Chapter 5

Chapter 5-Deer throw-up


          “Darn dog!” Anne grimaced as she got out cleaning tools. She had bought a German Shepard puppy to add to their animal assembly.  Puppies are bad enough, but BIG puppies just do it in larger quantities.  She spent $50 from a very strained budget to purchase Duncan McCloud Monster Puppy to train as the Escalante Search and Rescue dog.  There was not much excitement involved in this venture yet; because all there was to do for the first year was obedience training and bonding. 

 Jack and her had mixed conjectures about Duncan’s intelligence.  He learned easily all right; from Bach he learned how to fetch and was getting really great at it.  He was one of the few dogs that would retrieve an item and then give it freely back to the thrower.  He would sit on command and heal with the command “walk”.  Him and Bach were becoming buddies. She liked that he was learning fast but Bach had some bad habits that she hoped he wouldn’t pass on.

           Anne cleaned up the mess and chased all the animals out of the house and closed up the doggy door while she calmed down. She kept her cleaning spree up with the never-ending kitchen clutter, but boredom finally set in and she decided on taking a-walk-about.

  She locked the dogs up in the garage…all three of them, and called to the girls, who answered with their customary “baas” of inquiry.

  Putts and Podunk were her goat hiking companions. Wonderfully accepting, amiable companions that only wanted to do whatever was in the moment. They walked at whatever pace she walked.  If she got tired and stopped…they would smooth out a spot on the ground and lay down waiting for her to rise, and then they would continue when she did.

 The girls were fully horned goats. She could never understand why it was fashionable to burn the horn buds on new little goats. Somehow people felt it important that goats be unarmed.  So burning buds on kids meant they wouldn’t grow horns.  It left them defenseless. Horns helped give them defense and at least a fighting chance if attacked by a dog or cougar. (Since her home bordered the wilderness area, horns seemed a necessity.)  The goats had never hurt her with them and they seemed to have such fun with their “High Five” horn bunting in the mornings or during their spring dance.

  Podunk was a dwarf pygmy goat, brown and black, and Putts was half Nubian and half Angora light brown and white and considerably bigger than Podunk.  Each had their own personality and they were both maturing considerably now that they had been mothers.

           She grabbed this-weeks hiking stick. (A twisted branch with remarkable loops and holes that Jack had brought home after someone cut down a unique bush and left it for the city workers to clean up.)  He had brought it to her with love, since he knew unusual wood and rocks brought her such pleasure. He was sure she would change it into a walking stick.

 The act of picking up the stick was the signal to the girls that she was now leader, and that they were all going for a walk.  The stick also allowed her to interact with her companions when they had their “High Five” exuberant bursts of joy. The great chorus of “baas” came as they waited for her to let them out of their fenced quarter acre.

           After a munch or two of weeds, which of course are so much tastier on this side of the fence then on their side, they followed her up the short distance along the road till they reached the border to The Petrified Forest State Park.  Here they waited for her to pioneer and break thru the roadside weed border to their well-worn path of travel.

           Once again on desert terrain the battle over who would be leader would begin.

The usual winner would usually end up being Podunk. She would run on ahead to HER large rock where she would climb and peer from the top in grandeur as she declared herself to be Queen of the Hill.  Putts, however, usually meandered slower grabbing at every new grass clump and stopping in front of Anne to listen for strange noises in caution until she was nudged with the stick or Anne’s thigh.

           Anne was a comic sight to the residences of this side of the subdivision. Overweight Anne walking her two goats always seemed to fascinate everyone.  She never used leads or ropes and the goats made no attempt to run away.  To the rednecks this was unheard of. All creatures are to be subdued and controlled by sheer force.

 Anne’s instructors had been her four legged friends. She had learned a lot from these animals, especially, what Christ had meant when he used the term “shepherd”.  Now with her two little girls she understood more fully what that meant.  A shepherd ‘leads’ and the flock WANTs to follow.

When she first tried to make the goats come with her it was a battle. When she wanted them to go this way; they, of course, wanted to go the other.  She would put collars on them and ropes and the tug-of-war would commence.  Till one day in frustration she just dropped the ropes and walked off.  They were puzzled, but couldn’t stand her going anywhere without them. So curiosity about what she was doing, and why it didn’t involve them, caused them to follow her.

