A Spectacular Fight
© Copyright 2022 by Samantha Pinazza
Photo by Michael Mogensen on Unsplash
It was a beautiful late spring evening, the fresh air freely entering the living room window, while my husband Simon and I were getting ready for bed. I had just closed my book and was about to get up from the sofa, stretching and yawning, when I saw the dog immobilizing, his ears straight and his eyes attentive.
Simon, much more experienced than me, seemed to understand the situation and rushed to the large balcony of the house, to return a moment later with his cheeks reddened and his eyes burning with emotion.
"Come quickly" he invited me, making sweeping gestures with his arm.
I was only wearing a thin pajama with shorts and, here in the mountains, in the evening the air can be very cold even in spring, so I wrapped myself in a soft blanket and followed him outside.
"Listen" he whispered to me, a strange smile that was being drawn under his thick mustache. It was at that moment that the wind carried to me a sort of cry, a non-human voice, a sound almost of bagpipe. Immediately, my eyes met those of Simon: a deer in his mating season!
I had never been able to see them, despite living at the foot of the Dolomites all my life. Of course, there had been some sporadic encounters (they love to eat the grass of my garden during the night and, looking out the window, I often found them almost face to face), but during the mating season its something special.
"Look, there are females there" Simon pointed out to me. I tried to sharpen the view in the darkness, looking towards a small grassy clearing, where six beautiful female deers looked around, alarmed: their intense dark eyes sparkled in the moonlight, the soft and smooth mantles captured the reflections of the stars. They almost looked like fairy creatures.
The sound was repeated and they, alarmed, hurried to hide in a spot of low trees, which hid them perfectly from view.
"Did you hear?" Simon asked me, as I squeezed into my blanket "This is another deer, coming from the right"
I looked in that direction, hoping to see something but nothing. My husband noticed my disappointment and hurried to explain to me:
"He still has some way to go, but he will arrive soon. I wonder if hell be the first to arrive or what weve heard before"
I shuddered, thinking of the clash that would have been born between the two males.
"This is very young Simon continued, in response to a whiny and prolonged call, "hes making a wide circle, I dont know why... maybe he wants to avoid his older and more experienced opponent"
"But he has the strength of his youth" I retorted.
"I dont think thats enough, in this case"
I leaned over to see better, as Simon continued his explanations:
"The younger one is going up the river, because thats where his bellowing came from earlier. However, instead of proceeding in a straight line, he is circling around the grove, greatly lengthening his path "
He was interrupted by another call, more and more acute and prolonged. My dog was on the alert, peering through the planks of the balcony: I picked him up so he could see better, he too had to be very curious. Of course, not so much for the bucolic scene itself, as for his job as protector of the house and family: he wanted to make sure that those intruders did not get too close to the property.
My thoughts were interrupted by the bellowing of the more adult deer, which continued on his way, arriving from the right: now I could see a dark spot crossing the meadow and skirting the path.
The small herd of females had to have doubts about how to act, because it split: most of the deer remained sheltered from the low trees, while two of them hurried to cross the clearing to slip into another patch of wood, on the opposite side.
Just as the two were running on the grass, a group of trees sprouted the youngest deer. The first female went on without delay, hiding without waiting for her friend who, instead, had remained behind, staring for a moment at the male who was in front of her.
"Theyre just as obnoxious as women" Simon pricked me, giving me a slight elbow. Then, he disappeared, entering the house.
"But youll miss all the best" I scolded him, leaning my head over the living room door.
Dont worry, Im coming"
I lifted my shoulders, looking back at the scene: the brave female was sheltered and her partner, having overcome the initial hesitation, had reached her. The more adult deer was marching at a pace, like a colonel on the battlefield, very confident, while the younger one was letting go of ungrateful bellowing. The other deers remained hidden in the shadows, certainly peering at the two contenders through the veil of leaves.
In a moment, Simon was next to me again, squeezing his camera and leaning out of the balcony to find the right shot.
Its impossible" he snorted after a while, disassembling the big camera "its too dark and I cant use the flash"
"Sssssht!" I hissed They are about to meet"
In fact, the two deer now stood face to face, peering carefully. They started circling, like two swordsmen preparing for a duel and, in fact, so it was. A perfect silence had fallen on the clearing, the bats and night birds were reduced to silence, as if all the wood was watching the scene, anxious.
The two deers stopped, each on one side, two boxers waiting for the gong. Finally, with frightening rapidity, they pounced against each other, the horns intertwining in an impossible tangle. I watched them move their heads from one side to the other, in a twofold attempt to free themselves and make the opponent capitulate. The younger one pushed with force, quickly pulling back the massive bulk of the other deer, the horns always intertwined.
I could not understand how such thin legs could support such impressive necklines. The two opponents stopped for a moment, the muzzles almost touching the ground, pressing with their heads. They reminded me of the moment when boxers hold each other for a moment, before being separated from the referee. The females didnt make a sound.
The more adult began to push vigorously, causing the young deer to back up, but, putting pressure on his hooves, he was able to resist quite well. Suddenly, a more energetic thrust than the others forced him to retreat precipitously for a long stretch. I held my breath, thinking that all was lost, the fight was already decided, but the deer finally managed to resist even that formidable attack.
The two began to turn in circles, barely moving their heads to tighten their grip on the opponents horns. Despite what we had assumed at the beginning, it was the pushes of the older the stronger: the massive shoulders and the robust neck gave him an undeniable advantage over the leaner figure of the young deer.
"It must be his first mating season" Simon whispered to me, and I immediately decided to root for him, the most disadvantaged of the two.
The deers began to turn in circles: it seemed as if they were performing a dance, so their movements were harmonious and elegant. Sometimes, the push of one of the two made the other jump, the muscles contracted and the resistance began.
"They just wont give up, huh?" I whispered.
"Youd be surprised how long they can go on
I wished it was day, at least first morning, to be able to distinguish them better: seeing the writhing muscles twitch, the soft hair reflect the rays of the sun, the wonderful and elegant tangle of horns that, with only the light of some distant lamppost and the moon, they were barely distinguishable.
The light, however, was enough to show the horns intertwined and cling like swords, as the eternal dance continued. The two animals were perfectly silent, no trace of their bellowing, all the energies concentrated in the attempt to defeat the other.
Suddenly, the youngest managed to take advantage of one of the opponents pushes to slightly lift his head and thrust one of the tips of the left horn into the oldests neck, weakening the sturdy muscles of the neck.
I gasped, seeing that, despite the wound, the deer continued without any hesitation, pushing as if his life were at stake. How intoxicating the instinct can be.
I was hopeful that the fight would not get too bloody: I didnt want either of them to get seriously hurt.
With an abrupt movement of the head, the older deer managed to break free and, for a moment, the horns broke free and the two managed to look each other in the eyes. It was only a moment, before the fight started again with even more vigor. The younger, growled by the success of his strategy, began to tug to the side, forcing the opponent to bend his head continuously.
The elder began to back off, following the others push, and then attacked.
They were now an indistinguishable mass of hair, muscles and horns.
Suddenly, one of the two, the youngest I think, released the horns and, with a quick movement, darted out of reach of his opponent, running away.
"He ran out of energy and gave up" Simon explained in response to my questioning gaze, "he is still inexperienced and has mismanaged his resources. In the end the experience triumphed over the youth"
I let my gaze linger for a moment on the clearing, where the only deer left recovered its strength, gasping. The females were still hidden in their thicket and, for us, it was time to drop the curtain on that incredible scene.
turned to return, closing out the night, the brambles and the whisper
of the wind in the leaves.