the garden so I didn’t bother her. As long as she stayed on her side of the fence we would all get along just fine. I snapped a photo to show Oregano and by the time I came back downstairs she had wandered off to greener, fenceless pastures. A few days later, I noticed her sitting under an oak tree in a pile of leaves. When Oregano and I went up to bed, she was still sitting there moving her head and flicking her little white tail.

The next morning, Oregano and I prepared to go to work. From downstairs in the kitchen I heard him say, “Uh-oh!”

Immediately, I ran to the top of the stairs and yelled down, “What’s wrong?”

“I think there is a problem with that deer we saw last night,” he answered.

“Please don’t tell me she got inside the fence and caused a bunch of damage,” I replied.

“Nope, she’s definitely not causing any trouble. You might want to look out the window up there.”

I walked to the window and looked down to see a dead deer lying on its side just a few feet from the back of the fence. A cursory forensic assessment revealed no obvious signs of trauma. She was too far from the street to have been involved in a motor vehicle encounter. There weren’t any babies so she didn’t die during childbirth. We concluded that she must have died from natural causes.

Unfortunately, she is not the first deer to die on the premises. Three years ago we experienced our first death. Being naïve about such things, we called the police, animal control and the homeowners’ association management company to find out what to do. Each of them suggested that we drag the dearly departed to the curb for the township to come and collect. The idea of schlepping the carcass of a buck through the yard to the curb was repulsive to us. Since the property on which it was lying was technically not ours, we refused to do this and told the property manager that it was his responsibility. He replied, “I’m new to this job. If this was a squirrel, I would know what to do.”

“Sir, if this was a squirrel, I’d be back there with a shovel and a hefty bag, not talking to you on the phone. This dead animal is considerably larger than a squirrel and I’m not dragging it 50 yards to the curb,” I said getting irritated by his stupidity.

He told me he would do some research and promised to call me back later that same day. He did not. In the ensuing days it took me to actually speak to him again, we woke up to find a herd of live deer gathered in a circle around the recently deceased in a type of deer memorial service. The day after the funeral, nature’s undertakers, the turkey vultures, appeared and we were treated to a gruesome display worthy of an Animal Planet documentary. While it was fascinating to witness the life cycle, I didn’t want my couch to be a front row seat to the process. Closing the curtains to this spectacle didn’t offer much comfort since we have skylights and could see the vultures circling.

The disgust prompted by the sight of internal organs strewn through our yard prompted me to begin my “shock and ewwww” campaign. I made it my business to thoroughly gross out every person I spoke to on the phone at the management company until this poor creature was removed. I wasn’t angry and I didn’t yell. I maintained a polite, concerned tone to my voice and simply used my extensive vocabulary to vividly describe the situation. It was my version of a daily status update. After 6 days, the property manager said he’d be out that afternoon to remove the remains. I told him that the buck would me much easier to lift now that it was no longer intact.

Seeing our most recent deceased deer brought back memories of squawking birds and flying fur. This time the situation was a bit more dire. With temperatures forecasted to rise into the mid 80s over the weekend, decomposition would begin quickly and we were having a dinner party in our dining room which had a close-up, unobstructed view of the dearly departed. As I drove to work, my mind was racing. How could I possibly seat my parents at the dining room table so they wouldn’t see the carcass through the large picture window? I realized that I could face them away from the body, but then I would have to look at it. That wasn’t going to work. What would Martha Stewart do? When I arrived at work I called Oregano with a solution to our problem, “Plan B. We’re taking my parents out to dinner tomorrow night.”

“We don’t need to do that. She’s not there anymore,” he said.

“She moved? She wasn’t dead? She really didn’t look like she was just sleeping,” I said incredulously.

“I didn’t say she moved. I said she’s not there anymore. I dragged her to the curb,” he said triumphantly.

“You what?!” I shouted into the phone.

“I was repulsed by the idea of moving her, but after what happened the last time, I realized that moving her was the least disgusting option available.  At first I was afraid to touch her in case she was only mostly dead, but then I realized she was all the way dead.” he said calmly.

With plastic bags on his hands and bile in his mouth, Oregano had repositioned the deer and lovingly dragged her carcass 50 yards to the curb then swept away the trail of fur left behind.

“You have never been more masculine to me than you are at this moment,” I said as relief washed over me. “Some women have husbands who take out the garbage or kill spiders. I have a husband who will drag the carcass of a large mammal out to the curb. You’re my hero”

Oregano's reward for his act of bravery; the big cookie he has always fantasized about customized just for him.

That night I called my parents, Falafel and Hummus, to tell them of our unexpected dinner guest and of their son-in-law’s heroics. They said they admired his bravery and strong stomach then e-mailed us recipes for venison.

We had a delicious and uneventful dinner with my parents until it was time for dessert. Falafel looked out the window and said, “Wow! What was that bird?”

“That would be a vulture.” I replied matter-of-factly without even looking up from my pound cake.

The vultures arrived for their dinner party.

