Urban Deer and the Perils of Love

Over the summer, most of the deer in our neighborhood have been does with their fawns. The guys have presumably been off somewhere doing Important Manly Stuff. Either that, or they’ve been too embarrassed to appear in public when their antlers are soft, spongy things covered in velvet.

But now it’s fall. The guys are back. Their coats are glossy, and their antlers are polished emblems of regal stagdom. They carry themselves with all the assurance of lords of the forest or quarterbacks who have just won the homecoming game in the last minute of the fourth quarter. They look good, they know they look good, and they are ready for love.

Last week, out for a late-afternoon walk, we spotted one of these noble stags in a neighboring yard. A couple of does were nearby, pretending to ignore him but being careful not to discourage him by getting too far out of reach.

As we approached, we could see something hanging from the buck’s antlers. We thought at first it might be part of the antler of a rival buck, broken off in a battle over the affections of the neighborhood ladies. Then it looked more like a broken branch or a bunch of vegetation. We stopped at the edge of the yard to look more closely, and we finally figured out what he was carrying.

It was a mop. A string mop, minus the handle and somewhat the worse for wear, was dangling incongruously from one tine of his antlers. Posing for the ladies, he lifted his head to gaze majestically into the distance. The mop swung back and forth beside his cheek. A kind observer—his mother, perhaps—might have called the effect "rakish" or "insouciant." An impartial observer would have acknowledged the truth. It made him look like a dork.

He dropped his manly pose and sauntered across the yard after one of the does. She seemed to reciprocate his interest. Maybe she thought his headwear was quite the latest thing, the equivalent to a tattoo or a pierced eyebrow. Maybe she appreciated his daring and unique fashion sense. Maybe she thought it would be a funny story to tell the other girls later back at the thicket. Maybe she just felt sorry for him. Or maybe it’s true that love is blind.

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