Kater Cheek, deer

Kater Cheek sent me today’s post about a long ago encounter that ends in ice cream.
Kater has also just published the first book in a new series. It’s called ALTERNATE SUSAN and it’s set in an alternate version of Tempe, Arizona.

It has two animals in it. One is a talking lizard, the other is a cat. Check it out!

The post:

When I was a kid, my family liked to go camping. More to the point, my father liked being in the woods and hiking, my mom liked not spending a lot of money on vacations, and the children liked being barefoot and feral in national parks.

One year, we went on a group camping trip with my aunt and her four children. I think in addition to the eight of us, there were several other children who were the children of friends, or cousins, or maybe strays picked up (I wasn’t quite sure). I think there were at least a dozen of us, between the ages of diaper and almost-too-cool-to-hang-out.

We were camping near the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and we’d seen the forest ranger talks about the abundant natural wildlife, but so far all anyone had seen were ground squirrels and the occasional hawk or bluejay. My aunt said she was sure there were deer around there. Perhaps in an effort to motivate the less-feral of my cousins, she promised to buy ice cream for whichever child was first to spot a deer.

The next day, I was digging in the dirt with a stick when I looked up and saw some of my cousins and siblings gathering and whispering in excited voices. I tried to figure out what they were looking at, but they all seemed to be looking at me. My cousins and siblings and the other kids had begun to clasp hands and form a huge ring with me in the middle. I asked my sister what was going on, and she shushed me, then gestured I should turn around.

Maybe it says something about our family dynamics that I assumed my sister was playing some well-orchestrated joke on me. If I were to turn around, someone would surely throw a mud pie in my face, or hit me with a water balloon.

Sure enough, a second later, an enormous bully hit me hard from behind, and I went sprawling, my head jarred and my palms skinned. All the kids dispersed. I picked myself up and cried, partly from the pain, but mostly from the injustice of it. I immediately went to my mom to report this abuse and demand that the bully be found and punished.

My mom went to the kids to find out who had pushed me down. Their story would have been unbelievable if it hadn’t been corroborated by all the rest of the children. They had spotted a deer. It had been behind me the whole time. They formed a circle to keep the deer penned in, but it knocked me down and ran away. I accused them of lying, that a kid knocked me down, but their story didn’t change.

My aunt couldn’t judge which kid had seen the deer first, so she said they all got ice cream. The most important part of the story is that I got ice cream too, because being knocked over by a deer was judged close enough.

Joann Rose Leonard, deer

For today’s post, I am deeply grateful to Joann Rose Leonard, author of the haunting and highly recommended novel, The Healer of Fox Hollow.



“I know this sounds silly,” I said. “But tomorrow I’m doing a workshop in a rural school. And I’m worried about driving a brown car through the woods in deer season.”


“Just don’t wear antlers,” my husband replied.


The next morning, a white sign was taped to the car’s antenna. PERSON. DON’T SHOOT!


It was raining as I headed south on I-99. A cold, steady, late November rain. Still miles from my exit to the hunter-filled woods, I was lulled by the rhythmic swoosh of windshield wipers and the hypnotic red and white lights mirroring from the slick asphalt.


Suddenly a brown blur hurdled from the far side of the highway. The bounding doe slipped on the wet macadam and skidded on her flank across busy lanes. Flat on her side, she came to a stop directly in the path of my fast approaching headlights. With cars in front and to the side of me there was nowhere to veer. No way out. That’s when I felt it. The sharp stab pressuring through my flesh, driving to bone. Skin ripping off curves that fit in and around those I love.


Then, an instant before impact, the thrashing deer righted itself, leaped across the highway and disappeared into the trees on the side of the road. For the longest time, I couldn’t stop shaking. Two animals colliding with death. How swiftly it came, how unexpected. And a reprieve…at least for the time being.