A Cheap Way to Die

Well, I was supposed to be blanching the last of my corn crop today, but plans have a nasty way of being changed. First, a neighbor’s combine broke down, and he needed some help. Out here you don’t wait to be asked to help, you just do it. When we got him thrashing beans again I headed toward home.

A lady and her daughter were pulled over on the wrong side of the road. There was an injured mule deer fawn lying in the bar pit. She had called Game and Fish (G&F) and the Sherriff’s office, but no one had the time to respond to a deer in the bar pit. The lady and her daughter were distraught and had been there more than an hour. I called and was transferred to the district supervisor for G&F and got his permission to move the deer to my place were it would be more comfortable.

At least on the floor of my shop the fawn would be out of the heat. The poor thing was paralyzed in the back end. It responded to me soothing its terror and eventually laid its head down. The warden supervisor said he’d get out as quickly as he could, but it would be a while. My dogs were curious about the fawn but showed no aggression toward it. They sensed something was wrong.

As I sat with the fawn soothing it and offering water, I could not help but consider what lay before me. This was an otherwise very healthy mule deer doe fawn. It didn’t appear that she was hit by a vehicle. She did have several wire cuts, and given where she was when we found her it was obvious that she had gotten caught in the dilapidated fence along the road. This is speculative, but likely; she got caught in the fence following her mother as a vehicle passed by. She panicked and got the wires wrapped around her hind legs. The panic deepened, and she probably broke her back, paralyzing her. These things happen all the time, but not when people are close by.

It saddened me—yes, I actually wept—to see this graceful creature of God to have to die so cheaply. State law prevented me from putting her down myself, and I was reminded of a somewhat similar vigil nine years ago when, for four days, I sat with my mother and helped usher her to the other side. I was angered at the unfairness of all this, but life is not fair and never will be. As I watched the fawn breathing, it was obvious that there was a strong and viable heart within this little animal. But a cruel and treacherous twist of fate rendered her incapable of standing—much less walking and running. Lily, my English setter, was running like the wind back and forth in the yard, and once more I wept that this deer would never run like that again.

Late in the afternoon the warden super arrived and put the fawn down. He allowed that even after 22 years as a red shirt (what Wyoming wardens are known by for the red shirts they wear) and putting down hundreds of injured animals, it was one of the most disagreeable parts of his job.

Selfishly, I hope that God gives me a credit for at least making this innocent creature as comfortable as possible for the last few hours of its life. Lord knows I could use some credits to offset the plethora of demerits I have earned. Still it’s the unfairness of all of this that churns a knot deep in my gut. It is a cheap and horrific way to die. And it’s a damnable shame.

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4 Responses to A Cheap Way to Die

William wrote:
September 18, 2011

Well written, well said, well done. Not enough sportsmen express this side of our relationship with the outdoors and all the things that includes.

Chuck wrote:
September 13, 2011

There is something wrong with a state law that says you can't put down the animal on the spot but have to wait until you can track down a game warden. In this state it might be a week before the game warden can get free.

Vince Mallette wrote:
September 13, 2011

Thanks for your article and expressing the feelings many of us have had. Your intentions and actions were indeed noble. But as for offsetting your "demerits", it would be better to just ask for God's mercy through his son, Jesus. The good we do just doesn't measure up.

TransplantGuy wrote:
September 13, 2011

Thanks for a touching and memorable column. Too many people forget the wonderful nature of life itself, and further cheapen it by their careless actions towards others, human and animal alike. Our now-grown sons always had pets, usually many at any given time, and I never passed by the chance to observe and learn from the creatures God brought into our lives. Whether you'll get some credit for this, I don't know, but even without it you've been blessed by what occurred.