It was like any other morning when Kali and I took the walk down our long driveway and onto the road to get the newspaper. The newspaper tubes hang along a wooden rail, several in a row for about a dozen homes nearby. It’s quite different than suburbia where your paper is delivered to your door stoop or driveway. So most mornings Kali and I make the trek down onto the road, take in the sights and smells, grab the paper, and then head up the back side of our property and “take the long way home”.
So Tuesday was not much different than so many other mornings since we moved to the Golden K five months ago. The air was colder, the ground a little damp from recent rains (thank the Lord for rain!), and I noticed a lot of mud backing up in the drainage ditch. So as we opened the farm gate I unclipped Kali’s leash and I diverted slightly to take stock of the mud and what I might need to do to clear it out. I surveyed the drains as Kali foraged and waited patiently to head up the hill towards the gravel road that circles The Golden K.
A sound of rustling caught my attention. I looked over and saw a large buck trying to right itself from a laying position. Kali and I had obviously disturbed the deer, who I initially thought was simply nesting, and all three of us were a caught off guard. Kali ran toward the buck barking. I immediately called to Kali to come back fearing the buck would kick her which could be fateful. I don’t know if it was all the years of recall training that paid off or if Kali became frightened. But thankfully she came running back to me. I clipped on her leash and we headed quickly up the hill towards the house.
My main concern was to get Kali under control and out of harms way. The deer are regular visitors and have never demonstrated any aggression to any of us including the dogs who from time to time will bark at them behind a fence or through the windows of the house. But this buck was obviously under duress and I was taking no chances especially with Kali under tow. As we headed up the hill I looked back to see the Buck still partially down leaning on his front legs motionless and staring at us.
It was the posture of the buck that made me realize he was the deer we fondly called Gimpy. Gimpy because he had a broken leg and hobbled around on his three good legs. We hadn’t seen him regularly like the other bucks who make daily visits. But we had seen him enough to know he was surviving and seemingly very healthy in spite of being crippled. In fact he was the largest of the bucks and probably the oldest. I now realized why he hadn’t simply bounced off when we we startled him. He couldn’t.
The image of Gimpy’s piercing black eyes staring back at Kali and I as we moved up the hill stuck with throughout the day. Under normal circumstances I would assume that he recovered and moved along his way once we were out of sight. But my instincts told me otherwise. So later that afternoon I walked down to see if he was still there. He was. He had settled himself into a laying position and I stood along the our fence staring back from about 25 feet away.
That was Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday morning he was still there. I wanted to believe that this was his new nesting spot and that he was out and about throughout the day. But I knew better. I watched him lay motionless staring at me for a few minutes and walked back up the hill. Wednesday afternoon same thing – he was still there. I knew that Gimpy was waiting to die and this was the spot he chose to do that. As I walked off I looked his way and made the sign of the cross like I still do when my children or Holly drive off. A hold over from my Catholic upbringing and my mom who always did the same for me.
Thursday morning I left before sunrise to head to the Bay Area for the day. As I drove past where Gimpy had been I thought of stopping and getting out with my flashlight to see if he was there. But why, I thought and continued to drive on. Holly text me about 10:00 that morning with a picture of Gimpy, now with his head on the ground. He was dead.
As I arrived home Thursday afternoon the sun was low in the sky, the air was calm, and the ground was damp from rain earlier in the day. It smelled and looked beautiful. One of my favorite times living up here on the hill is arriving back at The GK after a day down in the crazy Bay Area. I pulled over along the fence, got out of the truck and stood by the fence staring at Gimpy. It made me sad to see him lying there dead. But it also made me a little happy to know after suffering for some time that suffering was over, and hopefully his spirit was at peace as his body returned back to the earth.
I stood there for about five minutes to, if nothing else, pay my respect. This grand buck, even with three legs, was a majestic animal and part of this hill for for much longer than me. I was honored to have known him from afar.
Before I turned back to my truck I took one last look at Gimpy and made the sign of the cross. As I drove up the road and onto our driveway I felt peaceful and happy to be back home at The Golden K.