Everyone has a pocket of the universe where they are in their element. This brings me to the story of our white deer. It was born late—a good month after most of the does had dropped their fawns in June. She was tiny and stood out so clearly against the summer green in her snow-white coat that at first I thought she was a young goat. But what was a kid doing frolicking with a small herd of white tailed deer? It didn’t take long before the piebald buck I’d seen tramping through the woods back in the winter, came to mind—an unusual sighting. This aberrant white fawn was not an albino; she had a black nose and dark eyes. She didn’t cavort like the other fawns, but seemed to hobble as though injured. My neighbor later told me he’d watched her being born in the woods behind our house. For the longest time she didn’t stand up and he wasn’t sure she ever would. But here was living proof that she was a survivor.
I watched for that fawn all summer, fascinated by its otherness. Her mother remained with the herd—probably a close-knit family of aunts and cousins and siblings—but always on the periphery. Perhaps this was due to the fawn’s awkward gait which made it difficult to keep up, or perhaps the other deer sensed its difference and kept it on the outside of the group.
Now you have to know that there is no love lost between deer and me. All spring and summer, I rain down curses on their heads as they steadily munch their way through my garden, waiting until the moment the plants they’re not supposed to like have just begun to bloom. This little white fawn, however, had wormed its way into my affections. I was rooting for her, aware that she was the proverbial underdog. While the other fawns with their tan coats speckled with white spots blended in with the dappled shade in the woods, she was a misfit that stood out like a neon target. I waited to see what hunting season would bring.
By the late fall the other fawns had lost their newborn Bambi coloring, and like the older deer, were now well camouflaged against the monochromatic grey/brown woods. The white deer was a spindly adolescent, still well behind the other fawns in size. She often came close to the house to feed and I could see that her ears were brown and she had a smattering of tan freckles on her back—a pretty little thing. And a perfect target for a trophy kill, for those unfamiliar with the many mythic tales of the sacred nature of white deer. http://protectthewhitedeer.com/whitedeer-in-myths-and-legends
And yet she survived until the snow came. At last she was in her element. I watched her through my bedroom window, snow falling softly around her as she pawed through drifts, unearthing tufts of grass. The speckles on the coat helped her merge beautifully with the bramble thicket, while the herd, feeding beside her, stood out like, well, brown deer in a snowstorm.
In stories we root for the underdog. They have so many obstacles to overcome, they need our concern, our love. We can’t help but rejoice when they find their environmental niche and thrive. And in her case, rather than shine, blend in.
The white doe has made it through three winters—three hunting seasons. I always watch for the flash of white in the woods around the house. Sometimes in winter I’ll look out my bedroom window at night and find her sleeping right outside. No wonder she works her way into my dreams. The other morning, a damp, green day, I looked up from my computer and watched her step out of the woods and pick her way daintily across the lawn, and there, several paces behind her was a tiny, spindly, fawn—brown with white spots. I shouldn’t have to worry about it, but I do.
I suspected you were special because of your writing and helping other writers like me for instance. Now I know you’re special in another far-reaching way since you have a white deer hanging out near your home. She looks more like a painting come to life.
Thanks, Brenda. I refer to her as “our” white deer, but of course she’s wild. She does, however, live in the woods on our property, and never seems to be far away. There is something more than a little magical about her.
Hope you’re enjoying summer. I’m just back from a week with my family, staying with cousins in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Walked on the beach early each morning. What a treat. If I ever strike it rich I’ll live by the sea.
All the best, Melissa
Great story. I have never seen a white deer, nor knew one existed.
Your pictures are fantastic too!
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I write the Madravenspeak living wildlife column for the Capital Times newspaper. The Wisconsin nature/wildlife election, Monday, April 13, forever controlled by hunting interests ( since it started as a hunting lobby ) now has yet another proposal to kill our rare white deer. Having helped raise orphan fawns every year ( garden variety brown ), I can say they are just as magical and heart-winning as the white fawns – as is all of life. If only humans realized we are not the only ones to “predate” on this planet – but that we the arrogant ones who design bombs, and plastic, and roads, and climate change – have a lot to learn from the innocent wildlife we allow to be killed so wantonly as recreation.
Now having destroyed half of all non-human life on the planet in just 40 years, we will have to learn from John Livingston’s writings, “The Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation”, “A Natural History of Human Arrogance” and “Rogue Primate”. He was born in 1923 and died in 2006 – and wrote compellingly of human entitlement.
If you would allow me to use your little piebald close-up in the middle on the left ( I need a jpeg version ) I would run it with my column against killing our white deer – it will come out Sunday, April 12 and I have to have the picture in by tomorrow or Friday at the latest. I got your story from the Protect the White Deer web site for Wisconsin.
Madravenspeak@gmail.com if you want attribution for the picture or a link to your site.
Animals have a way of teaching us their innocent beauty.