It’s Time for a Diversion from Flood Water Woes

Submitted by Art & Barb Straub

She was and remains the best of teachers! No black-board, no white-board, no dusty chalk nor new-fangled technological devices other than a trail camera. Her arrival in our lives heralded many years’ education into the wiles and ways of a white-tailed deer, a doe named ‘Stubbie.’ Regular perusers of the Independent knew her well, as over the years she has been mentioned in these columns more often than any other living or deceased woodland creature. In death, she continues her mission of sharing secrets with us.

You may remember that Stubbie entered our lives on a November day during deer hunting season many a year ago; a prominent and semi-permanent gash emblazoned upon her right front shoulder, and of course, she was tailless, a hunter having blasted the white flag away. Thus, her name, “Stubbie.” Eventually the wound healed, leaving a semi-permanent scar which changed colors depending upon the season. Each May she bore one, two or three fawns, dictated by the severity of the winter, teaching them every trick she’d garnered over the years. Each autumn we were in hopes that someone in the neighborhood might have purchased a ‘doe’ license; but magically, she returned to her maddening marauding habits a few weeks after season year in and year out.

In time, we grew to love and respect her docile disposition.
The number of fawns she mustered is a matter of conjecture. The ‘year of the triplets’ ended in a bean field near her regular forest habitat, to the piercing yips and howls of a coyote pack, followed by silence, then one noted missing triplets and a bloody area in a beanfield. That same summer found her adopting a motherless fawn, the two keeping close to human habitation. Danger was apparent, as often they would appear garnered with grasses, weeds and myriad mosquito welts. Then came the day when Stubbie returned alone, sans fawn, a huge insect-covered gash in her right rump. Read the signs.

Springtime meant lush green grasses, swelling underbrush buds, and, oh yes, tulips. It wasn’t that she was enamored of the sight of the red, yellow and orange beauties, as the bountiful flowers never survived beyond the ‘budding’ stage. Rather, they were plucked as the flower budlet developed, tasty salad before the main meal. In between times she taught ‘the kids’ how to slither under and over fences and to ignore flashing night lights. She especially relished the succulence of beans, peas, and most especially, Mexican sunflowers…tithonia. Oft in the first blushes of dawn, the camera would catch twins or triplets performing ballet in the center of the potato patch…the little sweethearts eating potato blossoms as they pranced up and down the rows.

In October of 2018, Stubbie met her match as a whistling auto hurtled out of the dark, striking her ragged old body on Pumpkin Hill Road as she returned from a foray into a neighbor’s garden. Encountering her broken body some days later, she was dragged into the forest where she began another set of teaching to the tune of the trail camera. Many forest creatures attended Stubbie’s reviewal (wake service) over a period of several weeks, but then the snows came, and came, and came. However, the story does not end there.
Her stiff battered body soon became the winter home of a host of creatures, via trail camera; the great circle of life and death in slow motion. Deer mice and short-tailed shrews, deadly enemies, set up housekeeping within her skull, the camera catching the shine of their wee beady eyes on blankets of snow. Raccoons and ‘possums had sumptuous feasts during winter thaws. More teachings of nature were yet to transpire.

As spring attempted to ‘sprung’ into being, ivory-hued blood root blossoms burst through the emerald green mosses encircling Stubbie’s decaying corpse; pink and purple hepatica gave birth to color about the body. Red Admiral and mourning cloak butterflies flittered about in the warm air above her. A skunk made regular visits snooping for leftovers.

Then, out of nowhere, gravediggers of the forest dropped by. On a warm late April afternoon, carrion beetles (burying beetles) arrived and began their grizzly work, burying Stubbies ragged remains. Fortunately, the trail camera was present to record the action. While busy at work, the interesting insects spent time mating and laying eggs to replenish their species.

Finally, the coup-de-gras! Like a head leaping from a Jack-in-the-box, an unfamiliar ferocious appearing furry face slipped out of the pitch-black night into Stubbie’s vicinity on the eve of April 27th. The intent of the cunning coyote seemed obvious. The long nasty winter left her with an insatiable appetite, and here was free manna from heaven on the table. Perhaps, to the west of Stubbie’s resting spot, on the nearby warm south face of Dinosaur Ridge, a coyote den with five or six hungry pups awaits a parent’s return with a hank of deer hip, or a tasty rib. Thus far, as illustrated by the trail camera, sir or madam coyote has made three trips in the deepest dark of night, each time attempting to pull Stubbie’s remains to a more secretive dining table. Time will tell, or maybe, time won’t breathe a word, and simply keep her many secrets. Stubbie continues to teach, as the trail camera is a terrible gossip. (To be continued.)