( – promoted by buhdydharma )

There is an icy wind coming, but it is not here yet.  Instead, the air is still, 19 degrees.  Everything is grayish-white, surrounded what the site calls a “freezing fog*.”  It suits my mood, so I slip outside for a morning’s walk.

I live in an uncertain neighborhood.  

Walking south, first uphill and then steeply down, I slip through an extravagant, old-money that never-needed-revitalization neighborhood — the sort of place where people used to build replica English mansions.  When I walk this neighborhood, I am an interloper.  My Walmart boots clop uncomfortable and clumsy on sidewalks intended for Asolos and Timberlands, my Goodwill sweater signals no kinship to the Lands’ End natives.  They watch me, uncertain. Slow down the Lexus long enough to look, to judge, to dismiss.  No calls to 911 as long as I stay in the street, as long as I keep moving.  I’m an object of constant suspicion when I walk, a matter of heightened concern if I stop.  The gentry are easily riled, so I keep walking.

A half-mile, more or less, and I drop down a steep slope to the Raccoon River.  As densely wooded as the city will tolerate, the Greenwood Trail — a strip of concrete with a yellow line intended for Adidas and Jamis Satellites — runs along it’s banks.  During the good weather months, I avoid the trail.  The trail can be pretty unnerving, even terrifying.  Shambling along with their barely-restrained dogs — the loose-tongued, re-shaped, Dali-esque descendants of wolves — the walkers glance up with narrowed eyes. Bicyclists shoot past unexpectedly, yelling, “Left!”  Then, most disturbing of all, come the zombie joggers . . . nylon-thewed, glassy eyed, heads all full of Ipod juice, disconected from the world around them.  Everyone has a cell phone.

But this is not good weather.  No one is crazy enough.  So it is only the slow sound of ice.  Startled, some deer watch me deep-eyed and high-eared — but I keep moving — look, judge, dismiss.  I turn and whisper to them, “I know how you feel.”  They don’t answer, I’ve already been dismissed.

The neighborhood has A Problem with the deer.  Like most problems, it all comes down to sex and territory.  The deer keep having sex and then, in the opinion of the neighborhood if not in the opinion of the deer, there are Too Many Deer.  Too Many Deer do not stay in the woods by the river.  Too Many Deer don’t stay down where they belong.  Too Many Deer move back north into the groomed lawns and gardens.  They are interlopers who fail to keep moving. Too Many Deer linger and fuck and eat the dahlias and crap in the koi ponds.  

The neighborhood wanted action.  And action they had.  The city listens to this neighborhood.

The Des Moines City Council may allow bow hunters into residential neighborhoods they weren’t allowed into previously to thin burgeoning metro herds.

“The deer population is too high,” said Don Tripp, of Des Moines Parks and Recreation. “It’s eating plants. It’s creating safety issues within neighborhoods of deer crossing roadways.”

Controlled hunts within city limits have been allowed for years. Officials said those hunters are responsible for keeping the population in check.

Under the new ordinance, more properties would qualify as hunting ground. If the proposed ordinance passes, bow hunters could hunt within 100 feet of homes. Under the current ordinance, they have to stand back twice as far.

But it is safe now.  Too Many Deer lie quiet amid the snow drifts and watch me pass.  I am getting chilled.  The fog congeals around my beard and I fantasize climbing Everest, my ruggedly handsome English face burned with frost.  

I turn back north.  A quarter-mile and back to being an interloper.  The neighborhood’s seen me before on so many mornings.  I wonder if that makes me more familiar or more threatening.  Perhaps both.

I wish I had an Ipod.  I’d like not to hear their morning sounds, the cough of their snow blowers, the hiss of their coffee makers, the chime of their church bells.  I’d walk along, just smelling the wood smoke from their stone-and-copper-restored 1920’s fire places, letting the fog sift into my skin.  

And then, just as the sun made it’s first incursion into the fog, as everything explosively shines all silver-numinous and glorious, a song would start . . .

. . . and I’d barely feel the shaft when the arrow slips between my ribs, successfully thinning the herd.


* Freezing Fog. For the technically minded, here’s the BBC’s explanation:

Freezing fog is composed of supercooled water droplets (i.e. ones which remain liquid even though the temperature is below freezing-point). One of the characteristics of freezing fog is that rime – composed of feathery ice crystals – is deposited on the windward side of vertical surfaces such as lamp-posts, fence-posts, overhead wires, pylons and transmitting masts.


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    • prodigal on February 9, 2008 at 16:55
    • TMC on February 9, 2008 at 17:39

    I could feel the cold and see the fog and the woods. My husband is from Des Moines.

  1. … brings back midwest memories to this New Yorker.

  2. but ive found myself deposited on the windward side of lots of things, so i guess i can relate…

    your words, as always, pluck and resonate.  thank you.

    • Viet71 on February 9, 2008 at 20:04

    Thanks much for a good experience.

  3. is to find out if Scott’s Miracle Grow works on the Deer, or at least something to make them grow to a giant size.  That way, the bow hunters might have something that they actually have a chance of losing to.

  4. Thanks for the images you paint in your beautifully written story.  

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