Mid afternoon I went to sit on the front deck, to absorb the birdsong and sight of the trees. I hadn't been there more than fifteen minutes when the quiet steps of five deer caught my attention. They were stepping gingerly along the dirt road above our home. It was two does with their yearlings, two young females and a male with his first antlers looking like fat fuzzy chopsticks. They huddled by the edge of our property, looking first at me, and then at each other, as if discussing the situation.
With prods and nudges, the mothers urged their youngsters into the shade beneath our trees. They stood and watched for about five minutes while the three grazed at the longer grasses and took a few nibbles at some of the shrubbery branches. Then the two young does settled down into the shade beneath the pines while the male, as if at a junior high dance, distanced himself and lay down close to the deck, watching me. The mothers looked at me, and then wandered off together.
I sat and watched the young deer, realizing that I felt better. They stayed where they were for the most part, occasionally getting up to stretch and eat a bit, but sticking pretty close to where they had been when the two larger deer had wandered off down the road together. During the afternoon I was in and out, and I talked to them as I always do. "Hi, deer. Nice to see you. Looks like your winter coats are almost gone..."
Around five o'clock I was back on the deck, just sitting there enjoying the lengthening shadows. The sun sets on the opposite side of the house, so that side of the yard has really wonderful early evening contrasts and striations. The yearlings stood at the same time, stretching and gathering together. I didn't see or hear anything, but suddenly I was alert as well. They gathered together for the first time since they had arrived. They stood for about five minutes, heads cocked periodically, listening. Obviously their hearing was far superior to mine. Plodding gracefully up the road came their mothers. They didn't stop, but looked at their babies, who fell into step behind them.
As the last one climbed up onto the road, both mothers looked over at the deck where I sat. What do you know? I've been used as a babysitter!