That’s not a spelling error.
I live about two miles north of New York City. The town I live in is adjacent to the Bronx. I live in a house that is adjacent to a state park.
Because of this, my yard is like wild kingdom. Seriously. I have seen more wildlife in this yard (and occasionally inside my house) than I did as a kid growing up in what was then rural Virginia. Snakes, possums, skunks, squirrels (one that was blonde!), bats, a flying squirrel, coyotes, and deer.
I have tons of stories about these animals. Once the squirrels got in our attic, which drove my husband quite crazy; even after we had them removed, bits of pink insulation would sometimes flutter from their dreys into our driveway, upsetting him all over again.
But nothing, nothing, has aggravated us more than the deer.
These deer do not give a shit that we are humans with a house. It’s their property. We have herds living here. I counted seven once. They drop fawns. They drop antlers. They use the evergreens as shelter in the snow.
And they eat everything my husband plants. Thousands of dollars of flowers, vegetables, shrubbery, have gone in their deer bellies. We came home at two a.m. one morning and they were on our small front terrace right next to the front door, helping themselves to the greenery.
Get the fuck out of here, you stupid deer! my husband yelled from the car.
They just looked at us, chewing.
I am from Virginia. There, they shoot deer and then eat them. You cannot shoot deer here. It’s against the law. Plus, our lunatic neighbors think they are cute and feed them corn. It’s funny, yes, ha ha, but…my husband hasn’t planted a garden in two years. He says he refuses to make deer salad.
I enjoy looking at them. I do. But I also miss home grown vegetables.
My husband grew up in the area, and apparently, the deer were not pervasive in the seventies. It’s the same story everywhere. We raze the forests and replace with McMansions. The deer have nowhere else to go.
Some mornings I’ll walk out onto our upper deck and the natural world is so beautiful. I once saw two bucks sparring, rattling right below me, and managed to get it on video.
This morning I looked in the yard and there, in the back, was a large, dead deer.
Wake up, I yell, fruitlessly. Hey! I knew the deer was dead as soon as I saw it. But I put on my boots to check it out. Yep. It was dead. It had no visible sign of trauma. It was a young, two-point buck. I wondered what had happened to it.
I call the local precinct, figuring they’d tell me who to contact for pick-up. About a month ago there was a dead deer up the street, and the city picked it up very quickly. Yay public works!
The cop said, It’s on your property? Uh, we can’t do anything about that. If it were on the street we could send someone.
I ask who else I could call.
Call the city hotline.
Excellent, I think. I call. The last four digits of that number spell HELP. I find this becomes ironic.
Is it on your property? the lady asks. We can’t do anything about that. No. Nope. Uh-uh. No. I don’t know. Nope. Good-bye. Yes. Good-bye.
Perhaps change the number to No Help?
I call my friend Chuck. He’s a retired sanitation worker. He has to know someone.
Chuck, however, is on the way to a funeral.
You gotta get it out of there, Chuck says. If you don’t you’ll have coyotes in your yard. If I can get anyone I’ll call you.
Don’t worry about it, I tell him. I don’t want to be a pain in the ass on the day he’s burying a friend.
I start calling professional wildlife removal services.
Yeah, we do that. It’s $385.
What? I ask, stunned. Everything, everything is a racket in New York.
I’ll pay cash, I say, in what I hope is a helpful tone.
I could do it for $350 cash, he says, not helpfully.
I call another number. Out of service. I call another.
Yeah, we do that, says the guy. It’s $500.
I want to say GTFOOH but end up sputtering REALLY? Really.
Yeah, he says, because we have to have the deer cremated. We can’t just throw him somewhere.
Thank you, I say. I hang up the phone. Sometimes I think New York is another planet, not state.
Now I am pissed. I mean pissed. I am from Virginia. This would not happen in Virginia. In Virginia I would call a friend with a pickup.
I call my husband.
Don’t worry about it, he says, I’ll take care of it. I’ll just ________________________________. (Redacted for legal reasons).
The thing is, we have to get the deer somewhere where he’ll be picked up by the city. Or eaten by the coyotes. The deer is a looooong ways away from the street.
But my husband is a very competent man. Today isn’t the best day for deer disposal, though, as he is leaving for a trip later. I decide I’ll try a guy I know who is an ex-junkie and always seems to need money, still. Junkies can get things done.
But before I leave, I call the mayor’s office because I am so outraged.
I pay $——- in property taxes and because a deer dies on the wrong side of my fence you won’t pick it up? This is not my pet deer!
She’s very nice and understanding, the lady at the mayor’s office. She takes my number and will call me back. She lied. She never calls back.
I go out.
While I am out, I run into a neighbor who tells me the same thing happened to he and his wife. A deer died on their property. I asked what they did, and had to listen to a monologue about how sad it was because they were animal lovers.
You have got to be joking, I think, remembering how I once saw three wrecks on the Garden State Parkway caused by different deer, in a period of twenty-five minutes. I love animals, but come on.
The neighbor bagged the deer for the garbage men. The thing is, the garbage men took our garbage about a half hour before I discovered the deer. If only. I certainly can’t wait till Tuesday.
When I return home, I am informed by the junkie and his friend that the deer is way too heavy for them to get in the trunk of his car.
I thought you were using a friend’s pick-up, I say.
Well, he’s afraid. He’s afraid we’ll get caught…(Caught?, I think. CAUGHT???)…But it’s ok. If I can do it myself I don’t have to split the money.
I give him $100 bucks for his trouble and tell him if he can figure out how to get rid of it I’ll give him another.
The thing about my husband is that he is taking 12 boys to Gettysburg on a scouting trip, and they leave at 5 pm. If I can get rid of the deer before he gets home, he won’t have to worry about it.
