Stories and Special Moments
Deer Attack While Star Gazing at Ochoco Reservoir 7/20/96
It was an extremely clear mid
summers night, there was a slight breeze which carried with it a hint of
sage brush and juniper (typical high desert fauna), but there wasn't a cloud
in sight. It was the beginning of the fire season, although, the few
lighting sparked fires that were burning were far off to the west. With a
slight but steady wind from the east it was by all standards -- a fantastic
night for viewing the universe -- but sometimes things nearer to earth can
steal the stage.
My wife and I, along with our two daughters
Tiffany and Crystal ages 8 and 9. We had just returned to camp at Ochoco
Reservoir after an evening of star gazing at the
Pine Mountain Observatory.
Pine Mountain is a wonderful place to take the kids. It is an interesting and enlightening experience
for adults as well, even those of us who don't know Cassiopeia from Andromeda. A primitive
forest service campground is located just across the road from PMO. [
The observatory has three large telescopes
available for public use,
the largest has a 32 inch lens. Just walking the paths to the viewing
area is a neat experience in it self, following the dimly lit paths
illuminated by small red lights that snake there way up the hillside. The
observatory uses red lights because the red color spectrum does not affect a
persons ability to see in the dark, thereby allowing the best view of
the billions of stars over head. Visitors are encouraged to place a piece of red
cellophane or plastic over the lens of their flash lights, so as not to
impair the vision of others.
It was getting late as we returned from our
astronomy lesson. We arrived at favorite camping spot on the east side of a
bluff at Ochoco Reservoir (see
photo below). This spot is basically just a flat pull off along highway 26.
We have camped here
many times and really enjoy the view. The morning sun rises from behind
the mountains at the far end of the lake. There is a trail leading down to
the water where good fishing can be had. I first came here with my father and
grandparents in the late 60's and have returned to fish and camp with my own
family many times since.
After leveling the camper we set up the lawn
chairs near the back of the camper and the wife and I relaxed and commenced gazing at the stars, intrigued by what we had seen at the observatory,
while the kids settled down inside to a game of cards. About an hour had
passed as Kim and
I leaned back in our chairs marveling at the remarkable number of stars
and galaxies visible in the clear desert sky.
As a distant car began approaching from the
east, the only car to pass for several hours, I suggested to my wife, setting just
across from me, to close her eyes so that her night vision would not be
affected by the headlights. My back was to the road so I left mine open. Then,
suddenly, when the car was within seconds of
passing we both felt and heard an intense thumping radiating from the
ground. Kim, thinking someone was rushing out of the woods to do us harm,
leaned forward in her chair bracing herself for the worst.
Then I spotted it coming out of the
darkness just behind my wife. The first thing I saw was a fast approaching
patch of brown hair about 5 feet off the ground, dimly lit by the meager
amount of light coming from a side window of the camper. My first thought
was a bear! Then, just as suddenly, something came over me. It may have been
my natural instinct for survival or the instinct to protect my mate, or
possibly it was the fact that I was so scared I just couldn't think of
anything else. So I sprang to my feet yelling at the hairy
thing charging towards us at break neck speed -- "Get Out Of Here
You Some Bitch." I normally don't talk like this, especially around the
kids, but a potential life threatening situation sometimes calls for drastic
I must have surprised the hairy thing
because it made a slight detour around us (we felt the breeze as it passed
by), but it didn't slow down one bit as it continued running blindly toward
the road. The approaching car was now upon us as we heard a loud "thump" and
saw large yearling faun laying on the pavement near the
center of the road. By this time the kids, having heard me yell out my instinctive survival
slogan (which actually worked), were peering from the window of the camper
only to witness bambi getting hit by a car.
Now, the wife and I are in shock as we sit looking at each other unable to speak due to lack muscle control in
our lower jaws, the kids are crying because bambi is dead, my heart is
beating out of my chest and we are both trying to contemplate what the heck
just happened. At least we avoided being knocked out of our chairs by a
crazy dear. That's a good thing right?
Well, like they say in the theater, it ant over
till the fat lady sings.
As my wife quickly retreats to the camper to console
the kids I notice that the deer is not dead. It's attempting to stand up,
the kids see this and yell out, with hopeful but short lived joy, "Look dad
the deer is ok." I don't think so, I'm not a veterinarian but to me it looks
as though the poor thing is messed up pretty bad. A 45 mile-an-hour impact will do that.
From my estimate it likely had a broken back at the least.
So now the deer is in the middle of the road
attempting to stand up without much success. So I go to get my gun to put the
poor creature out of its misery, but my wife stops me and says; "You cant
kill it, then you'll be just like the hunter in Bambi" (we have the
Disney movie and the kids have watched it a lot, evidently the wife has too). While I
am debating with my wife about how we should handle the situation a second car
comes speeding by -- bam -- and settles the issue for us.
Well, I guess that's that, I say to the wife.
Are you coming back
out to look at the stars honey, I ask. "No, not tonight" she says, "I'm too
scared to sit out there."
With my heart still beating like I just ran a
triathlon, I settle back in my lawn chair to relax and
regain my composure. But through the silence of the night air I hear
something new in the darkness -- it sounds like heavy breathing -- Haaa.. Haaa.. Haaa.. I
the Mag light from my belt holster and shine it into the darkness. As I
bring the beam up I see two large glowing eyes peering at me
through the night. Its a wolf, mouth open, breathing hard tongue hanging
large canines glistening and its only 30 to 40 feet away. The
wheels of my mind suddenly break free -- AH.. HA...
there must have been a pack of wolfs chasing that deer, that's why it was
running so haphazardly.... Now it all makes since.
Well, that's it for me. I call out to the wife
as I quickly enter the RV.... "What about the lawn chairs," she asks.
I'll get them up in the morning. I don't think
anyone is going to bother them tonight!
Of course later I'm thinking I'll be lucky if
I can ever get my wife to come out star gazing again.
Pine Mountain Observatory is located 26 miles east of Bend Oregon. The last
nine miles of road leading to the facility is gravel which gradually gains
in altitude as you head to the top of Pine
Mountain (6300 feet). Warning, the road is very washboard, all nine miles of
it. Access is free, but a
minimum donation of $3.00 per person is encouraged.
20 years from now you'll be more disappointed in the things you didn't do
than in the things you did.
-- Mark Twain
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