It was a scene straight out of Charles Dickens. The unwed pregnant mother, abandoned by the father of her child, was out in the snowstorm. Cold and hungry, she waited outside the lighted windows of a house where people were eating, talking, and laughing. They saw her, but none of them gave her so much as a crust of bread.
Actually, the reality was even worse. It wasn’t just one unwed mother, but several. Heavy with this year’s fawns and with yearlings at their heels, they came through our back yard in the middle of last week’s snowstorm, looking for something to eat.
The snow was more than knee-deep, so no matter how energetically they dug with their slender front hooves, they couldn’t get to the bottom of it. First they explored the area that we pretend is our compost pile, where they often find delicacies like carrot peelings and orange rinds. Nothing. They pawed here and there in the yard. They shoved their noses into the snow in hopes of finding stray blades of grass. All they got for their trouble were white masks.
Finally most of them wandered off to the trees at the edge of the yard and started browsing on pine needles. One doe, however, stayed behind for quite a long time. She stood perfectly still, gazing up at our second-story deck. What had caught her attention was the bird feeder with its tantalizing sunflower seeds.
We could almost see her thinking. “If I just had something to stand on . . .” “If I got enough of a running start, maybe I could jump . . .”
Eventually she started off to join the others in the trees. Then she came back for one more speculative look. “If it snows another foot, I bet I can reach it.”
No such luck. The does nibbled a few pine needles and dry weeds, then moved on.
After the snow stopped falling, we dumped out a fresh batch of vegetable peelings and orange rinds that made a garish splotch on the white world of the back yard. Overnight, it disappeared, leaving nothing but tracks. Except for the onion skins. Even hungry unwed mothers have their standards.