The headlights flashed on the dark, dead eyes of the deer hanging in the corner of the garage. No matter how often I saw them, they startled me. The deer swayed slightly, positioning itself toward me. “Look at me” it said, its tongue hanging listlessly to one side. “You did this so you could have fried venison cutlets, you asshole.”

I exited the backseat quickly, leaving my parents behind, trying not to think about the deer but powerless to look away from those eyes, empty of life but full of admonition.

The deer stared at me, following my every move. I was petrified to enter the garage. Even in the summer when the deer wasn’t there I still felt its presence. I would dash in, grab my bike and retreat. The bike was worth the risk, with its pink banana seat and multi-colored streamers tied to the high handle bars. The coolness of my bike was decidedly lowered the summer I requested a basket for it. I was picturing a woven white one with pink flowers but instead received a homemade one fashioned from a plastic gallon ice cream bucket. My street cred sank further when my dad added two makeshift holes in the front so my doll’s chubby plastic legs could stick out.

At least the basket wasn’t made out of the two-and-a-half gallon tin of ice cream from the Schwan’s man that we stored in the full-size freezer in the garage. This freezer – positioned dangerously close to where the deer dangled, stored various parts of others that came before him, wrapped in white butcher paper and labeled with a black Sharpie – was also where my mom sometimes stashed a lone box of Twinkies. I would even brave walking near the deer to score one of those icy yellow cakes, but invariably grabbed the feathered, frozen claw of a pheasant instead.

The Miller kids lived a block away. They were fascinated with the deer. They would come over and watch in awe as my dad butchered, bombarding him with questions. One winter Dad lopped off two legs of the deer and handed one to each of them.

They were thrilled.

They ran home and hid the legs in their bedroom, knowing their parents would disapprove.

A few days later a livid Mrs. Miller called. Their dog had found the legs and promptly carried them to the plush white couch to play, smearing deer blood all over the pristine seat of decidedly non-hunters.

But we kids remember those deer legs fondly. The Miller kids – even years later when we ran into them – as the best gifts they ever received.

And me, as symbols of the many gifts my father gave our family – food to feed us, and stories to share around the dinner table.

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1 Comment

  1. Patti White

     /  June 29, 2013

    “One winter Dad lopped off two legs of the deer and handed one to each of them.” lovethatlinesomuch.



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