Thursday, January 4, 2007

Edward: My Pet Dead Deer

Yes, yes, I know. Nobody has a pet dead deer... Nobody normal, that is. But I've never claimed to be normal, so let me finally tell the sad tale of Edward, my pet dead deer.

I was living up in Northern California on a Morgan/Warmblood horse ranch. I was also trying to put myself through school by working two jobs. My first job was as a server at a local Olive Garden, and my second job was as the livestock manager at Flower Horse farm.

"Livestock manager" may seem like a fancy title, but my basic job consisted of feeding and keeping an eye on the ever-mischievous horses that filled the property. I'd say about ninety percent of my time consisted of running around behind them, attempting to keep up with the fences that they continually managed to break through. I've never met a group of horses that liked to wander more. I think it was because there were so many yearlings that they became the horsie-equivalent of a group of unruly junior-high kids, all egging each other onto greater and greater heights of bad behavior.  

"Come on, guys," they'd snort to one another, "Becky's sleeping. Let's see if we can push our way through this section of fence and break into the rose garden. I bet I can break through faster than you can!"

Warrior, one of the warmbloods, was one of the worst instigators. Here's a picture of him:

He was bored a lot, and he would get Fox, who was like his big older brother, and drag him into all sorts of trouble. Fox was an unbelievable horse. He never spooked, he never set a foot wrong--- he was just 17 hands of 2 year old sweetness, with one of the most incredible dressage trots I've ever seen. I swear Warrior would drag him into the mischief just because he knew I couldn't truly get angry at Fox.

Just because I can, here's a picture of Fox:

Anyways, they were little hooligans, but also pretty darn incredible.

I'm getting off topic. This is supposed to be about Edward. Where do I start?

Ah, yes. It all started on a dark, and stormy night....

Okay, I'm exaggerating. It wasn't stormy, but it was definitely dark. I was driving home from closing at the local Olive Garden, which if my memory serves me correctly, means that it was past midnight by the time I managed to drive my little truck up that steep, steep hill to my house. My truck always struggled to make it to the top, and I never really knew when I was going to find a large herd of yearlings tromping up my front yard. So, you can imagine my relief when I made it home to find the horses safely penned and fed, and everything nice and quiet.  

Aaaaah... Home, Sweet Home. I could almost taste sleep.

I made it inside, took my customary nightly shower (Olive Garden smells yummy when you're hungry. It does NOT make for yummy-smelling sheets), and put on my fluffy, blue cow robe.

It was then that I heard the barking. Now, of course, on a 14 acre horse ranch, you have to have some dogs. I mean, you can't have horses without dogs, right? Well, this pack of dogs loved to chase the horses (much to my dismay), but since there was no real way to keep them from doing it, and since they never hurt them, I mostly just let them be. Listening to the traveling sounds of the barking pack was a common sound on the farm.

That night, however, something was different.

Bark, Bark, Barkbarkbarkbark... Bark, Bark, Barkbarkbarkbark.... Bark, Bark, Barkbarkbarkbark... I'd heard my little Old English Sheepdog-mix bark plenty of times in the past, but I'd never heard her bark like that. High, insistent, breathy with excitement... it was like the sound was being torn from her throat in a delirium of high emotions.


Now, I'm not normally a flighty girl. I'm used to living on my own, and I'm used to taking care of my own stuff. So, being the resourceful young Becky that I was, I immediately grabbed my flashlight and a pair of mud boots, and headed outside to see what the trouble was.

Of course the flashlight wasn't working... why should it work? I actually NEEDED it to work, so naturally the batteries were dead. It was a very dark night, and the farm was situated at the top of the mountain, more than a mile of forest foilage between us and the nearest neighbor. And, of course, it was a new moon night, so the darkness was more than complete.  

Great, I thought.What do I use for light? I searched around for a little bit, before coming up with a brilliant solution. My cell phone! I could flip it open, and use the light that comes from the backscreen to help illuminate the darkness. With my cow robe and my mud boots, I headed outside to give it a try.

Sure enough, it was actually dark enough that it worked. I flipped it open, held it in front of me, and shined it around for a few seconds. It went dark, so I closed it, and flipped it open again. It worked quite well, so with my floppy mud boots, I began to make my way up the very, very dark road, holding my cell phone out in front of me, flipping it open and shut like some sort of talisman.

"Hello? Helllooooo?" I made my way slowly to the ever-changing location of the barking dogs, their din muffled by distance.

"Hello?" I called out, raising my voice. "Is someone there?" The way I figured it, the only thing that could get the dogs this riled-up was if they had found an intruder on the property. "Helllllllloooo?"

Wait a second...

A very disturbing thought occurred to me suddenly... If this were a movie, isn't this the scene where the stupid young woman gets killed? Everyone's been in the movie theater, where some dumb blonde--You know the blonde with the unusually-perky bosoms? The one who sleeps in makeup, and wears uncomfortable, sexy-little pajamas, even though she lives alone?

