By any measure I am an animal lover. We have a house filled with pets…two dogs, three cats. One of our dogs, Riley, is verbally browbeaten by my wife to not chase off the plague of bunnies that hide among the carefully manicured flower beds and hedges. For the most part, Riley does as he is told. When he is not under Lee’s watchful eye, he will happily dash after the fleet footed rabbits. He has never caught one. And if he did, I doubt that the bunny would come to any harm. Riley is a born coward. Two inch toads give him the willies.
Like Riley, I am not a hunter. Sure, I have a couple of guns that strike fear into the hearts of paper targets but wild animals are safe from my advances. I hold tight to a ‘live and let live’ philosophy for animals…except when it comes to my dinner plate. Thankfully, sirloin looks quite different from the unlucky cow. Hypocrite, you say? Yes, indeed and pass the salt.
We live in what I would call the country suburbs. Things are a little more spread out compared to standard subdivsions with tiny lots and power hungry homeowner associations. We are still close to grocery stores with excellent selections of prepackaged animals, fast food establishments that serve items that might have been animals and nice restaurants with overpriced wine and smiling waiters who expect healthy tips. All the comforts of home. We see our share of foxes and skunks, hawks and mice (often the hawks see the mice first, making for a very bad day in Mouseville), occasional coyotes and lots and lots of the beautiful, graceful, moronic white tailed deer.
Everybody seems to love deer and we can blame Walt Disney and his 1942 classic, Bambi, for that. Walt loved the film. Although he might have had a different opinion after a run in with one on the New Jersey Turnpike in the middle of the night. That’s a tale for another day.
Fear not. This story does not involve twisted metal and a near death experience. It concerns the antagonistic treachery that beset us shortly after we moved into our perfect house in a pseudo bucolic landscape. Actually, it wasn’t entirely perfect. The previous owner had a hobby…winemaking. And he was pretty lousy at it. He had left a few bottles of his swill in the basement. And for some inexplicable reason, his beloved grapevine was planted outside the safety of the fenced in backyard.
That was just fine with the deer. As spring gave way to summer, the grapes would change color, ripening from green to blush and then, in a single night, they would vanish.
Moving the vine wasn’t doable and getting rid of it seemed, I don’t know, sacrilegious or something. Still, the theft of the grapes annoyed me. After watching that happen for five seasons, I decided to take action.
At the time, we had a mutt named Newton. He was intelligent and fun-loving but absolutely useless when it came to chasing off deer. One night upon returning home, I saw the shadow of a deer herd in my headlights. I clicked on the high beams and let the dog out of the car. Newton was oblivious to this opportunity to show off his doghood; he trotted into the garage and to the back door. I called him back. That puzzled him. Why weren’t we going inside? It took several attempts to get him to see the herd. Ahh, but once he saw them, he took off like a shot.
I jogged behind him. This was going to be some show.
And it was. Once Newton got within a couple of yards of his prey, he realized that they were a whole lot bigger than he expected. Without so much as a growl, he turned tail and ran. He blew by me. If I wanted to deal with those giant monsters, that was my business. He was heading for the safety of home sweet home. The deer blinked stupidly at me and then went back to manicuring my neighbor’s lawn.
After that night, I knew that dealing with the deer was my job. How could I discourage them from snacking on my grapes? An internet search gave me hope. Apparently, deer don’t like the smell of human urine. It puts them off. I could surround the grapevine with a trail of piss and the grapes would be saved.
It was a good plan for a lot of reasons. First, it was 100% natural and environmentally friendly. Secondly, it was free. And third, it was easy.
Our house backs up to a sheep farm. There was no chance of getting busted for indecent exposure. It’s a little-known fact that sheep are very tolerant of human nudity. So one night, after three beers, I headed out to the grapevine to take care of this matter once and for all. Unfortunately, three beers worth of piss doesn’t go very far. I didn’t manufacture enough to create a ring around the plants, I barely had enough to round a corner. And me being me, I tripped over a rock on my way back to the house.
My plan was flawed. It was going to take several days to finish the job and I would have to remember where I had left off…in the dark. If I missed a spot, the deer would still get the grapes.
But there was a solution. Collect all the urine needed and pour it around the vines in the light of day. Complete coverage and no nasty rocks to send me flying into the night.
We had the perfect receptacle for this task. It was an empty glass jug, a souvenir from a local brewery tour. It was gallon sized and had a screw cap.
I was diligent and made consistent contributions to the jug. I only used the basement bathroom. My wife wanted nothing to do with my pet project. That was okay. Given her anatomy, she wouldn’t have been much help in filling up the jug. She avoided me and this particular bathroom until it was over.
Believe it or not, peeing in a jug night after night can become bothersome, not to mention fragrant. I didn’t know how much urine I would need, but I was approaching the halfway point in the jug. I figured that a half a gallon of Richie’s wiz would be enough to do the job.
I finished coaxing the last few droplets out of Mr. Happy. Yes, it was great to be done with this. After tomorrow, the deer would be forced to pilfer their midnight treats from someone else. I was euphoric, filled with hubris and careless.
I turned and reached for the cap on the countertop. The jug swung slightly and the handle slid off my finger. I watched in horror as the great glass vessel headed towards the tile floor. It was just like a movie. Everything was in slow motion. The jug didn’t spill, it didn’t crack, it exploded.
The piss bomb sent shards of glass in every direction. It unleashed a wave of human waste. Lake urine immediately formed and I was standing in it. In my socks.
I don’t know how long I stood there. Five minutes maybe. Without moving. I didn’t call out for my wife. She was upstairs and I would have had to yell at the top of my lungs to get her attention. I let that scenario play in my head.
ME: Leanne! Leanne!
ME: I need help.
ME: I need help. I’m in the bathroom.
LEANNE: (Worried) Are you okay?
ME: I’m Okay.
LEANNE: What happened?
ME: I dropped the urine jug and I’m covered in piss…
SOUND OF LAUGHTER
ME: Leanne? Leanne?
No. I wasn’t going through that. The shock was slowly fading away. I just couldn’t stand around in a puddle of piss the rest of the night. My feet were already cold and clammy. It was time to do something. I surveyed the situation. Fragments of glass glistened in the pale yellow sea. There was a nearly new roll of paper towels within my reach. I would need every last sheet to make this bathroom liveable.
Sometimes, when bad things happen, you’re all alone and desperately wish someone was coming to your rescue. This was not one of those times. I wanted to clean up this mess without losing a lot of blood and I wanted to get it done before my wife found out.
Of course, I failed. She arrived after I had soaked up the urine and picked up the broken glass. I was caught mopping the floor in the middle of the night. That required an explanation. After telling the whole sad story, I got the distinct impression that she wished she had stayed upstairs.
After slowly shaking her head in a mixture of amazement and disgust, she said a single word, “Okay.” And she said it in a way that made it very, very clear what it was not ‘Okay’. And with that she was gone. Even the family dog left me and followed her upstairs. And you know it wasn’t the smell of piss that put him off, I mean he was a dog after all. No, I reeked of stupidity and he didn’t want any part of that. An eerie silence descended over the basement. I took a deep breath and grabbed my new friend, the mop, and went back to work.
And so the grapes continued to ripen over the next couple of weeks. And just like every summer before and every summer since, every last grape disappeared in a single night.
Yes, the thieving deer always enjoy the spoils of war.