** 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.