Dear deer

When I first came to Ashland in 1971 I wandered over to a crowd down the street to see what prompted the gathering. It seemed that a dead deer was strapped to the hood of a pickup truck and had been paraded about town before ending up in the driveway of the trigger man. Back then many retail shops closed for most of "hunting season" and killing a buck and driving it around town for hours was part of a man's rite of passage.

I was not an expert in forensics, but it was clear to me that the buck had been shot from behind. While the gathered were drinking beer, sharing hunting stories, slapping backs, thumping chests and generally engaged in swaggering bluster and bravado while looking at the glassed-eyed rump roast, I spoke up by asking why the prey had been rear ended.

Then the real story came to light. Two neighborhood hunters were driving their truck up towards Mount Ashland when they spotted a buck. The driver stopped the truck, grabbed his scoped rifle from the venerable rack and shot the deer, all without getting out of his truck. He made no effort to conceal that this act was illegal, only emphasizing how hard it was to haul the buck 20 feet and get it roped to the hood for a triumphant display down the boulevard, around the plaza and back home, all to the hoots and hollers of fellow hunters. I made no comment, but it was apparent that I was not impressed with their style of hunting, nor the concomitant boasting and bragging.

I do not hunt, except with a camera and telephoto lens. When I shoot a deer, it lives to scamper and munch another day.

I mentioned in a previous column my spotting of a doe and several fawns sipping from Ashland Creek near the Plaza. It made me think of the interface between man and nature. We seem more the grim reapers than the stewards of Mother Nature.

With that encounter still fresh in my mind I came home the other afternoon to a dozen newer neighbors standing in their yards and looking my way. Twenty feet behind me a good sized buck with an impressive rack stood motionless while chewing on what I hoped was a late blooming dandelion. My dog, Spooky, stared at it with great interest, but stood by my side as the buck slowly ambled down the sidewalk. Then, in a blink of an eye it leaped over a fence and was gone. I turned to look at the neighbors and was greeted with thumbs up and waves, for all had silently agreed that we had been blessed to have even a vestige of the wild visiting us.

As subdivisions and McMansions push deeper into areas once used as wildlife habitat, many seem outraged that the former occupants don't want to be evicted. Cougars, deer, skunks, raccoons, possums and a myriad of former Mother Nature voters become disenfranchised as the bulldozer's blade makes the landscape boringly flat to accommodate our houses, cars and shopping centers.

We look toward our government to make things safe for our cats, lapdogs, hamsters and gerbils, so we condone the slaughter of cougars, which, after all, are just looking for a meal in a habitat once full of wildlife. They are not impressed with the size of our houses, the cost of our car or how affluent we might be. They only want to eat, drink, mate, raise their young and live in a world that brought them to the top of the food chain, until humans brought them chain link fences, decreased water flow, asphalt, cookie-cutter housing and scoped rifles, locked and loaded.

Today I am going to eat a tofu burger after a healthy walk along the railroad tracks. I am in luck, for Spooky will follow my dietary lead and be grateful.

We need to break from the past.

Lance was last seen playing poker in the alley with two raccoons, three crows and a possum, using dog biscuits as chips. If you want to join the game, leave your hunting gear at home. You may up the ante by tapping

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