Last summer we noticed a young adult deer, seemingly not in any particular clan. Unlike his peers with their antlers beginning to develop, he had only one paltry little horn. We affectionately called him “One Horn.” He kept to himself, and we feared that he might be treated as a reject by the deer with more developed antlers.
One day we noticed One Horn limping through the property as he ate. His front left ankle was swollen. Undaunted, he picked his way through the back of the house, choosing each step carefully as he went.
I worried about him. I wondered what would happen to him if a predator such as a cougar, ever showed up. This did happen once, on the south edge of our property. A cougar killed a doe and left her inedible parts behind to rot until one of our cats discovered it. One curious sniff brought an epidemic of fleas back to the house that took weeks to eradicate.
Would he meet the same fate as the doe? It was painful to watch him walk, limping heavily on that one leg.
“You know you’re not supposed to feed them, right?” one of our indigenous neighbors reminded me, when I told him about One Horn.
“Yeah, I know,” I replied wistfully.
“He’ll probably wind up being the one the other deer push out when a cougar shows up, and he could be the food for that cougar this coming winter.”
I winced, knowing that unless I was willing to build a triage stable and find a vet, I would have to let nature take its course. I watched for signs of his deterioration, should it be necessary to call our neighbor with a shotgun.
As the summer wound down and deer hunting season approached, our deer became scarce. We figured they had a safe place to wait out the hunters, but we also wondered if One Horn may have met his end.
Then, a few weeks ago, the deer began returning in small herds, munching their way across the property. I’d nearly forgotten about One Horn until yesterday, when I noticed a fully-grown buck making his way through the backyard. He had a slight limp, one normal antler, and the same small, paltry single horn.
“One Horn!” I cried happily. He stopped and turned to look at me. Knowing that he still had the limp, I didn’t want to startle him into running away. (I suspect his pain. Even with hot yoga several times a week and the gym, I’m still working on: 1. Getting up quickly, and 2. Moving abruptly. I haven’t ventured into flat-out running yet, but I can swim a half a mile in a half an hour.) So I stayed on the back porch and spoke softly to him. He watched me for another minute and then resumed munching and moved on.
I quickly realized that he needed a new name. Calling him by a disfiguration of the body seemed derogatory, so I renamed him “Wonder Horn, Buck of Courage.”
Wonder Horn has crossed our property numerous times, now, and now that the rains have started, there are plenty of tasty things for him to eat. He, like me, walks with a slight limp, but apparently we’re both working on self-improvement.