I hate it when animals make me feel bad. Really.
In December 2005, I was driving down some U/I side-road in Germany when I came upon the fenced field full of red deer shown in the image below. I wasn't sure at the time what kind of deer they were, but I've since got confirmation of type from a local head-on-the-wall bambi-killer. My impression from the setup there is that these were domesticated food animals, being raised for the restaurant or butcher shop. As soon as I saw the herd, I pulled over, and by the time I had come to a stop and opened the door, the two large males in the center were facing me, both at full alert, heads high and rock-still, staring at me intently. The other deer were mildly curious, but they went about their business, taking their cue from what I assume were the red deer equivalents of alpha-male sled-dogs.
Of course, I was so eager to get out of the car to take the picture that I fumbled the camera, losing precious seconds, and then, being a digital, I spent at least 20 seconds getting it all set. During the first 15 seconds or so, the two males remained in place, not moving at all. They were majestic and stately and it would have been a nearly perfect full-on shot, but then, just as I was ready to snap the image, they both turned, almost as if on cue, and started sauntering away from me. It was as if they had decided I was not only not a threat, but was also unworthy of further consideration, so they put their noses in the air and showed me their backs.
At that point, hoping to get them to turn around again, I whistled at them. That did no good, so I began to cluck my tongue. Still no response. I clapped my hands, I grunted, I made chimp noises. Nothing. I called out to them, "Hey!", "Yo!", "Heeeelloooo." Still Nothing. Finally, in frustration at seeing the perfect shot slipping away, I hollered, "Hey, turn around, you stupid animals!" The scene in the picture above is the result.
Every other deer but one—even the small one way in the back on the left, on the other side of the far fence—perked up and looked directly at me! But NOT
those two males! A few seconds later, all the deer returned to grazing, and then as the males casually walked further away, the herd began to follow. Within minutes they were all at the far end of the field off camera to the right. Not one of them was looking my way or had even spared me a second glance.
Being the mature human, I flipped them off, got back in the car and drove away, thinking with some satisfaction "Yeah, well, they're all headed for the dinner table anyway," as if that gave me
the last laugh. Deep down, though, I knew I'd been told I was insignificant as plainly as if it had been written on a wall by a giant moving hand. And it was not a good feeling to know that a couple of regally antlered deer thought no more of me than they would of a hedgehog. It was small consolation that I was on the outside looking in.
Later, I got to thinking about the one deer still eating and I decided that it was all very human-like. That one was either a glutton or a brown-noser, either too concerned with food to be curious (I know some people like that), or bucking for points by showing the two big males it wasn't any more worried about me than they were. And for the others, I was just a moment's curiosity, of no more interest than the stars, even though one would think they'd be honored to have a human pay attention to them.
Yeah, well. Stupid animals. I hope they tasted good.
[ Sign image is in the public domain IAW German law. ]
This post was revised on 20 Jan 08 & 14 Sep 08.