Monday, August 6, 2012

The Peterson Petting Zoo

When I was growing up in Arkansas, I used to sit at the community table at the back of my dad's cafe and listen to men who gathered for their daily infusion of caffeine and "manly" gossip talk about deer hunting. I could never wrap my mind around shooting for fun (that was then and this is now...I have evolved, albeit a vegetarian. I just realize not everyone holds to my live and let the animals live values) and really couldn't understand how anybody got close enough to deer to shoot one.

They were an elusive animal in our neck of the woods. It was easier to snag a rattlesnake or gig a frog (a story for another time) than to coax a deer...or even find one. So imagine my bewilderment the first time I encountered the friendly deer of Colorado.

It was late summer 1987. My son had just returned from his summer vacation at his dad's in Texas and we had just moved to Colorado. We drove over to the Royal Gorge with a picnic lunch. When we arrived we were driving through the park looking for that perfect spot to eat and enjoy the beauty of the Gorge. We were parked in the car, just about to get out. My son said something that got my attention. I was holding an enormous package of bag of window was rolled down and while my son was talking, all of a sudden his eyes got big and his jaw dropped and I heard this rustling sound next to me. I turned around to find a 12-point buck with his head and neck in my window, his snout in my bag of Cheetos, munching down. When I looked at him he stopped smacking and his eyes locked with mine and he backed out of the car. YIKES! What was wrong with the deer here? That would never happen in Arkansas. I guess when you're hungry and you really like salty treats, etiquette flies right out the window, especially when you are one of the creatures who lives by the survival of the fittest mentality. And he was definitely more fit than eat up, dude!

Once in Ouray, same thing, different food, different vehicle, much larger deer. My husband, Don and I were on our way back to Colorado Springs from Phoenix. It was January 1 and we wanted to see the Climbing Ice Wall in Ouray so we took a detour over the Million Dollar Highway, following a snow plow all the way to Silverton at a fast 15 mph. If you've never traveled this road, you'd not understand how deep the snow is there in the winter. We were in a Tahoe and the snow on the side of the road was taller than our vehicle. And no an altitude of more than 11,000 feet...and the fall, should it happen, would have been straight down. But I digress.

We pull into Ouray, which is a favorite spot of ours. (That's where we became engaged.) Driving down the main drag, I looked to my right and there they were. A buck and all his lady friends. Someone had put hay out in the yard for them and they were having a feast. We pulled up on the side of the road and here he came. Snorting, strutting, and stupidly, I rolled the window down. He stuck his head in...with all those horns...and enormous nose, big mouth and bad breath. I said, "Don, give me one of the cookies."

A friend of ours had made us some Norwegian Christmas cookies and we had a handful left. I put one in my hand and he took it. He wanted another. I gave it to me. Another. And another. Until they were all gone. And he got huffy. He wasn't quite done yet. "Now what do we do?", I asked.

One thing you have to know about me is this: animals love me. Tame ones, wild ones, it doesn't matter. They love me. I pet his nose and he back out and got rid of the attitude and we drove on. And as we did I watched him in the side mirror strutting back over to his ladies. Stud!

Now...our yard is much like that EVERYDAY. We have yearlings, mamas, fawns, bucks, and they are all my buddies. There's one in the yard right now as I write who just wants to be petted between her ears and she's happy. Another one, just wants to sit next to the house in the shade. The "boys", as I lovingly call them, "are yearlings...who we have watched grow since they were about a month old. They run up to meet us when we are outside. It's a hoot.

We have raccoons, foxes, and last night a big old black bear on the front porch. I was on the couch and I started hearing some strange noise that wasn't deer like at all, and I looked out the window, which was open, by the way, and there he was, sitting on the porch, drinking the hummingbird water and licking up what he'd spilled on the concrete floor. I said, "Hey," in my best give-me-back-my-apple tree voice (from Wizard of Oz) and he jumped up and ran hellbent for leather down the side of the mountain where were live, turning and watching until he was out of sight.

I don't pretend to say we should all go outside and pet the bears, but they are funny as long as you're on one side of the wall and they're on the other. By the way, they like the sound of tonal windchimes, in case you're interested.

Yes, we live in a petting zoo and our cat loves it. Especially the deer. One of the mommies cleans his fur. It's weird as all get out, but fun to see. 

My hubby calls me the Wild Animal Whisperer.

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