I live in a suburb of New Orleans and have been writing here off and on for 10 years. I have been married 53 years to the same crazy guy.
About three or four times a year, Joe and I leave New Orleans and go to our cabin in Arkansas where we forget that we are 66 and 67 and fly through the woods on our four-wheelers, brave the night creatures to make orb photos, and enjoy life.
Last summer, we spent five days at the cabin. One day we decided to take a four-wheel ride in the middle of the afternoon. We started off down the dirt trail to the "Old Carlton place." If you're familiar with country life in Arkansas, you know that everything has a name: The dirt pit, palmetto flats, high mound, etc. Anyway, we were headed to what's called "the bottoms." I was following Joe and looking at the glorious foliage around us when he suddenly stopped short, causing me to have to push my hand brake with all my might in order to stop.
As he got off his bike, I thought he was having trouble with his four-wheeler, a flat tire or maybe a branch caught in a wheel. Then I saw him looking at something on the ground and the horrified look on his face. I got off my bike and hurried over. There on the ground lay the tiniest deer either of us had ever seen. It was lying perfectly still, eyes wide open, breathing steadily, but not moving at all. He must have been lying in the trail when Joe hit him.
Now, Joe has been hunting in those woods since he was 9 years old. He will shoot a legal buck without a qualm but would never harm a baby like this. He is devastated, filled with guilt. We back slowly away and sit on the bikes out of sight for a long time, hoping the mother might come for him. We don't want to go too far because the woods are full of coyotes and he would be a tiny snack they'd love. Finally I go back, get off my bike, and pick up the little guy. I don't know why, but from the first, I thought it was a guy. He's still not moving. Joe holds him as we ride back to the cabin, which is next door to the deer camp Joe belongs to. We take him inside and examine him. There are no visible wounds on his little body. The whole time we are looking him over, he is gazing directly into our eyes.
Beautiful Baby Deer
Grim Outlook, but . . .
When we raise the fawn's leg and let it go, it flops back on to the bed. We are both so terribly sad that he is not doing well. Joe holds him a while, then I do. He offers no resistance, just looks at us with those huge brown eyes. Joe is overcome with guilt and walks outside. I decide to call a local vet who tells me to try feeding him some milk after warming it on the stove top. I do, with no luck. The milk dribbles down the sides of his mouth. He does nothing but stare.
To say our hearts are heavy that night is an injustice. We are very sad. We put the tiny creature in the bathroom on a blanket. We have called four vets and none of them are willing to go in to the nearest town and meet us at their office on a holiday weekend. We got to bed early that night, sad beyond belief because we think our little friend is going to die during the night. At 1:00 o'clock, I hear a tapping noise that I've never heard before. It's coming from the bathroom. When I peek in the door, there in the middle of the room is the tiny deer. He is standing up! His legs slide this way and that, but he is definitely standing. He is not at all afraid of me, just glances at me and tries to walk a step or two. I wake Joe up and he is ecstatic. We heat some milk and this time he sucks so hard it make a loud noise as he gulps the milk. After he finishes his bottle, he goes to his blanket and lies down. We go back to bed, happy beyond belief. Later, we are told by several people that he was likely in shock and was never seriously hurt.
The next morning, we realize we have a problem. There is no way we can keep this little fawn. We have the most ill-tempered cat in the world who is already not happy with this situation, and we have a feral cat in our backyard, who is the bastard cat's mother. We have our hands full, and we are not equipped for deer. I get on the Internet and discover that there are people called wildlife rehabilitators who care for animals like the one we've named Baby Boy, through lack of any original thinking on our part. We find a lady who is just across the line in Louisiana. It's a roller-coaster ride because as much as we know we can't keep him, we have grown far too attached to the winsome little creature.
Wonder of New Life
We take Baby Boy outside and let him walk around the area in front of the camp. He is very unsteady on his feet. He does not want to be more than a foot or two away from one of us, which touches us ridiculously. He thinks we are his mothers, I'm sure.
We call the rehabilitator and make arrangements to bring him to her. Holding him on the way to her house was something I look back on as a privilege. To be so close to something so breathtakingly beautiful and so completely wild was a very strange and sobering thing. I said many prayers then and have since that he avoids the guns of hunters like my husband.
We drive for almost an hour, then turn on a dirt road. At the end of the road is a mobile home. It is surrounded by fenced property. We meet the lady who will care for Baby Boy, and who will name him "Tiny." She takes Tiny in her arms as though it's the most natural thing in the world. She says in a matter of fact tone: He was born in the last two or three days. After talking about everything we can think of to tell her and ask her, we admonish her to stay in touch and head back to the cabin. Both of us are very quiet and I shed a tear or two. I'm sure Joe did too, but he always says he has something in his eye.
I have talked to Pat, the lady who cares for Tiny a few times since that day. She said she kept him in their spare bathroom for a long time and that he would come to their bedroom at night to get them when he was hungry. They could hear his hooves clicking on the trailer floor. Tiny won her husband's heart and she said he would feed him his bottles while she worked the night shift at her job. She eventually moved him outdoors into one of the fenced-in areas and herds him with her horses. She believes that he will likely jump the fence this fall during the rut and answer nature's call.
I don't want to visit him. I want to always remember him as the gorgeous little creature who won our hearts in the span of 24 hours and gave us such wonderful memories of that summer.