I always thought that in life and death situations I would do amazing feats; lift cars off small children, run through burning buildings, pole-vault to save strangers. Like Mrs Incredible. This sense has heightened since we moved to the woods because our neighbours are a little wild: scorpions, bears, bastard deer ticks, snakes, poisonous plants and mushrooms.
A chap who works here, the ‘Tash, was driving home recently and saw a dead deer on the side of the road with two vultures feasting on the carcass. As he sped past, one of the vultures took flight right in front him, as birds often do. Ten minutes later the ‘Tash noticed passing cars were dipping headlights and frantically waving so he pulled over. Walking around to his front grill he was startled to find a vulture stuck to it. A giant squawking bird was spread eagled on the front of his car freaking out oncoming traffic.
The vulture looked just as surprised to see the ‘Tash, wondering what the hell just happened to him. Then promptly threw up.
Cautiously—vultures are not known for their agreeable handshakes—the ‘Tash grabbed a wing, unhooked it with considerable effort and with a whoosh the vulture flew off directly from the grill. Unfreakinbelievable. Quietly, I was impressed he knew what to do. I might have called Roadside Assistance with the weirdest request of the year.
I have discovered recently I am no animal whisperer.
Driving to school the other morning Bob, the ‘Dactyl and I came across a baby deer on our long driveway. We got out and saw its tummy was rising and falling with one upward-facing eye locked open with fear. Bob, who is so gentle and loving with animals, wanted to touch the fur—complete with Bambi spots—and gently stroked the belly while I told the poor trembling thing that it would be OK. But we could see it was not OK.
“What are you going to do Mum?” asked Bob.
Erm, call Daniel Boone? Somebody else had already driven by and dragged branches around the fawn to form a warning barrier. I wondered about the Vet but didn’t think it would survive the bouncing drive.
So I told Bob the deer needed to be put out of its misery. “We’ll call one of the Dads to come and shoot it.”
He was horrified. If we were going to kill Bambi then he wanted me to do it. Right away. “We have a saw in the back,” he said, “Just chop his head off.”
Yeah Mum. What are ya?
Believe me, I would have done it if I thought for one second I could actually do IT. Instead I imagined lots of blood, bleating, and the worst beheading ever to be witnessed by a four and six-year-old.
The ‘Dactyl was not in the least bit interested in the dying deer and hopped around, itching to get back in the car and I felt a little guilty, but that’s exactly what I wanted to do too. Get to school. Get on with life.
We drove away.
Thankfully there was a freshly killed skunk just down the road. “Pe-Eeeeeeww,” said the ‘Dactyl when the pungent smell permeated the car momentarily lifting our solemn moods.
However, sadness followed me around all day yet it wasn’t about Bambi dying. In my moment of truth in a life and death situation I did not have any tricks to put the deer out of its misery. No twine around the jugular trick. No quickly snapping its neck trick. No smashing its skull with a rock trick. I could not even trust myself to run it over properly.
By the time the Other Camp Dad got to the fawn it was already dead—my instincts were right—but I felt lame that I had left the situation for the menfolk to solve. Bob and the ‘Dactyl did not see Mrs Incredible. More like Mrs Not-My-Problem.
I have been following Gretchin Rubin and her Happiness Project online lately and just when I needed it, a tip about acceptance arrived: Be OK about who you ARE but also be OK about who you are NOT.
It’s a marvelous way to rearrange thoughts and kick away lame feelings. You see, my children have seen me change a tire on the side of the road and jump into an icy cold river to retrieve a toy but they do NOT see me stroking animals unless they purr or bark. They have seen me climb trees and dance wildly to drums but they would NOT see me touch a vulture stuck to the car. That’s who I am.
The Dimple reminded me recently that the fact that I don’t wet my pants when I see a snake these days is, actually, rather incredible.