End Round One

Late last night on our steep one lane, dirt road, my car’s headlights pushed two exhausted but still warring bucks apart.  The extraordinary long antlers of the four point facing us almost seemed to grow up from the ground his head drooped so low. His mouth hung open and his tongue lolled from his mouth.  The other  had his back to us but the heaving in and out of his thickly muscled body showed how tired he was, too.  I rolled down my windows and shut my car off.  The one with his tail towards us looked wearily back around his leg.  Moving took tremendous effort and he didn’t bother lifting his head as he whooshed out a gust of air, something between a snort and a sigh.

“He’s got cut on his shoulder,” I said

“Look at the prong on the three point.” my husband gestured to the buck which had just moved. The right antler had a long extra point that aimed directly down instead of up and almost seemed to dangle uselessly by his ear but was firmly attached and must have grown like that this year. We could see that he had a gash on his other side, too.  The gashes weren’t dripping blood but they were a good four inches in length.

Staring at us with eyes that glowed an eerie red in the headlights’ beam, he turned with slow painful steps to face us and then continued the turn and edged off the road.  There he rubbed both sides of his muzzle against a tree. “Marking with his scent glands,” my husband explained. One of the two groaned a deep low moan of absolute exhaustion.

Behind us, a car’s engine warned that another intruder was coming.  I turned on my car and began slowly moving forward.  The four point in an exhausted panic stumbled to the middle of the road and Crooked Horn followed. I stopped to avoid hitting them and the other car, without so much as a pause, shouldered past us on the narrow road.  It narrowly missed the warriors. The bucks half leaped, half stumbled out of its way and into a meadow.  In anger, I slapped my horn sounding a bell that ended that round.

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photo taken another time darkened to approximate a buck  in the headlights.

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