The Deer Bone by the Creek
Granite found it on a woodswalk. He is my dog, a mix, the labrador psyche with Australian Shepherd coat of black and gray, Granite. A rough and tumble, Tahoe dog. He was rambling in front of me, as usual, on the trail we take by Alder Creek, the Emigrant Trail. The same one Tamsen Donner took that fateful winter of 1846. Snow. We take it daily in the summer, at afternoon time, when it has cooled down and before the predator animals arrive to drink and prepare for their nocturnal hunts.
He sniffed it, licked it and waited for me. A deer leg. Just the hindquarter remained – knee and ankle joint exposed, yellow marrow and dried blood. All fur and flesh chewed away exposing the simple mechanics of the knee joint. Ligaments, tendons intact. I righted it, placing the black, bicameral hoof on the dirt and bent the knee a few times marveling at the delicate long bones, the strength of the tissue connecting all. Bend, straighten, bend. No insects yet, just a tiny green bud stuck inside the ankle joint.
I smoothed my fingers along the black hoof, pressed it inward. It felt like those superballs we had as kids. Hard, yet soft and springy. A deer moves that way.
I wanted to take it home and bleach it but Gordon would deny me. “Bedrooms are for sleeping. No TV.” Alas, for the best I am sure.
Too, I remembered immediately. Granite and I heard this death two nights prior. It was about 2:00AM. I reading, Granite guarding. The moon outside was almost full, the windows open to catch the summer, high sierra breeze. We heard them. Coyotes yelping, howling, rejoicing in blood victory down by the creek. We both went to the small corner window peering into the darkness together, safe, turning our heads to feel exactly where… where… Fade out. Quiet.
I have heard this death celebration before, common for those who live here. But… coming upon that leg today. Of course there was no sin. But that bone. Where did that delicate leg carry that deer? And how strong are the deer legs as they spring on superballs in the early evening. That marvelous knee joint… bend, straighten, bend.
Granite and I walked along the creek and I marveled at the beauty of the fallen pines criss crossing the flowing water in varied stages of return. We all return to nothing. But what happens to the journey? The past? The deer is gone but that knee joint could still bend. I recognize my dead sister’s handwriting in a book of Haiku.