Tuesday, February 4, 2014
This is Ellen's group. Four of them, three adult does and a fawn. They show up for a corn snack a couple of times a day in bad weather. I throw a few handfuls of cracked corn and sunfower under the spruce for the jays, cardinals, juncoes, sparrows and deer.
This is Boss Doe. She's the tallest and she pushes the rest around, sort of the way horses do in a small group. It's easy to figure out how the hierarchy goes if you settle back and watch awhile.
Boss Doe looms over Ellen. It's not hard to predict what will happen next. She wants Ellen away from the little corn that's left.
She paws Ellen with her sharp hoof.
This leaves a white divot of missing hair in Ellen's pelt. (left, below). Now I know how Ellen got the "slight imperfections" in her fabric that make her who she is. Later I went out and gathered up the talisman of long gray and brown hair. Each hair, hollow, providing superb insulation against the bitter cold. I've got it on my drawing table, next to a wing feather from my beloved Garrett the red-headed woodpecker and the 1903 Liberty Head dime I found in the upturned soil when our giant driveway oak fell down. Ellen is special to me.
Get lost, or I'll bop you again. Ellen gives up and goes around the back of the spruce to eat at the other side, away from Boss Doe.
I feel bad for Ellen, but that's just life in the herd. She feels a little put upon. Well, she always looks that way, because she can't raise her head much above horizontal, thanks to her issues.
Which include droopy ears, a strangely dished and twisted skull, and some spinal deformity. Sometimes I wonder if Ellen was the third of triplets, and she got mashed in utero by her bigger siblings. She certainly was stunted. Though she's given birth to a number of fawns, she's barely bigger than a yearling herself.
I've been photographing her since 2009. When she first showed up I thought she was a fawn. Not so sure now. She could be considerably older than five. If you don't know her story, click here.
Ellen's feeling mean. She turns on the youngest in the group.
And, in my favorite image of the series, Ellen bops him with her hoof. She looks pretty mean for a crooked little doe.
Snow flies, and the fawn hollows its back under the blow. Ow!!
Another bop for good measure. This is my corn!
What looks like a victorious pose is just Ellen's "normal" head tilt.
I love watching these deer. They always surprise me.
I know they're a plague in many areas, and I've lived and tried to garden in Connecticut, where they ate everything I planted. For whatever reason, they leave my ornamental plantings and extensive unfenced flower gardens alone. I don't know who to thank. I'm just grateful.
The vegetable garden has a nine-foot fence around it. I may be grateful, but I'm not dumb. The deer neatly clip off any tomatoes or snap peas that reach a tendril outside the netting.
Chet Baker brings this lesson of Whitetail Behavior 101 to a close with a salvo of barks as he watches, trembling, at the studio window. He's a good boy, but every dog has his limit.
And the fawn, last on the totem pole, brings up the rear.