Deer Spotting

I remember long summer evenings when I was a kid when our treat for the night was to pile in the car and go driving the backroads, watching for deer.

Not shining deer; that involved a moonless night, a small spotlight plugged into the cigarette lighter, and if you were being illegal about it, a rifle and a tarp to cover your poached venison. (I do not refer to the method of cooking.) We didn't do that.

No, we'd go out while still light, following the dirt roads past Rock Dam, or County I beyond Willard towards Fairchild, where alder thickets and swampland provided browse for white tails. Sometimes we'd see one or two, just a flash of eyes or tails in the headlights before they bounded off into the brush. Other times a whole herd would be out in a clearing, placidly grazing. If we were very lucky, we might see a doe with spotted fawn, or even twins. Dad would drive until it was too dark to see, then turn around and head home with a back seat full of drowsy kids.

As an adult, I realize that part of the appeal for my folks was cheap entertainment. No admission tickets, unlike movies. No concession stand, unlike the softball diamond. Just a carload of kids and a tank of gas, back when gas was still in the low two digits. (Not counting the little "9". What's with that, anyway?)

But I also appreciate the interest in wildlife that it instilled in me. Seeing deer, raccoon, the occasional porcupine, even bison if we were lucky (one neighbor had a game farm permit and a small herd) is an experience I treasure to this day. I even had a little flashback experience last winter, coming home from a meeting up near Brownsville. As we came around the last curve before the straightaway to I-5, the headlights picked up a herd grazing in the brush alongside the road. Not deer, though; elk. I wish my dad had been alive to see them.

I've been painting a lot of deer on pots this spring, mostly commemorative mugs for my upcoming class reunion. But I'm also painting a lot of fawns, on tall mugs, toddler bowls, dessert plates and bakers and pie dishes.

See if you can spot them.