One thing about growing up in Western, PA is as a child you experience three things: One, the Glory of Steeler Nation; Two, a Permanti Brother’s Sandwich, and lastly, deer. Yes the deer. The four legged creatures who caused so much havoc in the lives of anyone with a garden.
Hunting deer was a popular past time in our area. One of our neighbors was an avid deer hunter. As a matter of fact when we were in school that year his daughter Katie brought in venision aka deer jerky for the class to eat. That year on the hunting trip he accidentally shot her mom in the arm thinking she was a deer. Katie’s dad, a complete loser, claimed he was training to be a part of the FBI and that was why he wasn’t employed, taking a computer class, and jogging through the neighborhood. Soon thereafter, he left Katie’s mom for a yoga instructor. So much for mistaking her for a deer, right?
Of course there was Shandra Ralf’s dad. Shandra didn’t go to our school but she went to our church with her entire family. Her father, a grizzly would be mountain man with an ego to match his woodsman spirit set out snare traps for the deer in his yard. When that failed he would shoot them and cook them up right there on the premesis. We regarded him as a low grade psycho path and rightfully so. However his wife, sweet with honey blonde hair and a graceful angel smile, was the nicest woman God put on the face of the planet. My mother would tell us that the fact Mrs. Ralf didn’t kill him was not only a testament that there was a God but that we should continue to pray because that woman probably prayed for patience every second of every day.
It was that summer of 1995 that my mother made the deer her sworn enemy. We had just planted the impatients and the school year was ending. The deer, plotting against my sweet mother, began munching on her flowers. My mother, who had slaved in the hot sun only days before, saw her plants devoured. Angry, she began to spray the flowers with deer repellent. Actually, she commanded and my sister and I sprayed. As the school year came to a close and we smelled the rotten odor of the product called “Deer Away” we hoped that my mother’s sworn woodland enemies would be gone for good.
They were for the first two days of the last week of school. Then the deer snapped. Eager to drive my mother crazy, they developed an immunity to the repellent. My mother was fit to be tied. Seeing her nemesis in large numbers her battle cry became, “Die Bambi!” as she charged out of the house with her broom to whisk them off of the property. It was quite a sight to see too. My mom was barely five feet tall in stocking feet and the broom she picked was sometimes bigger than she was. However that didn’t stop her. According to my mom, the story of Bambi should have ended with the whole family being killed off. It wasn’t that my mother was cold hearted. No one messed with her plants. Mrs. Brucker’s plants were more sacred than Mr. MacGregor’s Garden. And those deer were going down.
Just as we have those who hate the deer in my area we have those who sympathize with the deer. South Park, the town over for us, had a reservation like place for the booming number of deer and their families to live. This made my mother more livid than a Steeler fan after a Super Bowl let down. Of course two older ladies, both who did charity work for the Bightwood Christian Church and wore the buttons, would pass our house daily on their walks. Cotton candy pink white hair, they gave my mother a scowl every time they saw her run out of the house with her broom to get Bambi’s Bloods off of our property.
One day, one of the women cleared her throat and said to my mother, “What do you have against the deer? We are all God’s creatures.”
My mother, poised with her broom and panting from the run replied, “They are eating my plants.”
The other woman said, “Well they have to eat. You need not be so selfish and you are quite rude.”
My mother, despite her deer chasing, was not one for conflict. Besides, where I grew up those two old broads were likely to be the grandmother of someone we knew, like a butcher or an automechanic, so it was best just to smile and treat them like retarded children drooling with their fanny packs.
However, those two old broads despite a membership to a Christian church were wicked and evil. The next morning, as my mother ran out on the lawn with her broom to get rid of her forest interlopers, saw one of her flower pots had been uprooted. Going through the list of suspects, my mother turned the flowers back over and replanted them.
“It was those two old ladies with the Christian church buttons!” My mom said exasperated to my dad as she fixed his tie and sent him off with his lunch the next morning to work.
“Anne, you have no proof.” My dad said.
“It was those old women. They were mad that I was running after the deer with the broom.” My mom protested. Now she was on the war path.
My brother, forced to wake up early by my mother to lift weights and bulk up into a man replied, “Mr. Rolf would just shoot them.”
I was only getting up. Putting some oatmeal in the microwave I corrected my brother, “Mr. Rolf is a psycho. He also voted for Pat Buchanan.”
