They’re growing bolder. Almost every night I see them as I run along the trail that winds its gentle way along the little creek. The Lovely Lady even saw them with me as we sped along one night last week.
There are sometimes as many as eight of them watching warily as I leave the trees and pass quickly through the tiny field in which they graze. Oh! Did I not tell you? Deer–a little herd of whitetail deer right in the middle of our small town.
A few nights ago, as I ran along the edge of that field in the misty rain, I startled a couple of them just as they prepared to cross the road. One, a doe, sped across the pavement with three, maybe four bounds, her big white tail flicking in the dim light. Her companion, a yearling buck, turned tail and fled back into the field a few feet, where he turned and watched, trembling at my approach. As I passed the spot where he had stood mere seconds before, I facetiously waved my arms at him with an exaggerated traffic-cop motion, speaking to him as I did.
“Your turn, buddy. Move on across.”
To my amazement, he made a run for it just then. Was it my motion he was waiting for? Maybe the dulcet tones of my voice falling on his ear convinced him that all was well. Or perhaps, the thought of his lady friend watching him from the other side as she began to have second thoughts about his courage gave him the impetus. After all, she had advanced in the face of danger, while he had retreated. Whatever went through his tiny brain in that instant, he was in the center of the road in a flash, just in time to jump right in front of the oncoming car which neither he nor I had noticed.
Fortunately, that night was not the night for him to meet a disaster. His lightning fast reflexes kicked in and he leapt quickly aside as the driver jerked the steering wheel and stomped on his brake pedal to save his car from damage. My last glance of the little bud-horn was as he and his companion streaked up the wooded hillside on the other side of the road, headed deeper into the residential area than I expect they had intended.
I didn’t think much more of the event until tonight. As I said before, they are growing bolder.
I see them more and more often as I jog the trail late at night, especially near the spot where I got my concussion, a couple of years ago. I expect that I have become somewhat of a legend for them, one they have passed on to succeeding generations after my spectacular bicycle wreck that night. I can just hear the old grandmother deer as she tells the bedtime story to the little fawns while they lie around under the ferns on their beds of oak leaves and pine needles.
“And then the crazy human on his flimsy two-wheeled machine came flying down the mountain. I stood and waited for the last possible instant and jumped right out from under the shadow of that maple tree. Right under his nose, I moved, so fast I nearly flew myself. He never touched me, but he certainly did touch the hard black stuff he was rolling down. His machine came over on top of him, scraping him and making him bleed. You should have heard him scream!”
I think the youngsters that watch me nightly from the shadows on that hillside are laughing at my foolishness. Night after night I run that hill. Many times during the daytime I still come down it like a madman on my two-wheeled machine, but I will not go that way again by night on my bike. The hand that is burned learns its lesson well.
One laughed at me tonight as I ran up the hill. I heard her chuckle (I did!), right before she retreated to a safe distance through the trees. But, just a couple of hundred feet up the trail, I saw a sight which was even more strange.
As I jogged breathlessly along, having just ascended that steep hill, all I could see of the young doe was her tawny body, standing some distance on up the trail. My view of her head was blocked by a decorative light post in between her and me. She couldn’t see me, but she did hear me and she smelled me. She kept her body stock still and moved her neck just enough to bring her head, with her big ears perfectly erect, to the right side of the post. I moved over on the trail until her head was again behind the post and kept advancing toward her. She moved her head to the left side of the post until she could see me once more. Of course, you know what I did. Yep, I moved over until she could no longer see me.
Twice more we repeated the dance move. By then, I was not much more than ten feet away from the little brown beauty. She decided that it was time to take more drastic measures, and she bolted into the woods and down the embankment just below the trail, crashing and scattering limbs and leaves as she went.
It was, without question, the first time I have ever played peek-a-boo with a whitetail deer. What an interesting feeling!
There are, however, two very salient points to be aware of, even as we smile at the antics of these too-trusting animals.
Understanding that my fancy about the little buck following my instructions to cross the street is no doubt in error, the experience still gives pause for thought. How often in a day’s time do we follow the lead of people whose credentials we have no knowledge of? That person who is telling you to substitute one medication for another–do you know what the basis of their conjecture is? Do they have training to make such judgments?
Not close enough to home yet? How about the person who teaches your child in Sunday School? Or in their regular school classes? Do you know what they believe? Do you want your children to believe that? You would want to be sure that someone who repaired the brakes on your automobile understood brakes on automobiles. The result for ignorance could be physical disaster. How much more important is it to know that those to whom we hand over responsibility for our children’s (and even for our own) instruction are qualified and competent.
The stupid little fellow took instructions on crossing the street from me, a perfect, and completely incompetent, stranger!
And what of the other deer–the one that played peep-eye with me tonight? What possible point is there to be made there?
It’s clear, is it not, that with every delay in running the pretty little doe’s danger increased? Her Creator made her fearful of man and other predators for a reason. The defense mechanism that has been instilled in her from birth will serve her well for a lifetime of escapes, if she uses it in a timely manner. She failed that test tonight.
If I had intended her harm, she would have been mine. I could not have missed with a shot from a gun or even a bow. I might even have been able to throw a knife into her heart from that distance.
She was in mortal danger and she played games!
I’m not going to insult anyone by dragging this out any further, except to say this: I have been a game-player. I still am. Again, experience teaches. I hope I learn before disaster strikes. I am, as has been demonstrated often, a slow learner.
Second chances are more plentiful in my world than in the world of the deer. I will be eternally grateful for that. Grace covers…
I do wonder if they’ll be telling more stories of their meetings with the wild bicycle crasher tonight?
Really, I’m just positive I heard that other deer chuckle before she headed into the woods!
“He is most free from danger, who, even when safe, is on his guard.”
(Publilius Syrus ~ Latin writer ~ ca. First century BC)
“He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.”
(Psalm 18:33 ~ NLT)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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