My best friend Kirk — he’s a basset hound — and I were walking through the park across the street from our house. I was looking into the sun and at first thought I was seeing a mirage. I squint. I blink. The image is still there, and I see the guy on the tractor mower pointing, and I know it’s real. A pony? A big dog? Then I see the antlers. A deer! And before I can suck in my breath, I see another coming up behind him, also with antlers.
Two young male deer, or stags, as the mower calls them, seeming to think the park is their playground. They trot over by the fence and one jumps on the back of the other, then gets off, and they seem to study their predicament. “Should we jump it? Can we?” After a minute or so deliberation, they make a decision. They slowly trot off to the where the fence ends, and glide between the houses, vanishing into thin air.
Mind you, we live in an addition inside the city limits. And the deer aren’t my first rare sighting. One spring day I saw a snake in the creek about a block from the golf course where a coyote was out for a stroll. If the snake slithered a block the other direction it would have landed in my back yard where the biggest turtle I’ve ever seen, chose to rest. Not as big as (Churubusco’s) Oscar, but big enough that I was scared to go out and engage with it.
My wife at the time, frustrated with my cowardly behavior, put it on a shovel and turned it loose in the creek behind our house, where on Mother’s Day a few years back a mama duck and her baby were enjoying a leisurely swim. Several times I’ve seen a pair of ducks (I wonder why it’s ducks but not deers) cutting through my yard, making their way from the park to the creek. I hope their courtship lasts longer than my marriage.
This winter my other best friend, Prince, a nervous wreck of a golden retriever, appeared at the living room door with an object clamped between his teeth that looked like a basketball with fur on it. A closer inspection revealed it to be a possum.
It’s not moving but it could be “playing possum.” I know if it’s alive it’s not going to be in the best of moods, having spent the last 10 or 15 minutes balled up inside a dog’s mouth. I look for a suit of armor but remember I don’t have one, so I settle for gloves and a shovel with a long handle, take a deep breath, I mean a deep, deep breath, and put it on the shovel, and dump it in the creek.
A few months later my brothers and I are in the kitchen discussing divorce strategy — flee the country, fake my demise, join the foreign legion — when we see a hawk swoop down with but one thing on its mind: the squirrel running across the top of the fence. The squirrel is me. The hawk is the judge. I’m doomed. But somehow, some way, the squirrel wiggles away from the jaws of death.
I thought nothing could top that. Until I saw the deers. I mean deer.