Yeah, you know the blonde I'm talking about--- anyway, THAT blonde bimbette hears a sound outside her window, and starts going towards it, despite her fear. The audience squirms in their seats, muttering to themselves... Go back, Stupid Woman! Don't go towards the sound! You're such a MORON! Go back! Run away! The young moronic blonde never does go back, though, and she always ends up stabbed to death by some homicidal maniac. Most of us feel absolutely no pity for that girl. What a moron--she totally deserved to die.

Well, that was my disturbing though--Wait a second..... I'M THAT GIRL. There I was, in a stupid cow robe, trying to use my stupid cell phone to light the stupid dark night, and calling out "Hello?" in my stupid, scared girl voice. What a MORON I was!

I made it back to my house as quickly as possible, and finally settled on a butcher knife as the deadliest weapon I owned. I would have loved to have owned a Magnum .357, or something like that, but a butcher knife was all I had. So, armed with my sharp kitchenware and my little cell phone, I headed back off into the night. This time, though, instead of calling out for the bad guys to find me, I concentrated on trying to sneak up on the still-yelping dogs. I could hear them coming closer to me, so I paused, half-hidden behind the feed truck that stored bales of alfalfa.

And that's when I saw it.

Backlit briefly by the the far-off barn light, I saw a figure. It was a four-legged figure (Thank heavens! No homicidal maniacs on Flower Horse Farm that night!), and it rushed out of the light so quickly that it took me a few seconds for my brain to register what I had seen... but by the time the dogs had finished streaming by that light, chasing after the now-invisible figure like some sort of Discovery Channel episode...Well, by the time that had happened, I had the figure narrowed down to two possible animals:

It was either a small deer, or it was one of the Morgan weanling colts.... and I had distinctly seen the entrails dangling out of its stomach in the brief moment it had been illuminated.

Oh, Lord. What was I going to do? If it was a deer, there was nothing I could do about it, and I did NOT want to have to hunt down a dying, bleeding deer, armed only with the light of my cell phone. What would I do if I found it? Did I really have the guts to put it out of its misery if I did find it? It's one thing to put an animal out of its misery with a gun... it's another thing to have to cut its throat. I knew that the chances of it surviving were slim, even if I could find a veterinarian to take care of it.... and I really didn't know if I had it in me to be able to take the life of such a large animal, even if it was a good cause. I was recently moved to the area, so I didn't have any friends I could call. Wouldn't it just be better to, uhhh, let nature take its course, and let the dogs catch it?

But what if it wasn't a deer? What if it WAS one of the Morgan colts, and one of the dogs had snapped, and attacked it instead of just chasing it? What if it was one of the even younger Warmblood babies? Even if I could make myself ignore it (don't worry... I would never be able to), I knew the doctor wouldn't appreciate me just letting one of potentially 20-30 thousand dollar horses die, simply because I was afraid.  Besides, I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I did.

Do you ever have one of those moments you reaaaaaaaally wish you were somewhere else?

Well, that was one of those nights. If it had been a Choose-Your-Own Adventure book, I probably would have flipped back to the choice I made before (Come on! We all did that, didn't we?) and tried again. But, unfortunately, life isn't like that.

So, I did what I had to do.

As you can probably tell from the title, it wasn't a horse. It was a deer--- a young, mule deer. I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that I found the deer before the dogs did, and mercifully, he was dead. Even better than that, he had, uh, caught himself when he'd tried to jump the fence, and was safely on the other side of the fence, where the dogs couldn't get to him. I left the dogs to stare at their "kill" overnight, and went to bed. It was cold that night--- in the low 30s --- and the deer would "keep" until sunrise.

Well, sunrise came, and I woke up, knowing what I had to do. I lured the dogs away from the deer by feeding them inside the main house, fed the horses, did every chore humanely possible to postpone the inevitable, and finally returned to the scene of the crime.

I remember staring at the hanging deer, thinking that I had NO idea what to do. Come on... I grew up in Orange County. They don't exactly teach this sort of stuff to you in schools. I knew the deer couldn't stay on our property, because I didn't have the tools to dig a deep-enough hole that the dogs wouldn't be able to dig it up.

But where would I dispose of it? The neighbors wouldn't appreciate the deer carcass on their property any more than I appreciated it on mine.

I finally decided that first things were first, and I needed to get the deer into the back of my truck, before deciding what to do. So, I put on a VERY thick pair of gloves, tied a rope around the deer's neck, dragged it back over to our side of the fence, and started dragging it up the hill after me. I was just about to toss it in the back of my truck, when I heard the unmistakable sound of a car coming up the steep hill.

I had completely forgotten that a banker-type-person was coming up to the ranch to do an appraisal on the property, and I was supposed to show him around. Now, I'm no real estate expert, but I was pretty sure that sight of a grubby Becky dragging a deer carcass behind her on a rope wouldn't make a very good impression. So, what did I do? I shoved the deer in the closest place I could, which ended up being an empty two-horse trailer, and dashed off to my house to attempt to look presentable (as well as to wash my hands.)