“Where did it go? I want to see,” said Hummus as she jumped out of her chair and leaned closer to the picture window. Falafel pointed out the turkey vulture sitting in a tree branch that was obviously straining under its weight.

“Will there be more than one vulture eating the deer?” Hummus asked excitedly.

“They don’t usually dine alone. I guess we’re not the only ones having a dinner party this evening,” I said to the backs of their heads.

“Look! There’s another one,” said Falafel pointing to the trees near the carcass.

“Let’s see if there is a better view from the family room,” said Hummus already en route to the sliding glass doors.

“Oh yeah, Falafel, the view is better in here. Come see! There are even more vultures now.” Falafel high-tailed it into the family room and peered out the doors.

“You know, the doors open and you are welcome to go out into the garden for a better look,” I said sarcastically. “If we had known you would be so enthralled by this experience, we would have left the deer where she died. You would have had a much better view and could have watched from the comfort of the dining room table.”

Before I could say another word, Hummus was out in the garden with Falafel not far behind. Oregano stayed inside and Googled turkey vultures so he could answer some of their questions. They were absolutely mesmerized by the scene unfolding at the curb. When the wind shifted and we got a whiff of the deceased, we went back inside.

Hummus looked at the clock, “Wow! It’s getting late. We should hit the road.”

“If we drive around the back, we can get a closer look,” said Falafel.

The "deerly" departed relaxing against our fence just days before her untimely passing.

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

58 responses »

  1. I love how you pick out the names of your characters. I’m backtracking on your posts and this is definitely one of my favorites. 🙂

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. I still can’t believe my husband dragged that poor dead deer to the curb.

      Thanks for letting me know that you think the names of my family friends are fun. I tried to think of a way to keep their privacy and make it fun. Everyone I know is now asking me to give them a spice/food name.

  2. Ugh. Don’t know how I missed this one except I’ve been busy. Very nice post, Paprika. And, yes, Oregano deserves a special dinner out, a trip to his favorite weekend spot, and back rubs galore. That’s pretty spectacular what he did for you.

    I’ve been working on my “deer story” for months now. I’ll probably publish it on the anniversary, which is coming up in a few weeks. Our deerly departed left behind suckling twins which we watched grow up (completely wild) and “fledge” on our property last summer.

    • Oregano earned high praise and is still being rewarded for his brave actions. The look of surprise on his face when I presented him with that giant cookie was probably the same look of surprise I had on my face when he told me what he had done.

      As upsetting as it was to see the deer dead behind our fence, it would have been even more upsetting to see babies left behind.

      Looking forward to reading your deer story.

  3. What an adventure! It is really me, pix & kardz, by the way, and on my smart phone which is not smart enough to allow me to comment using my usual moniker.
    This could so have been a TV episode of some kind. Unreal. Thanks for sharing. And congrats to Oregano for the cookie!

    • It really felt like some sort of TV show, but I’m not sure if that show would have been on Comedy Central or Animal Planet.

      Oregano thoroughly enjoyed his cookie and ate the entire thing by himself.

  4. Thankfully, I’ve never seen the remains of a ‘deerly’ departed. I did witness a rabbit that came to mourn a buddy that had been struck and killed by a car. It was an odd sight. Glad Oregano came thru. Love when that happens.

    • I am sooooo grateful to Oregano for “taking one for the team” I know that no matter how much I might have wanted to do that, I would have never been able to do it.

      I guess having a deer die on/near our property is te price we pay for living out here in the semi-countryside. Let’s hope when the time comes for another deer to go to the great forest in the sky, she’ll choose someone else’s yard to breathe her final breaths.

  5. This totally reminds me of an episode of the sitcom Frasier where a dead seal carcass washes up on shore during a party (side note: my uncle was at the party that inspired the episode as he was friends with the Frasier executive producer). But no one there was smart enough to do anything to help the situation. Oregano — what a hero!

    I never thought of what a pain it’d be to have deer on your property. Not the postcard scene I’d imagine.

    In happier news, I see Oregano got his big cookie!

    • Thanks for sharing that story, Angie. How cool that your uncle knew the exec producer of Frasier and was at a party that inspired and episode.

      Oregano definitely earned his fantasy big cookie. He was so surprised when I gave it to him. He managed to eat this big cookie without dropping any of it on the floor. I guess he can cross that off his bucket list now.

  6. Are you sure it was the township/garbage collector that came to remove the deer and not some local restaurant???? Better check the paper for places running a special this week.

  7. Oh Dog! I guess that means there’s a leash law that’s strictly adhered to in your area? We used to live in a rural area and dead animals meant all the neighborhood dogs had a dinner party.

  8. I think your parents have the absolute best names on the planet. The post was great, all right, but, man, those names….

    • All of my friends and family are excited about choosing a food or spice name when they are included in a post. I gave my parents a few choices and they absolutely LOVED Falafel and Hummus. They are now even signing their e-mails to me with their new monikers.

  9. There are a lot of deer in my neighborhood, too. I regularly have deer in my yard, lying in my garden or staring at my rabbit in his hutch. I’ve never considered that one might die on my property! Yikes.

