Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Deer In The Drainage Ditch

Every once in a while, I run across something that reminds me that work isn't everything.

As I've mentioned, I live back in the trees in southern North Carolina, about six or seven miles from the South Carolina border. It's peaceful, especially now that we're nearing the first frost and the leaves in our hardwood forest behind the house have started their slow burn into a multi-hued palette of reds and yellows and oranges. As the afternoon sun shines through them, the entire back of the house takes on a glow of reflected rays that shine through the skylights and the window-wall that lines our den opening onto the deck.

It is, after all, my favorite time of year.

The other day, as I started out the front door to get the morning paper to read with breakfast, I stopped short as I glanced something through the glass beside the door. A large animal was walking across our front lawn.

I crossed into the dining room and deftly pulled open the shutters on the window.

There, on the grass, were five white-tail deer, grazing quietly between furtive glances to check for predators. We've seen deer regularly here in the woods, but never so close to the house, and never in such numbers. I don't know if they could see me through the glass - I have no idea what the visual acuity of deer might be - but if they could it didn't seem to bother them. They remained there for several minutes, until a school bus from the local elementary school chugged up the hill, and they scattered across the road into the pine barrens on the other side.

My daughter tells me that she's seen them several times, and that they live in the sheltering evergreens in the field across the street. I've seen them running there from time to time, but when I go walking over there I never seem to run across them.

On Saturday morning, I saw ten or so turkey buzzards circling over the field, swooping and drifting with the updrafts and thermals. I know what they eat, and what it means when they congregate in such numbers.

I quickly took a census of our cats, to make certain that none of them had come to a bad end, and then took a quick walk out in the field. Didn't see anything, but the next morning I only counted four deer in the front yard.

This is the season of the deer in the drainage ditch. White-tails have exploded in numbers in our community, and during the fall they have little on their walnut-sized minds except eating and making little deer. That makes them easy prey for automobiles. It seems that, every day, I see a new carcass lying by the side of the road. Somehow they disappear by the evening, but I can't help wondering if one of our deer wandered in front of an SUV and got scattered, and whether that isn't why we now have flocks of turkey buzzards circling over the barrens.

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