Two Yards: How a Fawn’s Choice Explains Conservation in a Nutshell
Her spotted body an almost perfect cover, she has bedded down next to the birdbath which I just filled again an hour ago. I had gone outside in the early dark, the breezes whipping the blue spruce and pines, to pour big pitchersful of cool water for the wildlife in our 90+ heat. She darted across the yard to hide in the dense brush, to peek at me through the leaves, as I carted the water across the brown, parched grass.
For her, her ma, and her brother. The other two aren’t here today. For now.
Next door, my neighbor, universally known as (That Asshole)Jerry, is puttering around in his sterile back yard. There’s no shade. Lots of rocks. It’s a wasteland as far as the deer are concerned. Jerry would either shoo or shoot them, and they know it. He hates anything that touches the controlled sterility of his yard. If a single tendril of ivy dared to encroach on his yard, he’d be highly offended.
Which is why, for the last several weeks, the doe and her fawns have hung out with me.
Look, by the middle of August, most of my plants have already peaked and withered in the heat. What was left of my lilac bushes, they quietly munched. New growth has already begun, but the fawns will likely chew that back, too.
They’re welcome to it.
The high arc of summer has passed. The sun sets at 6:30, not 9. The deer have come earlier this year, which tells me something about the state of fodder where they normally roam. In this western Denver neighborhood, I have the only true piece of real forest left. The ground cover is spongy with dense ivy. The low branches of my blue spruce offer perfect cover, shading soft black earth, cool to lie down in and hide from the brutal sun.
When I walked out onto the deck this morning, the fawn swiveled her ears towards me. While she’s scared of me, she also knows that I won’t approach. I walk quietly. Sit quietly. We regard each other. The whole fam was here repeatedly. At one point, the doe left her twins here for two days. Safe. Water, food, shelter.
Not much left of my bushes.
I love having them here. Clearly they feel safe.
Not in Jerry’s yard. There’s no shade, no cover, and most certainly, no fodder.
There, they would be intruders on his tightly-controlled patch of Perfectly Planted Paradise. Which is mostly rocks. Which, to my mind, is what the earth is going to look like if people like my neighbor Jerry have their way.
Plenty of rocks. Rock lawns absorb and radiate heat. As if we needed more of that. It takes work, love and devotion to cultivate a garden. As we are learning it’s going to take one hell of a lot of work, love and devotion to protect the wild. What’s left of it that isn’t rocks, from mining, drilling, burning.
(That Asshole) Jerry clearly likes rocks.
On my side of the fence, which he dislikes intensely, is a riot of bushes, trees, overgrowth. Even the ivy on the south side threatens to take over the bird feeders.
They are welcome to it. The swirls of inquisitive tendrils delight me no end.
They weigh heavily on my satellite cables. So what. I don’t need cable anywhere nearly as badly as I need fresh air, which the plants guarantee.
In an attempt to tempt the family from mowing down my entire garden, I put out a compressed brick of deer fodder and a salt block. Consider that a way station. They won’t move in, but if they need minerals they know where to find them. The doe chewed thoughtfully on the block. But like all Nature’s children, she prefers the real thing.
When I was in Canada during a lengthy trip through the wilderness, at our last spot, a nursing doe visit us repeatedly. I know a little about body language. She’d been hand-fed. Look, whether you agree with this or not (it’s likely to cost her in the long run), I knew she was looking for salt. I took several handfuls to her, which she nibbled softly out of my hand. Then she disappeared back into the woods. She needed minerals. I had some. End of story.
Our outfit had mineral blocks for the horses, which I would sometimes crumble into my palm, and they would lick the crystals out of my hand with gusto.
(That Asshole) Jerry is the kind of person who saws off his neighbor’s tree limbs because they have the bad manners to grow over his yard and drop pine cones. Which he then tosses over the fence. Both of those actions are illegal here in Colorado, a fact that doesn’t fluster this fuckwit one bit. He’s in good company if you consider the Trump clump. How DARE Mother Nature encroach on his Perfect Rock Pile.
His attitude about his yard, the local wildlife, the rights of his neighbors are a microcosm of the story of those who see the need for us to be stewards of our world and its inhabitants, and those who feel that anyone other than themselves is a pain and an imposition on their Royal Right to any fucking thing they want.
Including turning the world into a lunar landscape.
If (That Asshole) Jerry had kept his saw in his own yard, and decimated his own trees, that would have been fine. Instead, he thought nothing of imposing his own version of the world onto my yard. That’s the problem. In a nutshell.
The fawn, who gets up and moves around when my other neighbor materializes on her lawn to do early morning yoga, knows where she’s welcomed.
We gaze at each other, the fawn ready to bolt to the cover of the spruce, while I stand with a cooling cup of coffee on my deck. Appreciating her beauty, her great brown eyes.
She’s safe here.
Nobody- and no animal-is safe in Jerry’s yard.
It is my observation (and I am not alone, please see this New York Times opinion piece by a man who is possibly the greatest living conservationist of our time, and one I am honored to consider a friend) that we are increasingly forming radically different views of our shrinking planet. Trump is leading that charge in the US, and he is, sadly, followed by equally (IMHO) deranged, store-bought and evil leaders all over the world.
Rape, pillage, rinse repeat.
Jerry’s front yard is rocks surrounded by a fence. I’ve seen a lot of Rocky Mountain mining sites that look precisely like that. A wilting tree here and there. No wildlife. Toxic inside the buildings on site. Especially the corporate managers.
His yard is juxtaposed against a wild space full of birds, animals, dense forest, chewed foliage, where I draw a line, assisted by the local police station as need be, to keep the encroaching evil the fuck OUT.
(That Asshole) Jerry’s outside working in his rocks. The fawn is in hiding. I would be too.
For now I am holding the line.
Last night when I looked out my window, the doe- sans her fawns who were feeding elsewhere- was again munching delicately on the solid block of deer feed that I had placed next to the trunk.
My lilacs might just make it. It’s a diversion. Seems to be working. She likes that block. It bears the mark of her small teeth. It’s going to last a good long time. Before I head to Mongolia I’m putting another one out there. That’ll piss my neighbor off big time. He’s terrified a deer might shit in his rock pile. Something green might grow out of that devastation encouraged by the nutrients of her scat.
For now, that deer family has food, safety, shelter.
If (That Asshole) Jerry doesn’t come after her with his saw, that is. On my land, which he clearly considers part of his own.
Not on my watch.
And for all his ilk, and I dearly hope I speak for the majority who still give a shit about the world we inhabit,