  Now all she needed to do was turn her back and walk, and they went with her.  Sometimes she lead, and sometimes they lead depending on moods, but where ever they went…they would go together as a cohesive group. 

Anne realized that they consider her part of the herd. This also explained why they believed they should come in the house also.  They would call to her from their pen, when they would see her at the kitchen window, and you can almost make out words out of their questioning “baas”. “Why are you apart from the herd?”

 “Apart from the herd?” Anne focused her attention on that phase in her thoughts, as the small group reached the ‘golden throne’ (and outcropping of pale yellow sandstone) where they typically rested.  Why did she feel more complete as part of this little herd, then as part of the human race?  Why don’t we, as humans, take care of our own at least as well as her four legged friends appeared to want to take care of her? 

 She had a wonderfully complete feeling of belonging with her goats.  This whole experience reminiscent of the tales of Heidi she heard in her childhood.  Yes, she was leader, but not superior, that was just her job in the herd.

Lonely, seems to be how most people feel; searching for a belonging. Some people find it temporarily in a gang, club, or family..but somehow things don’t feel total.  There always seems to be politics, hard feelings, and a need to prove your worth to the members of the group continually.  Here, with the goats there was no need to prove anything, we were all a group totally accepting of each other with strengths and weaknesses.  Anne wondered if that would ever be possible among humans and tried to imagine the completeness and happiness that would exist if that were possible.

 The pond and the memory belonged in these thoughts somehow.  She felt like everything was a part of her when the memory would push itself through.  She was a part of the pond, trees, sky and rocks.  It was both exhilarating and frightening, because she didn’t understand it.  What if everything and everyone truly was a part of a bigger whole and that you could totally feel a part of?

It was time to continue the climb, the girls let Anne lead and would watch to make sure she could successfully navigate the steep part.  Once on level ground again they would wander around investigating what to chomp next.

 It was a beautiful day with the rocks and light mixing like ice cream and chocolate syrup, each caressing the other into a triumphant creation of delight. She drew strength from the whole enlightening experience. 

Today she thought she would try an experiment. Both Putts and Podunk were in front of her as they came to the base of the water towers. If they went to the right they would be in the sun but have a view of the valley; if they went to the left, they would be in the shade of the towers and would reach a small cottonwood tree where the girls enjoyed eating the leaves. The current leader, Putts, was heading toward the right. Anne took special note that nothing non-verbal could be seen from behind them and simply said, “Let’s got to the left.”  Instantly both Putts and Podunk shifted and went to the left. “How had they known?”

 She could understand if they could have seen her flinch or point, but she only said go “left”.  How could they know their left from their right?  Or even that what she was saying had anything at all to do with their direction.  It couldn’t be that they understood English? She settled on ‘mental pictures’ as the solution, and concluded that for the time there had been ‘additional’ communication of an unknown method going on, to be pondered on later.

 She felt renewed when they all returned from their outing even amid the scolding from the dogs about being left behind.

Turning on the computer took strength away. Electricity seemed to ebb out her energy, but she did so to check her email and found a message from her son talking about how he did on his test in Chinese.  That always astounded her that he had decided to take such a Foreign..foreign language.

  He was her first born and only son.  She related better with him than with her three daughters, as is normal.  The daughters related better with their father.

 He had been a trial during the teenage years, a horror inconceivable to her thoughts prior to the actual experience. They had been so close and always able to communicate and then suddenly, she was the enemy. 

 He was one of the reasons she needed to escape and move out here.  She couldn’t bear to watch him in his follies.  He was into gangs, drinking, smoking, drugs, and rap.  He had found a nice girl and was bringing her with him in his adventurous experiments. 

She would often comfort herself by telling the joke that had the punchline, “and they moved away and left no forwarding address.” Which was very close to how she felt when she left them and the city to come out to Never-Never Land.  Five hours away prevented him from blaming his parents for his mistakes and he wouldn’t possibly come all this way to borrow ten bucks.  So they left the 20-year-old on his own, to sink or swim.

