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Hunting Bambi

April 7, 2011

First published in The Alternative Press.

I think of myself as an animal lover.  I’ve had cats for pets all of my life, I fondly remember my grandparents’ dogs, and I love to see animals running in the wild.  I’m hoping to instill this same love of animals in my children by teaching them to find and watch wild animals anytime we’re outside.

I had these warm, fuzzy thoughts toward animals this week when I purchased the movie “Bambi” on DVD for my kids as an Easter present.  I remember watching it with my brother as we imitated Thumper sliding on the frozen pond, “Look, (thump, thump, thump), the water’s stiff!”  My kids have never seen “Bambi,” so I’m looking forward to sharing that with them.

I thought Easter would be the perfect time for watching this particular movie.  Since the baby animals all emerge in the spring, we’ll be able to see some in our own neighborhood.  This spring seems to be taking its sweet time to arrive, but slowly and surely it is appearing.  I’ve seen the birds coming back, chattering their happy tunes, and my crocuses are blooming whenever they’re touched by the sun.

I know the baby rabbits will be arriving soon, too.  I just hope our family cat doesn’t bring me a dead baby bunny on our doorstep as her own Easter gift for us.  It will be hard to explain that one away to my kids after they fall in love with little Thumper.

I also know that, once I see my crocuses sprout,my tulips will be soon to follow.  Just like the birds and bunnies, the spring will also bring back the deer.  Now, I love deer as much as the next animal lover.  I love to see them in the woods, peacefully grazing.  They’re beautiful as the baby fawns bound along after their mothers.  I even make an effort to point out deer to my kids whenever they appear around town.  But when it comes down to protecting my tulips, the deer are no longer cute and peaceful.  They are the enemy.

I can actually empathize with the mean old villian in “Bambi.”  Yes, the hunter who thins the deer population during tulip season is okay by me.  Our own neighborhood deer are lucky that I’m only armed with a spray bottle and sprinkler.

With our latest snowfall only one week ago, I really thought I had a bit more time to prepare for our unwanted guests.  If our crocuses were only breaking through the snow, that should mean that the neighbors’ daffodils are next and my tulips would be behind them.  Curious, I took the kids out last weekend for a walk around our yard to see what we could find sprouting up through the soil.

To my surprise, I noticed that the tulips were making an early comeback this year.  We had some groupings of leaves that were already four to five inches tall.  I went down to the garage and checked the weight of my huge bottle of Deer Off spray from last year.  Still heavy enough to get by for the next few weeks, I thought.  I made a mental note to get out and spray all of my tulips sprouts to keep them from the deer.

That, right there, was my first mistake.  As a mommy of three in my mid-thirties, I have learned that mental notes only last as long as a clean toilet in a house of boys with bad aim.  If only a mental note could water my plants, some might actually still be green.  What I should have done was either go out immediately to spray my tulips then and there, or at the very least write down a note on my weekly To Do list to remind me later.

It only took two days before my son came running in from outside to announce that our tulips had gone back into the ground.  Explaining that that’s not the way that nature works, I put on my shoes and sweatshirt and went outside to investigate.  From a distance, it looked like the shoots of leaves actually HAD buried themselves back in the soil.  Upon closer inspection, however, I noticed that they all had instead been munched down to mere nubs.  Some of them even had the bulbs torn from underground with just the husks remaining.

It took all of my mommy training to hold in all of the expletives that ran through my mind at that moment.  Anger at myself for forgetting to spray them and absolute fury toward the deer and rabbits who made a meal of my tulip leaves made my blood boil.

I went to the garage and grabbed the bottle of spray.  I opened the top and splashed some of the foul-smelling stuff down my jeans while I poured it into the spray bottle.  Reeking of rotten eggs and manure, I went out and sprayed every single leaf peeking out of the soil.  With each pull of the spray handle, I pictured myself pulling the trigger on the monsters who dared to decimate my flower beds.

“Feast on THIS, you over-populated, lime-disease carrying, tick breeders!”

I even made sure to spray the ground where my daylilies would emerge in the coming months just to try to train the horrible moochers to stay away from the area.  I stormed around my yard and sprayed until my hand cramped and the nozzle clogged.

For the next few days, I happily watched as the leaves seemed to recover enough to grow some more.  I left the “Deer Off” spray sitting on the top step of my porch to be a constant reminder to spray twice a week until the blooms wilt.

About three days later, I walked out one wet morning to load the kids in the minivan for school.  On the way to the driveway, my son pointed to the ground.  “Mommy, the deer ate your flowers again.”  The instant the rain washed away the stench of the repellant, those miserable munchers were back again.  And in the rain, too!!

I am now spraying every other day, rain or shine, to keep the buggers away from my yard.  I still plan to watch Bambi with my kids, and will probably still cry when Bambi’s mom dies.  I just won’t let on that I’m secretly rooting for the hunters.

First published in The Alternative Press.

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