"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Oh, Deer

This is a famous historical artifact: presumed to be my first work of fiction.

Little Deer

Once there was a little deer. Little deer wanted his spots to go away so one day he said mother when will my spots go away. What! you need your spots thell (sic) help you hide.
What! don't go away spots.

I was 7 years, 2 months, 1 week, and 1 day old. My mother must have sensed something about my prospects, to have saved this paper. But why shouldn't she? This stuff is genius! The desperate longing for change. Or, perhaps subconsciously, the desire for adult status. Not to mention the intensity of the drama (What! What!) Or the unexpected Twist at the end....

Mind you, there's no foreshadowing of my later superlative skill in grammar, spelling, and punctuation for which line editors and copyeditors cherish me. And which even enabled me, my very own self, to do free-lance editing (for $$$) for NY publishers before I ever had a prayer of being published myself.

My enchanting, though brief, tale was written before I became acquainted with the terrors of Bambi or The Yearling. (I was forever traumatised by both books and both films.)

I wrote it long before I discovered that venison is quite a tasty meat.

And also before witnessing the aftermath of a deer-car collision.

For I created my masterpiece in a more innocent time of life, never realising that one day, I would engage in a fierce battle of wits and wills, with a deer. In my very own garden.

I live in a forest on a lake. Deer roam the forest, and they like to drink lake water.

Oh--and I grow lots of roses. Deer love to nibble the tender shoots and rose leaves. And more. This I learned the hard way.

Some years ago, approximately one week before the paying customers of the June Garden Tour were due, one of Little Deer's true-life counterparts paid a midnight call in my front garden. It gnawed off about 50% of the swelling buds on my antique roses. The roses everybody was coming to see. The roses that bloom only once a year.

Fortunately, the reblooming roses in the back gardens were undisturbed and remained intact.

It was a good year for blooms, so I had plenty of rare old roses on the day of the Garden Tour. But I vowed to do whatever necessary, short of gun play, to protect my 75 (or whatever it was back then) rose bushes.

Recalling the deer barrier my favourite New England garden gurus, Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman had recommended on their television program, the following spring I hastened to the garden supply store. I stocked up on deer fencing--a fine vinyl mesh--and 6 foot bamboo stakes, and twine to attached the mesh to the stakes. I then encircled my plot of old roses, a fiddly and frustrating business, but I had to try it.

The mesh, my gurus inferred, didn't so much keep the deer out, as make them "nervous" when they bumped up against it. Whatever.

Barbara and Eliot neglected to caution that if you rig your deer fence in early April, and you get a foot of snow, then a freeze, the bamboo canes snap under the weight. The snow-heavy mesh topples onto your roses, breaking the canes. It's as bad as deer damage--no, worse, because it's self-inflicted.

Over the years, I perfected the timing of my deer fence installation. No more munched buds. No more broken canes.

I no longer hate and fear the graceful, pretty doe who occasionally comes onto our property en route to the lakeside. Sometimes she even serves a useful purpose, pruning the wild shrubbery that encroaches on our "lawn." (I live in a woodland, so technically when I say lawn, it means the open space where trees don't grow and grass or moss covers the ground.)

Today, confident that the gardener and the rumimant can co-exist peacefully, and assuming last week's dusting was the end of our snow, I performed my annual ritual.

Instead of hearing conversations in my head between the main characters of my work-in-progress, I was thinking about Little Deer, with his spots and his wise mother--my first work of fiction. And now, thanks to this blog, the most recently published.

P.S. Not only do I write better than I did aged 7, I can draw a whole hell of a lot better!

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