Friday, July 13, 2007

Seventy-Five, A New Record

I counted seventy-five deer while on my evening walk tonight. Yes, I can be prone to exaggeration, but no, this is not one of those times. I came first upon a group of only four, a buck and three does. I startled them with my crunching footsteps on the dry, gravelly sand of the country road. These four were noteworthy, and so I will come back to them later in the post.

Soon after, I came upon what I thought at first to be about a dozen, grazing casually in a field of grain on their way down to the river to have some drinks with friends. They too were startled and I counted them as they ran off, white flag tails bobbing behind them in the fading light. When the last of them had passed, I had counted twenty-seven in all, a little more than my original estimate, as some had been hidden by trees and tall grass.

Twenty-seven plus four; thirty-one deer sighted in a matter of ten minutes. I was impressed, but I continued walking, coincidently all the way to “27,” as my kids and I call our typical turnaround point.

The nickname of this particular bend in the road is worthy of a footnote here. It was established when the kids and I were driving the country lane in our car one morning several weeks ago. We came slowly around a sharp, blind curve and were surprised to find a pretty brown calf standing there, having somehow made it out of his fenced pasture and looking rather bewildered at the fact that he was now separated from his mama. We saw him before he saw us and stopped to watch him. When he did turn and find himself face to face with a passenger vehicle with children hanging out the windows, he nearly jumped out of his calfskin. We laughed, and as we started to drive on we noted that he was wearing an orange ear tag that marked him as #27. Thus, a landmark was born. The next major bend in the road, of course, we now call “28,” and so on. It is a completely illogical system, we know, but it works for us.

So, after I had turned around at 27, it occurred to me that the big group of twenty-seven deer may very well be on their way back from the local bar by now, as the road isn’t far from the river there. Sure enough. I soon came upon the same herd, doing just that. Poor dears, I startled them again.

Twenty-seven twice, plus four equals fifty-eight.

I figured I was done, as the small group of four was surely bedded down for the night by then, but I was wrong. Not only did I see the four again, but thirteen more beyond them!

Twenty-seven twice, plus four twice, plus thirteen more is seventy-five deer over the course of thirty minutes, in a span of just under two miles. Amazing.

My family won’t believe me when I tell them. I walked alone tonight and later than usual, as the guys had just returned from their exhausting but exhilarating backpacking trip and had no interest in a brisk, three mile walk (more on their trip later), and Elli chose to stay home when given the option. But it’s true. Seventy-five deer.

Oh, back to the original group of four, the buck and three does. I was walking alongside a field of corn, not yet full grown, but standing about five feet high, when I heard a strange and sudden rustling sound coming from the cornfield. When I turned, I saw the most magnificent sight: The four deer, startled as they were, began to bound away toward the river at my approach. However, the corn was taller than they were, so only at the peak of every leap could they be seen above the surface of the field. Between bounds, they seemed to disappear altogether. I stood and watched them go, mesmerized. It reminded me of dolphins in the sea, breaking the surface rhythmically as they play in the heavy swells. It was absolutely beautiful.

Ah, rural life.

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