Sunday started out much like so many other weekend days. After a simple breakfast, FD was off early to do a little work in the pecan orchard, and I took the electric buggy to the woods to fetch cat brier and elm branches for orphaned fawns, Emma and Ronnie, to feast on. It was a beautiful, sunny morning with little breeze. If I could complain about anything, it was that the gnats were swarming all along the path into the woods. I was glad I set out early to avoid the worst of the gnats and heat that would come as the atmosphere warmed up.
I returned with two small Siberian Elms on top of the buggy and a load of cat brier in my work box on the back. On my way across the pasture headed towards the deer pen, I saw a great-niece and nephew who had spent the night at my mother-in-law’s house, moving slowly in my direction. As I neared them, they broke into a run. We greeted each other, and I asked if maybe later they would like to go for a ride to the pecan orchard where I planned to pick a bucket of acorns for the deer. As I unloaded the trees into the deer pen, I thought it was odd that Emma and Ronnie were nowhere to be seen. That is when our great-nephew announced that the deer had been “jumping into the fence” and there was blood all over, showing me blood on one of his hands. At this point, I did not stop to ask investigative questions or conduct a scrutiny of the situation. Instead, I ordered the kids to sit quietly in the buggy while I checked on the deer. I immediately walked to the area between the two barns, where I found Emma and Ronnie on high alert. Moving slowly I finally stopped, allowing them to come to me. I could see they were unsure of me and both were trembling. Finally Emma moved cautiously towards me as I spoke to her in soft tones, using words I knew she was used to hearing. At first glance, Emma looked fine. She was just panting hard while keeping an eye on both children at the buggy. Ronnie, on the other hand, had blood running down his nose and chin, and he was limping. Upon closer inspection, I saw the flesh between his left nostril and upper lip was completely torn. The flap of skin hung oddly to the side of the nostril and blood ran freely from the gaping wound, as Ronnie licked at his nose. He was panting harder than Emma. Immediately, I texted FD who promised to be on his way home quickly.
These children had been told the day before to stay away from the deer pen, and they were plenty old enough to understand. Both FD and I and the great-grandparents had explained why they could not be near the deer. I thought I had gone into great detail about how deer behave in the wild, and that humans were considered a predator and that many things scared them. I explained how they sensed danger, and that noise, smells, and the sight of anything strange could cause them to become frightened. Emma and Ronnie knew and trusted FD and me, and they were familiar with my mom-in-law and her husband, but neither of my in-laws came close to the pen. They had always respected the deer by moving slowly and behaving in a quiet manner. Even tending to the chickens, who share a small pen next-door, was done in a slow, easy manner. But, for whatever reason, our great-niece wanted to “make friends” with the deer, and when her brother came running to get her away from the pen, the deer reacted to these two strangers by taking flight… and unfortunately so, into the fences.
Once I took the kids back to my in-laws, I did my best to keep calm while helping the fawns to settle down. On closer inspection, I discovered that Ronnie had also broken an antler bud, and he had swelling around it on the top of his head. Possibly a hematoma had developed, and I could but hope he only had a concussion and not a skull fracture. He also had a small cut under an eye and, fortunately, his leg injury appeared to be superficial. And, after observing Emma more closely, I realized she had broken some of her front teeth loose on her left side, and appeared to be missing a tooth. Noticing that her left lower lip appeared to hang down a bit and her tongue could be seen peeking out slightly on that side, caused me to wonder if her lower jaw might not be fractured at the front where the tooth is missing. With this worry on top of Ronnie’s general condition, I called the local veterinarian for advice. The vet told me there was not much to be done for Ronnie, but to keep him calm for a few days since he may have a slight concussion, but he did not feel the skull had been injured. There was nothing he could do about the nostril rip. He had seen this type of injury many times in cattle and, in most cases, the loose flap of skin simply caused them to make a slight wheezing sound when breathing heavily. The broken antler, he said, would shed in the spring, but it was possible it could have damaged the pedicile for life and, then again, maybe not. We would only know for sure next year, when we see if he produces two regular antlers, or just one. Regarding Emma, the vet stated he could possibly do surgery to fix her jaw, if it was indeed broken, depending on how bad it was. When I explained it was at the front lower portion, and not at the side or back, he felt that, being young, she would heal on her own. Further, he informed us, if we decided to go the surgery route, that would have to happen by the next day.
To calm and comfort them, I sat with Emma and Ronnie all afternoon, and into the evening. They rested most of the day. It was the first time I ever saw them resting so hard that they were unaware of their surroundings. But, as always, one fawn kept an eye out for danger while the other rested. I kept ice on Ronnie’s head as best I could, and he did not seem to mind. I petted them both softly. And I prayed. Several times throughout the day, Emma licked Ronnie’s nose. And I often saw him lay his head against her body. Emma had been a good, big sister to Ronnie from the first day that he came to us – being a little mother to him all along. Later that evening, finally, Ronnie’s bleeding subsided somewhat. And before dark, both fawns showed interest in some small pieces of pear, carrot, and sweet potato. They even ate a bit of deer feed and fruity kibbles, and I noticed Ronnie eating a few elm leaves. Also, they both had no difficulty drinking water, so we decided not to put Emma through the stress of surgery.
Monday morning, Ronnie’s nose had quit bleeding, the swelling had gone down on his head, and his limp was barely noticeable. Emma was eating better, mostly using the other side of her mouth to nibble leaves away from branches. They both even indulged in a few acorns! In spite of seeing these improvements, my heart was still heavy. As I went about my morning deer chores of gathering elm and brier, I broke into tears several times out of both anger and sorrow. I just did not understand why this had to happen. Trying to put these feelings aside and move along, I tackled my final chore of the morning gathering acorns from the old oak tree before the squirrels snagged them all up. Standing on the top rack of the electric buggy, I reached as high as I could to pick acorns the squirrels had not yet grabbed up for themselves. From this vantage point, I looked across the pasture where Ronnie and Emma laid along the fence. They seemed content to have each other, and to have their mama in sight. As I plucked away gathering acorns from the big oak, a large shadow suddenly moved overhead, disappearing just ahead of me in some elm trees near the alley. Could it be a vulture… my totem? For many years I had found vultures to be a sign of grace and comfort (My Totem, the Vulture). In fact, they have become a spirit bird in my life. “Glide and Soar… leave your carcass of troubles behind” is the message vulture brings to me each time I spot him. Climbing down from the buggy and carefully walking a short distance towards the elm trees, I spotted a lone vulture perched on top of a service pole on our property. Wings spread wide to the sun, my magnificent friend basked in the glory of the morning! Seeing he was not worried about my presence, I ran to the house to fetch my camera and zoom lens. On my quick return, he allowed me to observe and photograph him a short time and then, with just a few strong beats of wing, he soared off to the west, gliding higher and higher, finally banking off to the north as he headed towards the pecan orchard. For me, this visit was no coincidence. As he has so often done, Vulture had come to give comfort to my wounded heart, and to remind me to leave my carcass of troubles behind… to release my hurt and anger… but most of all, to remind me to glide and soar above it all.
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