About 4:00 pm, it starts to rain.
The ex-junkie calls.
My wife wants to go out to dinner. Did you get the deer taken care of?
I tell him no; I thank him for his time. I tell him my husband should be home any minute. We hang up.
I start to wonder if I should call my stepson to help my husband. I have to drop him off at the Scout Bus by 5:00.
Then he walks in. It’s really raining now.
Hi honey, I say. Do you want me to call —– to help with the deer?
No, he replies. I’m not going to do it now. I’ll do it when I get back Monday. The trains were late and I have to do the Scout thing.
What. Did. I. Just. Hear?
The rage starts in my gut. I may have to dispose of two bodies. His and the deer’s. All of a sudden, I realize why $350 is the best price I can get on carcass removal. If I call them NOW it means I will end up spending $450. Almost enough for a deer cremation.
We can’t wait till Monday, I say calmly. (I silently congratulate myself on my calm demeanor.) The deer will not be possible to remove by yourself after it has decomposed for four days.
Why not? he asks.
Oh sweet baby Jesus give me strength.
It will bloat, I say. It will decompose. It will have an unbearable smell. Not to mention the coyote convention it will invite, I think. I won’t be able to go outside without a shotgun. All the neighborhood cats will disappear.
Well, he says, I can’t do it now. The trains were late because of the rain. Don’t worry. I’ll get it Monday. Aren’t you going out of town anyway?
I remain perfectly still. Then I go get my jacket. I go get a pair of long rubber gloves under the sink.
Do we have a plastic tarp, I ask, starting for the stairs.
No, he says. Can I have a kiss?
Not right now, I say. He gets out of my way.
I realized, before I made the decision to handle this myself, that he has never seen an animal that has decomposed before, because he grew up in the city. With great benevolence I decide I won’t hold it against him.
We may not have a tarp, but we have an extra shower curtain, and I know where it is.
I get the shower curtain and keys to the shed. I put my hood on. I didn’t take the time to put on my boots, because I have approximately twenty minutes of daylight left.
I look for a shovel in the shed and see a dolly. Hmm. I leave the shovel for the time being and take the dolly.
The deer is five feet long, nose to tail. I had wrongly estimated it to weigh about 100 pounds. It’s not 100 pounds. The average weight of a white tailed buck is 300 pounds. I understand, suddenly, why the two guys couldn’t get it in the car.
But. It has antlers. And legs. I am able to get the shower curtain underneath it in about two minutes. I tie the shower curtain around the neck of the deer to steady it.
When I see the other side of the deer, it’s obvious it was hit by a car. It came home to die. Thanks, motherfecker.
I look around to make sure no one is watching. I am soaking wet, wearing a red jacket and hood, purple latex dishwashing gloves, and am handling a 300-pound deer that is now dressed in what looks like a hot pink cape. I really do not wish to be discovered like this. I think about all the dressing the deer jokes this could create.
I start dragging the deer. I can get it about six inches every minute or two. But it’s hard to manage. I have to stop every minute and pant for air. I am near a fence. The hooves get caught in the wire. The antlers get stuck in the gate.
I quit twice, the first time walking away. I go back.
I have it almost where I want it when the shower curtain comes off. FUCK.
And then my husband appears. He says he can assist. He follows my directions.
He helps me get it to a location two feet away where it is no longer our problem and won’t scare the neighbors.
I thank him. I really mean it. I tell him I don’t want him to be late.
I thought you were giving me a ride! he says.
I return the dolly, lock the shed, and go back inside. It is 4:57. I set the alarm, unlock the car, and drive him to the bus. I tell him where I’ll be staying in Atlantic City the next day, as I am working Saturday. He tells me what they’ll do in Gettysburg. The Eisenhower Presidential Library is there as well. I tell him to make sure and tell the boys he read 72 books last year, all checked out from the library. He laughs.
Then…I’m sorry, he says, I didn’t mean to give you so much stress.
It’s ok, I tell him. I realize you didn’t know how hard it would be to move a decomposing deer.
I thought it might be lighter, he said.
Well, I replied, thing is, that far in, you start to move it, and it would…
I’ll save the gory details.
Anyway, as I drove home, I felt more exhilarated than I had in ages.
I loved moving that deer carcass. I loved that I could do it.
And I realized how much I am my mother’s daughter.
When describing my mother to people who don’t know her, I tell them that she’s a cross between The Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey and Che Guevara.
She is 89 now. It’s hard for her to move around as much as she used to. I go down to Virginia once a month to help her. I cook for her. She loves being pampered.
But she lives alone. She runs a house with six apartments that she rents. She raised my brother and me without a dime of child support. She knows how to economize. She knows how to get things done. She once removed potentially toxic material from a building she owned herself, because the quote she’d gotten for its removal was $40,000.00. She wore gear and took it to the toxic dump in Richmond. She was in her late sixties when she did that.
After dumping my clothes in the washing machine and getting in a hot bath, I call her.
Do I have a story for you, I say.
She howls laughing as I recall the day. I tell her I knew what to do because I was her child. She said she was proud of me.
Then she asks, not realizing I had removed the shower curtain, and afraid the deer would be traced back to me,
The shower curtain, darling…was it monogrammed?!
No, mama, I say, smiling.
Details. Women think of everything.
2 thoughts on “My Deer Mother’s Daughter”
So damned fine! Made me think of my mother, and the day I said to her, as I lay on my back under the sink in our utility room bathroom staring up at a leaking pipe, “I’m not sure I can do this, mom.”
“Oh, hell, Kay,” she shot back, “You can do anything.”
The way you settled this story deep into that context was just perfect. Again, so fine!
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Thanks so much!