Sunday, July 28, 2013

elliott and the deer

8 o’clock Saturday night
I am sitting at the kitchen table. Elliott sits in the west yard on the south edge near the field, staring into a patch of daisies and Queen Anne’s lace. Slowly moving in from the north are two deer, grazing all the way, about ten, fifteen feet out into the field. Elliott is aware of their presence, now and again glancing back over his shoulder. Deer #1 spots Elliott. Elliott hunkers down, sinks low into the grass. Deer #1 now only a few feet away.

Elliott and deer #1.

Deer #2 moves in. Elliott lays low. Deer #1 stamps his left front hoof, his right front hoof, then his left again. Deer #2 closes in. Deer #1 moves away. Deer #2 comes closer—Elliott is up and away! To the porch! Both deer start, stop, lunge forward, back, then move in to sniff around the daisies, sniff all around where Elliott sat.

“Hey Mortimer, where’d he go?”
Deer #1 and #2.

Elliott is safe on the porch.

Hum de hum de hum.

The deer roam the west yard, head out into the field.

Earlier, while eating dinner, I had seen Elliott dash across the yard into the garage. Two deer followed, pacing back and forth, peering into the building. Soon Elliott’s head appeared peeking around the corner. He began walking slowly to the cabin.


Elliott walks, deer watches.

The deer followed.

With deer trailing, Elliott passes through the broccoli patch.

I opened the front door, Elliott walked in, meowed, sat, began his ablutions.

This thing between Elliott and the deer has been going on all week. At first I thought it was just one particular deer, but the deer Friday night was different from the two deer last night, and Friday night’s deer—the one with the fawn—is probably different from Sadie, the deer who came by earlier that day and was here off and on throughout the week and Sunday night, when my neighbor Julie stopped by.

Julie arrived on her magenta bicycle laden with various-sized sticks she’d collected for firewood. The winds late last week uprooted trees over in L’Anse and out this way branches fell. The past several mornings have been in the 40s and 50s and the past few days have stayed in the 50s, which is all rather beside the point, unless it is the kooky weather that brings deer around to stare at Elliott.

Sunday night the deer was in the field, just a few feet out from the yard. Julie and I sat on the porch, talking softly. Elliott lolled around nearby. The deer stayed in place, grazing. I explained to Julie that I thought the deer was hanging around because of Elliott, because she was interested in him, and Julie brought up the idea that maybe there was a fawn nearby. I didn’t know, had not seen one. I told Elliott to go out into the yard to draw the deer in. He paused a moment, then stepped off the porch and walked across the yard, into the tall grass on the far side. The deer, now named Sadie, watched.

Elliott had disappeared, but I figured he was on the edge of the field, close to the yard. Sadie, several feet away, nibbled at the head-high grass and red-headed clover while making her way over to where Elliott had disappeared. Julie and I chatted about people and plants and weather, cats and dogs and things, and then Sadie stopped. Her ears, like big-cupped antenna, rotated forward, and she went into the Elliott stare. After a moment, she took a cautious step, eyes and ears focused, neck stretched low. Elliott emerged from the lush green border walking slowly, deliberately, back to the porch. Sadie moved forward, seemed to investigate thoroughly a vacated spot near the edge of the field.

Sadie showed up now and again throughout the week, standing on the edge of the field, watching the cabin, maybe traversing the lawn, and if Elliott was out she would approach him slowly and he would sit still for a bit before making his way to the porch. Sadie would follow, coming close, but never too close.

Friday morning I was finishing up some candle work at the kitchen table when I noticed her lurking about once again. Elliott was inside for his morning snooze. That evening, as I was filling a pan with water at the kitchen sink, I noticed Sadie in the north field. Then I saw the fawn. My heart melted and my knees buckled. I grabbed onto the edge of the counter. I almost felt like crying. Fawns must be the darn cutest animal on this planet. I could barely see the little guy—he was no taller than the grass and flowers—but in flashes I caught sight of his white-spotted back and his little pale brown head. Just this little head with those big big ears.

Sadie and her fawn.

Elliott was inside for his afternoon snooze, so Sadie and her fawn moved on. I proceeded with dinner.

When Elliott was ready to go out for his evening constitutional, Sadie and her fawn were on the far west side of the yard. By the time I grabbed the camera the fawn had turned tail, bouncing and bounding away through the field, little white tail high. But not so Sadie. Sadie had seen Elliott and wasted little time in her approach.

I settled on the west side of the porch; Sadie walked though the yard veering to the south, coming up to us from that direction. I noticed a scar on her left side. The deer I had been calling Sadie did not have a scar, so here was a clue—perhaps there was more than one deer hanging around, interested in Elliott. Also, this deer seemed slightly larger than Sadie, but, nonetheless, I still called her Sadie. The bold Sadie, as she came up to within three or four feet of the porch and stood there, staring at Elliott, all eyes and ears and big black nose, skinny knock-kneed legs, fine brown fur and slender beige neck. Elliott had been moving around the porch in a rather nonchalant way, first behind me, rubbing up against my back, then sitting next to me, my dear pal, then heading back to the door, rubbing up against it, settling down on the mat.

Sadie stared.

Elliott looked off that-away.

Sadie stamped a broad black hoof.

Elliott, it seemed, could not care less.

Sadie stamped her hoof again. Stamped the other hoof. Back and forth, stamping hooves. Then she snorted, the same snort I have heard during the winter when I am walking in the snowy fields and suddenly see white tails bounding away. But Sadie was holding firm. Stamping and snorting and staring at Elliott who was just minding his own business, on the mat by the door.

Elliott and Sadie.

After a bit, Sadie drifted away. Elliott and I went inside.

This morning it rains, holds steady at 45 degrees. Fire in the stove, Elliott snoozing on the sofa. The deer are bedded down in the fields or maybe beneath a clump of trees, or maybe they are grazing, idly nipping off the heads of clover and lace, munching dogwood twigs, pondering a world of such strange creatures as Elliott.