I recently got up close and personal with a dead deer. I was walking and the deer was just lying there on the side of the road. We were in the Blue Ridge Mountains and I was on a walk about down the dirt road. For once, I was not one of those people you see walking around transﬁ xed by their smartphone oblivious to everything around them. I was transﬁxed by a ﬂock of turkey buzzards posing on a row of fence posts in front of me. Turkey buzzards are not particularly attractive members of the avian race, but they are quite necessary. Think of them as ﬂ ying undertakers. They are big birds, about 3 feet long wearing formal black suits like an undertaker. They have ruddy featherless heads that seem to be covered with rosacea like a villain in a super hero movie. If Edgar Allen Poe designed a bird, he would have created the turkey vulture. Like undertakers, they vacuum up dead things.
I could imagine the head turkey vulture saying to the dead deer, “I am so sorry for your loss, Mr. Deer. Please accept my most sincere condolences. But may I say, you look delicious today. Dinner time.” I have walked that dirt road many times and never seen a ﬂock of turkey vultures chilling there. That should have been a clue that something had drawn their attention to those fence posts. They were not particularly concerned that I was walking towards them. As long as I was moving, I was of no real interest to them. They could wait until I stopped moving.
Due to my focus on the vultures, I almost stumbled over the dead deer lying in the road. That could have led to embarrassing moments in the emergency room. “How did you break your arm, Mr. Dickey?” “I tripped over a dead deer lying in the road.” That would have been good for laughs amongst the medical personnel in the ER. “Did you hear how the jerk in Cubicle 3 broke his arm? The moron tripped over a dead deer.” Oh, the shame.
I got back to the cabin without further incident and began listening to music on the front porch. I was pondering the pond while futilely attempting to think profound thoughts. Willie Nelson had just ﬁnished singing his last old time hymn. Without Willie, suddenly I heard the mountain sounds. The mountain is a loud place once you start listening. Whistling wind, talkative birds, bragging bull frogs, humming bees and mooing cows across the pond. You can hear a lot just by listening. Without electronic interference, you can hear how the mountains sounded during the Middle Ages. Mountain sounds go way back. Once we are gone, the mountains will keep making noises without us.
After listening to the mountain for a while, I heard an interesting new sound. There was a loud hufﬁng noise up on the mountain behind the house. I thought a cow might have gotten out of the pasture and wandered up on the mountain. Cows huff when they feel huffy. The hufﬁ ng sound went on about ﬁve minutes. The hill behind the house is very steep. It would have taken a cow with skilled Sherpa abilities to climb up there. It occurred to me that one of the neighbors mentioned a brown bear and her cub had been seen in the area. At that point the hufﬁng did not seem so benign. I saw movement up on the hill but a wall of leaves kept me from seeing what it was.
I began to wonder about the appropriate strategy for dealing with a momma bear. Run in the house, lock the door, hope for the best, kiss your fanny goodbye and apply A1 Sauce was the best plan I could come up with. I wondered how long a wooden door could keep out an angry bear. I remembered Allen Shermans classic song, “Hello Muddah , Hello Faddah” about the boy who was not happy to be at Camp Granada. It featured the immortal lines, “Take me home, oh Muddah, Faddah/Take me home, I hate Granada/Don’t leave me out in the forest where/I might get eaten by a bear.”
Fortunately, the hufﬁng eventually stopped. I could hear the bird, and the wind. In the words of Robert Frost, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep.” Like the rest of the world, there is a lot of life and death out there. Enjoy it while you can.