Showing the gentleman around took the rest of the morning, and by the time he left, it was time for me to go to work at Olive Garden. Since I didn't know what to do with the deer, and I couldn't exactly leave a deer carcass in the back of my truck in front of such a fine dining establishment, so.....well.... The deer would have to wait it out in the trailer until I got back from work.

Now, here's where the real story begins. I worked really late that night as well, and do you want to know a little secret? After a long day at work, and with NOBODY around to make the job less creepy than it actually was, I had absolutely NO desire to start playing around with a dead deer.  It was past midnight when I got home that night. Like I said, I had no desire to take care of the job.  None. There's something that's MUCH creepier about a dead body at nighttime, as I'm sure you can all agree.

So, I left the deer till morning.

But do you want to know what? When morning came, I realized that I was going to have to toss the deer on the side of the road (the farm was situated off of a mountain road), and that I needed the cover of darkness to make certain I didn't get caught. I'm not sure if depositing the body of a large dead animal on the side of the road is considered littering, but I didn't want to find out.  I definitely couldn't afford the ticket.

So, that night, I vowed to myself to just suck it up, and take care of it when I came home from work.

But do you know what? When I came home from Olive Garden that night... well, I just couldn't do it. It was too dark, and there was just nobody around. It'd already been so long, and the nights were so cold... one more night wouldn't hurt, right? I'd just get up really early in the morning, and do it before anybody was out on the road! Yeah, that's what I would do!

But do you know what? In the morning, it was just too light, and I realized the foolishness of my plan. I would have to do it that night, when I came home from work....

And thus began the reign of Edward, my pet dead deer. I don't know whether you've read my entry on procrastination, but let me tell you--- I am the QUEEN of putting things off.

SIX WEEKS I lived with Edward.

SIX WEEKS I told myself that I would take care of it that night, or that morning.

I became fascinated with Edward, in a disgusting sort of a way. I would peek in through the windows of that little two-horse trailer every morning, and every evening, staring at him in a sort of horrified awe. I began talking to him whenever my ranch work was situated near him. It seemed only natural to give him a name, to make the conversation flow easier. It started innocently enough, with me making empty promises about returning him to the wild from whence he came. 

"Edward," I would say, "Edward, I really need to do something about you. You deserve better than this. Tonight's the night. Tonight I am definitely going to put you by that little bend in the road I have picked out for you. You'll like it. Tonight. I promise.

Our relationship soon progressed beyond my fruitless promises, into a deeper sort of a camaraderie. "Edward, have you seen where I put that shovel? I'm serious, Edward, if I don't get that stable cleaned out in the next ten minutes, I'm going to be late for work..." It was kind of nice having him around to chat with. I didn't have to worry about whether or not I was within hearing distance, because... hey! Dead deer don't hear. I could chatter to Edward from across the yard, and never worry about a thing (except, perhaps, for whether or not this sort of behavior classified me as psychotic).

Okay, okay, I know I'm sick. But I didn't know what else to do. I mean, I couldn't imagine Edward didn't exist, because he did. There was less of him each day, but the process was a slow one, and frankly, it was disgusting. What else could I do but make a joke out of the situation? Somehow I let the whole Edward situation slip out of me in front of my Olive Garden coworkers, and then I had them as well as my guilty conscience hounding me to take care of poor Edward.

Despite that, the situation might have gone on indefinitely, if it weren't for a sudden warming in the temperature. The doctor and I were standing by the trailer one day, discussing future plans for the ranch, when suddenly... Oh, Lord. Was that EDWARD smelling like that? Apparently I wasn't the only one who caught a whiff, because the doctor suddenly looked around. "What's that smell?" She looked like she as about to hunt it down, and I was preparing my river of excuses, when mercifully a friend of hers came up the drive. Phew! Saved, but just barely!

It was the wakeup call I needed.

Early the next morning, armed with a tarp, a broom, and covered from head-to-toe in disposable clothing, I took what was left of poor Edward (as well as the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of maggots and little insects that had taken up residence in his body), and I laid him to rest at a bend in road, where the trees made an arch. He was far enough off the road that nobody would see him, but not so far that he was on anybody's property. The whole thing went off without a hitch, and on the entire drive back I chewed myself out for not doing it sooner. I cleaned the entire inside of the trailer, and to this day I don't think the good doctor knows about the tenant that lived inside of there for almost two months.

So, there. That's the story of Edward. I can't believe I'm sharing my pathetic procrastination tendencies with the world, but there you go. Edward, old buddy, may you rest in peace.

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Anonymous Sarah said...

Becky... I can relate... not because I experienced similar consequences of procrastination, but because I have dealt with a few deer carcusses/issues in my time. Please read: (scroll to the end of this one).

Anyways, I'm glad you didn't have to kill the deer, but if you ever have to and you don't have a gun... try a large rock. My dad had to put a fawn out of her misery on the side of the road once, and that's what he did.

We're so morbid.

January 5, 2007 at 12:21 PM  

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