Eventually after much prayer and divine intervention with God rescuing him from a bad LSD trip to Hell, something clicked, and he came back to consciousness.  He thru away his cigarettes, rap music, and drugs. Married the sweet thing he had been living with and started life.  He was now going to college in Washington State University in computer science.  Anne and him again started communication and the relationship was developing anew as friends.   Sometimes he felt like the only one that understood her.

 She replied to the email with congratulations and then deleted the rest, which were all advertisings.  Without money you can’t buy anything no matter how good a deal.

Back to work editing HTML for a company in California that had technical people but not writers.  She got some money for each page she edited, but unlike when she first started, the pages had grown into long tutorials and it took hours sometimes to make sense of the jargon long enough to correct it for grammar or rearrange sentences for clarity.  Paydays were far apart and sometimes it was hard to keep focused.

With money so tight refinancing the house became a necessity. At one point that meant she had to head to Panguitch to gets some papers and transfer some money.  It was a long hour and twenty-minute drive on Hwy 12, which would take her over the “Blues” to get to, Panguitch, the county seat. 

           The “Blues” was a local term to refer to a high narrow switchback portion of the road that wandered thru portions of blue clay mountains.  It was an extreme tortuously slow spot where when the weather was bad had more than it’s portion of lives claimed.  Hwy 12 was labeled one of the most scenic highway in the US; by more than just the locals.  It was the only paved way out of town. North to Boulder and up thru Capital Reef National Park or South to Panguitch thru Bryce Canyon was her only choice when she wanted to leave her abode and head back to civilization.  Today she would be heading South.

           Anne loved driving this road.  The shadows and lights played differently on the diverse landscape everyday of the year and every time of the day.  You could drive it a lifetime and still see something new.  Today it had been clear when she started out, but as happened so often in a little microclimate they had in their little valley, it wasn’t so after about twenty minutes and the elevation climb approached the “Blues”.  It was starting to sleet and the roads were slick as trying to decided whether to allow accumulation as snow, or melt off as rain.

           She knew she had a mile or so before the speed limit changed to the 35 mph which she would need travel to get over the summit. She recalled her husbands admonishment, “Go fast where you can, and slow when you must.”  He held to the rural sentiment that speed limits were only enforceable when someone else was around; since the roads were sparsely traveled it became his motto.  He was always chastising her for following the speed limit regardless.

          The speed limit was 55 and she had slowed in anticipation of the future 35 mph slowdown and the weather change. She glanced at the speedometer to check to see if she was being overly cautious and it indicated around 47.  Then there was a loud thud and the sound of crumpled metal, and before she even could figure out what was happening her foot was to the floor on the brake. The tires screeched but the road was slick and she discovered that her car had spun 180 degrees and was sliding uphill while she was now pointed down.

           Anne held her breath and waited for gravity to slow her progress even if the brakes weren’t effective.  No other vehicles could she see on the road. That was good. The car was not heading off the side…that was better!  It was miraculous but the car slowed down and slid right into the only drive off spot at the top of the “Blues”.  She gingerly released her breath, which she thought she must have held for an hour.  The whole incident could have only lasted 5 or 10 seconds.

          She sat there, heart pounding as she tired to reconstruct what had happened. Under her breath she repeated, “Thank you, God” several times.  She didn’t have a fear of driving off the side of the mountain to the several hundred feet drop off, but if ever she did take that ride, she fancied it would be a Thelma & Louise type jump, not one that was out of control.

          The sleet had slowed down and the roads were nearing the decision to let the moisture melt away as rain.  She got out of the car and walked cautiously around the Ford Explorer.  The bumper was disconnected on one corner and crumpled with bits of hair.  She examined the hair to make sure it wasn’t human before deciding to walk back down the slope to find the unfortunate animal.  Jack would always have a gun with him.  If he had been here he would have been more than willing to finish the job if the animal was in agony.  She hoped the kill had been quick.  She didn’t think anything in the car currently would allow her to assist in such a mission, that is, if she could have gotten herself to do it.

           The walk seemed long as she traversed the last quarter mile.  She couldn’t see anything on the road, so she was forced to walk back and forth and peer off each side of the road every few feet to see if the animal was still in view.  About the time she thought about having to return and get a coat, she heard a sound.  It was a little like a screechy moan and it brought her to the same side of the road she had been driving. 

