The girls come through our yard on a regular schedule. At least that’s what we’ve called these early-morning visitors. Most times it’s just before sunrise. They stick to the same pattern, but it takes an early riser to see them, standing there in the twilight with watchful brown eyes surveying the tree line.
Sometimes they bring last year’s offspring. We’ve seen as many as five of them threading their way up the hill from our neighbor’s backyard, delicately picking their way around the rock and brush pile on the west side of the house. They never seem to do any serious eating, but they browse the tips of lilac buds and munch on some of the flowers. Hostas? Here? You’re kidding, right?
If you live in the North Country, deer are everywhere. Ask the daily commuter who drives a distance to work, or the retiree going to the Corner Café to catch up on local gossip. In addition to news worth hearing or the occasional racy rumor, they’ll tell you stories of near misses or worse yet, collisions that have guaranteed a visit to their insurance agent or body shop.
Our household has two predawn risers. The domestic routine has evolved over the years. Gone is the old glass percolator with the metal coffee ground basket inside. Now the schedule involves a more sophisticated caffeine production. The lady of the house knows her way around a latte maker, and I’m good as an all-weather trudger to the blue Duluth News Tribune delivery box.
On these journeys to the street, there’s usually a welcoming committee staring in mute surprise at the appearance of a grizzled older gentleman who has no shame when it comes to his wardrobe — red plaid pajama bottoms under a heavy coat in winter and Sorel boots and a “Bull Dogs” stocking cap when the temperatures drop below zero. We will not speak of summer attire.
As the early morning herd recovers from the shock of this invasion into their space, the tails go up with white flags waving, and they bound down the street toward denser cover, at best just startled or worst, scared out of their wits. I guess I’d be frightened, too.
This past winter was tough on the deer herd. The usual pathway across the yard was difficult for these travelers and became even more impassable after repeated snowstorms. Then we didn’t see them anymore and missed their grace and ever-alert inquisitive gazes. With the snow melt, they finally reappeared, looking thin with their dull, gray winter coats. Their numbers had increased to seven, with the addition of a young buck tag-long. As the warmer weather has slowly creeped in and the vegetation has come back to life, the does have welcomed their babies.
One morning last week as I sat at my desk staring out toward the woods, a fawn and its mother made their way across the yard. The baby was small and all legs, walking, but not with the elegant, stately stroll of its mother. That will come, and they will come, early in the morning to be startled by this old man.