Braveheart the Deer

On a soft, gentle, spring-like morning, birds were active in the front yard. Cardinal, House Finch, Pine Warbler, Chipping Sparrow singing. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker working on the high branches of a pecan tree. Towhee, Robin, White-throated Sparrows, Mourning Dove, Juncos feeding on the grass and under shrubs. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet fussed and flitted from bush to tree, and from limb to limb. And a Mockingbird began to sing in our neighbors’ yard – the first Mockingbird song I’ve heard this spring.

A solitary White-tailed Deer made her way up the slope on the eastern side of our house, browsing, maybe looking for leftover acorns or pecans. She stopped, raised her head and looked toward me, standing very still. She was a handsome, healthy-looking doe, except for her left front leg, which was crippled and withered. She held it loosely curled up, and moved by hopping forward awkwardly on the other front leg. We call her Braveheart. When we first saw her at least three or four years ago, we didn’t think we’d see her again. In our neighborhood – surrounded by woods and creeks – we see a good many deer almost every day, sometimes moving through in groups of six or seven or more. We thought a deer with a crippled leg wouldn’t be able to survive for long.

But Braveheart has not only survived, she’s raised at least one fawn, and she looks healthy and strong. She looks awkward when she moves, but can run fairly well when she needs to. This morning, after several still moments, she lowered her head and began to browse again. I could hear the crunch as she munched on something. Then suddenly, for no reason I could sense, she snorted, and bolted quickly away, running in her awkward but sufficient way, up the hill and across the road toward the woods on the other side.

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