           It was a doe. Anne had never heard much vocally from deer.  They were always silent when she saw them, had only heard a mating call a few times while camping at Capital Reef.  Now the poor animal could not be quiet.  She walked hesitantly up to the animal.  The doe cried louder with fear until she talked to it, crouched down and touched it lightly.

           The doe became instantly calm and almost succeeded in radiating that calm to her. The creature lifted its head and stared straight into her eyes.  There was no blame, no fear in those deep brown eyes, just an intense feeling of communication, almost of recognition.  She continued to stroke the animal’s body and neck as she puzzled over what the doe wanted her to know.  Suddenly the head turned toward the pavement and the animal’s body heaved with convulsions.  She felt so sorry for the injured deer, but knew out here, even the most careful of driver could not avoid a deer in it’s out-of-nowhere jump to death that seems to occur.  Sometimes it would seem they would wait until there was a car, just so they could jump out in front of it.

           The convulsions continued and she continued to stroke the neck and tried to talk, mostly to comfort herself.  “It’s alright.  It will be over soon.  Your not alone.”  Yada, Yada, Yada.  She knew it was babble, especially if the deer had the faculties during it’s death thralls to listen to what she was saying, but she didn’t know what else to do and she felt responsible for this animals suffering.

           After about a minute of jerks she noticed quite a large lump inching it’s way up the throat of the deer with each convulsion.  It was trying to throw up something.  It was something very large for a deer to have swallowed in the first place.

           It became a fixation to watch the progress of the lump, and gave her something to think about besides just the suffering.  After about five minutes the lump was nearing the mouth and she waited to see its expulsion.  She tried to guess what it would be, but decided to wait.  She didn’t know enough about a deer’s habits to make a rational call.

           The deed was done.  The object was shot out with the last convulsion about four inches from the does’ jaw.  The spasms stopped and the deer again agonizingly lifted its head, looked into Anne’s eyes and then tilted her head toward the object, almost with pride.  Then laid her head gently on the ground and let out the sigh of her last breath.

           Anne cried. It had not been her intention to hurt anything.  She was glad it was over though.  Nothing should have to suffer long.  The cold was making her ache and she wasn’t sure she would have the strength to walk back up the embankment and to the car. She tried to rise from the long crouched position and fell toward the pavement; her legs had gone to sleep. Sitting there waiting for the blood to return, she rubbed her legs and started an examination of the lump that had been discarded by the deer. 

           She picked up a piece of sagebrush and poked at the slimy white thing.  As she did so the slushy snow began melting rapidly over and around it seemingly to give the thing a washing.  The object was hard and….really white…but with a blue-white glow?  Glow?  She examined the stick she had been prodding it with, but there was nothing to indicate anything caustic.  The stick still looked like a stick, with nothing on it.  She flipped over the stone and turned it around, still using the stick.

           Finally with feeling returning to her legs, she decided to touch it.  It was warm, but that was logical it came from the warmth of the deer body.  It seemed polished and just a stone, so with greater confidence she picked it up as she simultaneously rose and started the return trip to the car.

          There was no slime on the rock any more and the warmth of the rock was the only thing warm near her, so she held onto it.  Upon reaching the car Anne turned on the engine and cranked up the heat.  The car at least hadn’t cooled down completely and she eventually would feel almost normal.

           Her heart was still pounding and she felt that she didn’t have the where-with-all to discuss financing and haggling.  She decided to go back.  She would explain to Jack that she had hit the deer and didn’t want to keep going until he had checked the car out thoroughly.  That settled in her mind, she sat in the car calming down, warming up and examined the white rock.

           She started to think herself strange.  What was with her and animals and rocks?  Maybe she should take up geology just so she would have an excuse to spend all this time fussing over rocks.  Why would a deer swallow such a large rock?  She heard of birds swallowing grit to help digest their food, could it be the same with deer?  Obviously this deer couldn’t tell the correct size to swallow.  “It could have very possibly have died from this rock whether I had hit it or not.” she rationalized to herself.

             The ride home was uneventful, fortunately, cause her mind was not all the way on the road.  She arrived back before her husband came home. She was glad to have some time to clean up, and start thinking clearly.  She brought the white rock in with her into the bathroom as she took the time to transformation back to real life.