A personal perpsective of life in our Virginia vineyard... Christine Wells Vrooman



Oh Dear, Oh Deer!

My day started with a foggy contact lens, my distant eye all "a' blurr". I didn't bother to change my contact... T'will be a day of squinting and stretching my right eye to see distances clearly until I do. I drove down to the vineyard and dropped off some organic herbicide, then continued down to the lower forty to pick some heirloom tomatoes and beans, and take the three dogs, Flippy, Killian and big, bouncy BoomBooom for a long walk. I smile as I watch my two seniors trot down this old country, creek-lined road, knowing how stiff their joints are, yet feeling their joy. We had to euthanize our dear neighbor's seventeen year old dog yesterday, so the reality of their age and the inevitable is heavy on my mind. But I choose to focus on the joy that is mine, at this peaceful and contented moment the four of us are sharing. Their bouncing ears and smiling faces. And tails that wag all about. I broaden my stride and my smile.

A couple hours later we return to the vineyard, young Boomer running up the entire drive up the mountainside, the two older ones resting in the back of the Pathfinder after their strenuous stroll. I had left open the eight foot high vineyard gate. I pulled into the vineyard to do a bit of spraying. My eye (blurry still) catches a rusty colored motion to my right. A fawn! Oh no. Boomer is loose, right behind me, still on the road. The fawn runs down along the inside of the eight-foot deer fence. Boomer, yipping and running chases alongside it from the outside of the fence. Then to my left another deer, the doe, the baby's mother, chasing in the direction of her baby. Boomer trying desperately to get to them, only doing his job of protecting the grounds. I give up on the deer and get Boomer, drag him into the back of the Pathfinder. I run to see where the deer are and to open all the gates so they can escape. I find the baby running along the north side towards the first open gate. I sigh and stand back. The baby turns and runs back from where she was heading. What?! Boomer! He jumped over two rows of seats and jumped out my half rolled-down window. NO! BOOMER! I scream. He obeys and comes to me. I put him back in the car, roll up all windows to just slightly open, drive the car out of the vineyard, take the keys, lock the doors. I return to the vineyard looking for the deer. I see them in the far corner. Then out from the vineyard rows dashes another young one, not quite as small as the fawn. Three of them! They were still panicked and kept running into the fence, their heads and legs at times getting caught in the wire. It was horrific. I silently begged them to be calm, to find the open gates. I tried not to imagine the worst. This video puts you there with me. Ugh.

(Warning: May be disturbing)

I spend another hour there, trying to coax them, watch them, make sure they get out. Then I see the mother try another leap over the fence, her head jambs up under the support beam as she leaps. I see her drop. I think I see her walk away, but the heavy undergrowth is too high. I can't see her. I wait. Then high up on the vineyard I see two walk from the border into the rows of vines. They are heading in the right direction. But where is the third? Did she get injured in that last jump? Or worse yet... I have to look for her.
I crawl down the steep embankment into the bushes and grasses that line the fence and begin walking the perimeter to see if she is down. I get about half way down and see a round mound of rusty brown lying in the grasses. I feel my heart pounding and move closer, pushing through a growing sassafras whose sweet scent surrounds me. I see it. Oh. Oh! A big boulder the same color as the deer. I blow out the breath I had been holding and continue, climbing over and through such high, heavy growth. Then I see ahead of me, the gray of her open mouth protruding from the grasses. I approach slowly, get close enough to finally see clearly.... an old limb staring me in the face. Again, I sigh. I reach the southeast corner. She is not there. They are gone. They had escaped.
I took my time walking back up the length of the vineyard. I rub down my calfs in case any chiggers or ticks might have jumped from the high grasses onto my legs. The vines are turning their fall color. Crickets are the only sounds. I give thanks for this ending.
I close all the gates, glance at the sky above me, whose clouds are all a'blurr.
If only I had changed that contact earlier in the day. Clear vision... priceless.
The gate will remain closed at all times. I was fortunate this time. The deer even more.

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