  10. Chuckled over the post. Welcome to life in the wilderness….sort-of…Deer/lawn ornaments sound just fine except they eat absolutely everything. It was nice the deer had a quiet spot. Dragging it to the curb was just such a hero thing to do. (they smell terrible rotting and the flies! – and there’s that health hazard issue…animal control probably would have removed it here. Home owners association are just about worthless.) Glad it worked out.

    • You aren’t kidding about them eating everything. Even the plants that are listed as deer-resistant get eaten, just not devoured.

      I can’t believe Oregano was able to drag her to the curb and I am soooooo glad I wasn’t home to witness it.

      When the first deer died in the yard I did call the health department when I wasn’t getting a response from the HOA. None of the public agencies would come onto private property to retrieve the carcass and because it was common land belonging to the HOA they considered it private property. The HOA was absolutely useless which is why Oregano stepped up to the plate this time around.

  11. This was one of the bravest things I’ve done in my life. The hard part was getting started. I was afraid that the deer might still be alive. Once I got going, it wasn’t so bad.

    When I got it all the way to the curb, I looked back and there was a clear white line of fur marking the path of the journey. I immediately felt the need to “erase” the line, so we wouldn’t be suspected of foul play. I suppose there’s something innately wrong about moving a body, whether it’s human or not.

  12. I clicked ‘liked’ but that’s not exactly what I mean.

  13. Oh my. I suppose such is life–we must “carrion” . . .

  14. rosemary and basil

    What an adventure! My backyard is very tame by comparison!

  15. What? You saw a sick deer leaning on your fence and didn’t think to call a Deer Vet? They specialize in North Jersey homes, where home dwellers sometimes resort to guns, poisons or grenades to keep the “large rats” away from their prize roses.
    The vet could have removed the deer to the hospital, you would have been saved the trauma, and all you’d have to deal with would be a $10,000 deer vet charge.

    • Is there really a deer vet service in NJ? I had no idea. If I knew she was sick or injured I would have called someone to come help her, but I’m not footing (or is it hoofing) the bill for it. I can only imagine the veterinary costs.

  16. My sympathies. We too get a lot of deer here in PA. Last winter we had one that was hurt. It looked like a broken leg to me but what do I know. I called every animal agency to see if they could do rehab. As it turned out, no one rehabs deer because they are difficult to handle — they get frightened and do a lot of damage or kill themselves. In the end, the deer spent about 2 weeks with us rehabbing himself. We haven’t seen him since (actually don’t know what sex it was but there were no antlers and it was young). We have a pond, very tasty shrubs and no dogs so it was quite happy here. Sigh.

  17. You obviously are not living anywhere near me… West Virginia we even have an annual Road Kill Cook-Off competition. In reality the meats used for that are not carrion, but it is legal in this state as well as Tennessee (I moved from there) to pick up roadkill and take it home. At least yours was fresh! LOL

  18. I can send the coyotes from the park I walk in to help with the feast!

  19. How stomach churningly brave of Oregano! I find it difficult enough to remove the small bodies of rodents the cat has lovingly deposited at the front door. The idea of moving a deer carcass is another matter entirely.

    Love the cookie!

  20. Hilarious!!! I hate to tell you, but your family is as crazy as mine. Possibly crazier. 🙂

  21. Dear lord, am I glad I don’t live where there are deer! I am thinking that the biggest thing I might have die on my property is a male racoon, or a big dog. To think, I thought my husband was a hero for removing dead gophers from the pool!

  22. Uncle Sea Salt

    I know Falafel & Humos. All I can say is if her recipe for Vulture is nearly as good as her pot roast; don’t miss the meal!

  23. I’ll give the wolves the address next time – it will save a lot of effort. My paleontology professor used to talk about the “gruesome business of taphonomy” – studying carcasses on the African plain – where the average lifespan of a dead animal was about 17 minutes. Apparently, your neighborhood is lacking in major players – the turkey vultures are nice, but not as effective as a large carnivore! Enjoyed the Animal Planet segment!

  24. isthisthemiddle

    I found myself humming to the immortal lines of the Coroner in the Wizard of Oz while reading your post:
    “…I thoroughly examined her and she’s not only merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead.”
    Love your blog. 😉

    • I totally forgot about the Coroner from The Wizard of Oz, but you are absoultely right! When Oregano told me that he was afraid she wasn’t totally dead all I could think of was the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. They were coming around collecting people who died from the plague and one man kept saying, “I’m not dead yet.”

      So glad you are enjoying the blog. Thanks so much for taking the time to tell me 🙂

  25. I’m glad a good story could come from such a tragedy. Having a carcass at the curb is clearly the best form of entertainment for guests.

    Oregano earned that big cookie. I hope this one didn’t fall on the floor!

    • I’m happy to report that this big cookie did not fall to the floor. Oregano ate the entire thing by himself over the course of two days. The smile on his face when I surprised him with that cookie was priceless.


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