This is Real Life

Photo of author by Margie Johnson

By Mike Johnson

Mule deer know they're prey. They’re always on guard for an attack.
Skittish, they bolt upon sudden sound or motion. If one bolts, they all bolt.

When grazing, they space themselves for security.
If a deer stiffens 50 yards away, the others notice.
They’ll all alert until the possible peril is identified.

After years of calm association and shared snacks, the deer treat me as a member of the herd.
They hang around the safety of our house all winter.
They don’t spook when we let the dog out. Or walk to the barn. Or load logs into the wheelbarrow.
Some walk right up to us. Others watch our activity as entertainment. They’re curious creatures.

I walk with deer.

I observe their most intimate behavior.

I learn their personalities. Their cliques. Their children.
I watch them run back and forth for play.
Antler wrestle to test their strength and dominance.
I blush as pesky bucks in rut follow weary does in heat.

I watch them nurse their young.
Lovingly lick their friends.

I witness their fights on hind legs, flailing front legs as weapons.
I hear fawns squeal for mom.
Bucks grunt warnings to the herd.
I see them poop. Pee. Sleep.

I know their musky smell.
The scrapes on their hides.
The thickness of their fur.
The happy flick of their tail.
The onyx shine of their hooves.
The deep blackness of their eyes.
When they’re ready to shed their antlers.

Like big dogs, I brush foliage off their face.
Wipe hardened sleep crud away from eyes.
Smooth rumpled fur.
Rub behind ears.

The buck pictured here is a regular.
He’s been here prior years.
He knows us.
He enjoys our property, its safety, our company.
He’s calm. Content. Friendly. Gentle. Walks right up.

We read each other's vibe.
Two species, communicating without words.
We're pals.

This is real life.



Miracles Upon Miracles


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