It’s deer hunting season in Minnesota. Every year at this time I am reminded of my first buck. I’ve never even had a hunting license—but I do have a driver’s license (and, apparently, a warped sense of humor).
My dad had recently purchased a yellow Reliant K station wagon for me to drive at college. It was a reliable car and I enjoyed driving it. During an autumn afternoon, when I was home from college, my mom and I were returning from doing errands in town. We were a few miles from home when a buck pranced out of a ditch on my right side (where he must have been practicing ballet), jumped up, kicked my K car’s headlight and bumper in mid-air and then did a somersault across the road into the other ditch. It all happened so quickly that I never slowed down. There had been no time for me to react in any way other than to laugh at its sweet moves. As I continued driving home I said, “Hey! I got my first buck of the season!” I looked at my mom, expecting to hear a laugh in response to my witty comment. But she was pale and resting one hand on her chest and clutching the door handle with the other. I guess she didn’t see the humor in the situation.
I have been humored by deer for a long time—ever since I was a kid on one of our family road trips. We were out west, traveling on the interstate in our big white Mercury Marquis. I was sitting in the back seat on the right side looking out the window at the scenery. I saw a deer come running out from a ditch. My dad saw it at the same time and accelerated. I don’t know how fast we were going but it made me and my sister say, “Yee-haw!” as we lunged backwards. The deer had apparently been in a previous accident and was rebuilt with bionic parts, because it actually caught up to our car and decided to run alongside of it. It ran right next to my back window and stared into my eyes for a considerable amount of time. It looked like it was smiling at me. My dad accelerated even more and the deer finally turned and ran down into the ditch. I fell back into my seat and laughed deliriously.
Even though I know that deer-car encounters can be deadly, every time I see a deer I think of being face to face with one in my parents’ backseat and can’t help but think that they are really funny. I admit, it wasn’t quite as funny when I was an adult responsible for dealing with insurance and arranging repairs when deer have charged into my husband’s cars, but I still find myself laughing at them often. Many years ago, my kids and I were with my husband when a deer hit the side of his car close to home. A couple days later my kids and I saw a deer standing on three legs on the hillside near our house and one of its front legs was dangling up in the air, waving back and forth. We all choked with laughter as the look on its face seemed to be saying, “Just wanted to say ‘Hi’ again.”
A few years ago, an entire herd of deer appeared in the field behind our house. My kids and I watched from the backyard in amazement as the leader of the deer gang communicated with the rest of the herd by stamping his front hoof on the ground. The first time he did it they all got into a triangular formation. He stamped again and they all turned the same direction—just like soldiers. The kids and I were speechless as we witnessed their intelligent communication. Then a deer stood up in the field on its hind legs with its front legs up in the air. It squatted and looked like a deformed kangaroo. My kids and I stared at it, trying to figure out what it was trying to communicate. Then it took a dump in the field. We almost died laughing. The whole herd looked at us indignantly and took off running.
I find myself laughing a lot this time of year, because, despite the damage they can cause, I still think deer are really funny.
I wish I could see deer everyday – at a safe distance – so that I can get back in the habit of laughing daily.
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© 2016 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
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