A front leg and his neck were broken, and just the day before he stood behind my house, a Patronus in fading, horizontal light, ethereal and proud in the smoky haze drifting over the Midwest from wildfires out west. Sometime in the night he must have snapped a leg, an all-too-common event in the life of a deer, and then taken a dive into a shallow ravine in the woods, breaking his neck. Half a dozen turkey vultures keep him company now, a quiet Dickensian bunch picking over the remains. Coyotes soon will join the chorus.
One tries not to get sentimental about these things, wild creatures dying naturally in the wild. It’s the way of things and much better than being taken out by an avowed conservationist aiming a deadly weapon, perhaps the latest compound bow from Cabela’s, someone who believes that waiting to kill a sentient animal ambling contentedly past his tree stand is somehow meet, right, and salutary.
Enough of this. Next thing you know I’ll give the dead stag a name, or give it a proper funeral. Voices floating around the hollow tell me that mine is a minority view, one held by crackpot romantics and ivory-towered academics. And the voices may be right. There are bigger issues out there.
Genocide is happening in Myanmar right now; Rohingya children are routinely beheaded or burned alive. Good people are dying in refugee camps in far-flung places like Greece and Jordan. Crazy world leaders are playing testosterone-laden games of chicken with atomic weapons and, closer to home, Texans work to recover from devastating floods while the rest of us still struggle with being compassionate and empathetic toward the least among us, the poor, sick, elderly, the unwashed and unwanted.
September rides easily out here, one of those months rife with infinite possibility and never-ending hope. The band Earth Wind & Fire may have said it best, “Say, do you remember dancing in September? Golden dreams were shiny days.” And so they are. Schools everywhere are back in session and young people are doing whatever it is young people do these days, perhaps falling in love, long before they understand any of it, and our role is to simply stand back, smile, and keep our hard-earned lessons to ourselves. That, too, is the way of things.
Soon September will give way to a glorious autumn, a sweet-wine time for reflection. I think winter will lie long in the country this year; I can already see it coming from here. A burning bush next to the house has begun flaming at its edges and I should know the Bible story behind the name but that, too, like many things, is lost somewhere in a 1962 Sunday school class where I should have been paying attention.
• Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County