Copyright 2023 by Gary Mulnix
Photo courtesy of the author.
were having an easy winter but everything changed February first.
Temperatures dropped and it started snowing, every day. We didn’t
see the sun for three weeks. The deer herd that lived in my back yard
had a tough time finding enough to eat. They trimmed up my
arborvitaes as high as they could reach and gobbled every ivy leaf
that wasn’t covered with snow. They even ate my rose bush,
thorns and all.
were five deer in the herd: three does and two yearlings. I suspect
the yearlings were cousins, but I’ll never know for sure. The
three does and one of the yearlings kept their distance during
daylight hours and generally stayed toward the back of my yard. One
of the yearlings wasn’t so skittish. It would come right up
near the patio and side-suck the sunflower seeds out of one of my
bird feeders. It was comical to watch. He would push at the feeder
with the side of his head and lick the seeds out with his tongue.
Then he would gnash them with his back teeth. The gnashing was loud!
I could hear it from my kitchen window. He didn’t run off when
he spotted me watching, he just kept on eating. I could see the two
small protrusions on his forehead where antlers would one day sprout
so I named him Bucky.
exactly March first the weather changed. It warmed up, the sun came
out and the snow began to melt. My little herd was happy! I saw them
almost daily at the back of the yard eating the first shoots of new
grass. They seemed so much less stressed. The does looked calm and
relaxed as they moved slowly around the yard searching out the new
growth, but the yearlings! The two of them were jumping and
frolicking through the yard like they were the happiest deer in the
world. They got up on their rear legs and leapt in the air as high as
they could. They were having fun.
weeks later the herd was gone and my yard seemed very quiet without
them. Then one day I saw Bucky. He was all alone and looked so lost
and lonely. The does had gone off with the other yearling and left
him. He wandered around the yard and the small woods near my house.
He seemed to have no direction and no energy. I felt bad for him.
the sun was rising one Saturday morning in April , the road in front
of my house sparkled. I couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t
cold enough to frost but the whole road was sparkling! I walked out
to the road and found it was covered with glass. Broken glass was
everywhere. I called police dispatch to report it and the person I
talked to told me a car had hit a deer in front of my house the day
before. “Bucky!” moaned in my head.
afternoon I was relieved to see Bucky lying in his favorite spot in
the backyard. He was just under the outer branches of an old blue
spruce. I had noticed the flattened area of grass before and wondered
if that was where he spent his leisure time. Bucky looked content and
relaxed. He laid there for a few hours and at one point even took a
nap with his head tucked in under one of his hind legs.
wasn’t until he got up that I saw it was Bucky who
been hit in the road. He was walking on three legs and holding his
left hind leg up off the ground. I couldn’t tell exactly what
was wrong, but I knew a deer with an injured leg is in trouble. I
couldn’t figure out what to do.
searched my phone for wild life rescues but none were close. The
animal shelter didn’t answer as it was after hours and neither
did animal control. My text to the nearest rescue went unanswered so
I called police dispatch (again). When I explained the situation the
dispatcher told me the most humane thing to do was to “put the
deer down”. He offered to send an officer and I reluctantly
agreed. I put down the phone and cried a little. Bucky was my
young police officer could not have been more kind or compassionate.
He listened to my story patiently and really seemed to understand. I
told him Bucky and his extended family had been living here for most
of the winter, how Bucky was left on his own, and how lonely he had
been. I told the officer I thought of Bucky as my back yard pet
deer. The officer, like the dispatcher, explained that the best thing
to do was to “put him down”, so we walked to the back
yard. Bucky was at the far edge grazing but when he heard the
officer’s voice he looked up and ran off. I was relieved! If he
could move that fast, maybe he would be okay.
didn’t see Bucky for a few days but the next time I saw him, it
was not good. I was at my computer next to a window that looks out
over the back yard. He was just a couple of feet from the patio when
I first noticed him. A bone was sticking out of his rear left leg and
it was sticking out a lot. Bucky made his way to a bed of violets up
next to the house and lied down. He never got up.
was obvious he was dying. I left him alone but kept a vigil from the
window. He was lying on his side and I could see his chest rise and
fall with each breath. I cranked open the window as quietly as I
could so I wouldn’t disturb or scare him. Each time I looked
out he would look up at me. The last time I looked that evening he
was breathing slowly and quietly. I was sure the end would come soon.
I was surprised to see he was still alive the next morning.
I went out to him. He wasn’t scared of me.
didn’t move a muscle. He just tilted his head back and looked
at me with his big dark eyes. I told him, “You’re not
alone, Bucky. You can go now. You’re going to be okay.” I
sat on the patio near him and he kept looking at me. After a long
time he closed his eyes. There was a spasm. Then another. Then a long
slow exhale and he was still. Bucky was gone.
afternoon I was at the computer again and a movement outside the
window caught my eye. A wild turkey was running toward the house as
fast as it could run. It startled me and I startled it. The turkey
did an about face and ran back to the woods. Soon after, the
woodchuck that lives under my shed began working its way around the
yard topping off the dandelions. I thought, “Great, I won’t
have to mow!” One of my bunnies hopped into the yard and the
wrens were busy feeding their new hatchlings. There is a lot of
activity in my backyard, but I miss my yearling friend.
Bucky is a story about my
interaction with a deer that lived in my back
yard two years ago. It may read as if it is embellished, but I assure
you every word is true. I had just begun writing short stories based
on my life experiences when the events in the story took place and at
one point I felt like I was living in a short story. I had written
other things in my life, for example, art history papers and letters
to the editor, but writing short stories is a new venture.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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