“Well speaking of psycho’s Mr. Rolf probably doesn’t make his daughter’s wake up to lift in the morning.” My brother said. Yes, my mother was trying to sculpt my brother into an athlete. Obsessed with taking our generation to the next level, my mom’s goal was to have the perfect children and to get us all in top flight schools. To do so we had to have the academics, the athletics, and the instrument. So far my brother was a zero on the instrument. Academically, he was quite sound but according to my mother so were the Asians. So she needed to puff up the athletics. So what my brother was only twelve? Why not start early?
“Mr. Rolf probably wrestles his daughter’s for deer jerky.” I corrected. My sister, who always slept well and slept late was missing this intellectual discussion. Lucky her being the youngest and being only seven. While she had hit the age of reason she saw no reason whatsoever to rise before ten in the morning when school was out.
“I have an idea so you don’t have to make a fool out of yourself Anne.” My dad suggested.
“What?” My mom asked.
“You’ll see.” My dad told her. “I’ll tell you later.”
Later that night my father called a family meeting. Usually these were tedious and mostly ended with all of us wanting to do a Nevada divorce on the unit as a whole. My dad began the family meeting by telling us, “As you know, your mother and the deer have been at war.”
“No kidding.” I said under my breath. This was no news flash. However what was about to be next was going to involve all of us.
“And we need to help stop the war between your mom and the deer.” My dad said as if this was an international conflict. And Rudolph, the red nosed dictator was about to do a deer drop on the place if we didn’t surrender.
“Mom, you should stop running after the deer with the broom. They might attack you.” My sister pointed out. Such a wise child, perfect in every way. Her eyes lit up with legitmate concern. However, we all looked over to my brother who was apathetic. So apathetic that he had flat out fallen asleep. My sister and I looked at each other as I nudged him awake. Then again, he had been awaken at the crack of dawn by Mom Jong Ill, determined to get her children into top ranked schools and still fighting the deer. While my mother was not Asian, at the time she was being mentored by a Tiger Mom and was playing close attention.
“And that is why I have devised a plan. Deer are afraid of dogs. So we are going to bark like dogs on a tape.” My dad explained. The three of us exchanged glances. My brother was tired and slightly annoyed that he was razzed from his sleep. I was pretty much bummed that I was missing some Lifetime Movie where Tori Spelling was stabbed to be here, and my sister was as excited as ever.
My sister was so excited that she asked my dad, “When are we doing this?”
“Now.” My mother answered. “Come my little yappers.” She commanded as she pulled out a tape recorder. This had been my mother’s most bizarre tactic ever in the war against the deer. God I had died and been sent direct to hell.
All five of us assembled around the tape recorded in order to be the perfect dogs. My dad, having to be the lead of the pack, barked the loudest. Meanwhile my mother interjected with loud yaps here and there. In the wide world of dogs my mother would have been considered a hype dog to the rapper dog dad. My sister seemed to be enjoying this way too much. Not only would she have been a little yappy dog, but she even jumped up and down when she did it. The way this youngster was getting into this was much too disturbing for my brother and I to fathom. Sure she could be the favorite. However, it was obvious this child was suffering from other mental defects that we didn’t know about.
My brother and I on the other hand were not nearly as excited. My sister, seeing this said, “If you two were dogs, you would be put in the pound.”
“I’m going to pound you.” I snapped at the little suck up.
“That’s my job tomorrow on Mortal Combat.” My brother corrected.
“Come on guys, we are almost there. Bark with more commitment.” My dad commanded.
“Arf, arf.” My mom and sister answered in unison. On my mother’s side we had a cousin who had gotten struck by lightning three times. Now we were getting to see where genetics repeated itself.
My brother begrudgingly began to bark with more umph as instructed. However, I was still struck by the retardation of this project. Hoping my bark would fade in the background I did that half hearted bark as if I were a doggie that just had enough.
My dad however had other ideas about my commitment to my bark. Frustrated with my lack of enthusiasm on this project he screamed, “Bark Goddamnit! And bark with commitment. You are going to bark and you are going to like barking or else I will get my stick.”
Yes the stick. The good old Catholic disciplining tool. Once my brother knew he had a meeting with the stick and went so far as to hide it. Yes, he actually thought hiding the stick would shield him from the well earned beating as the result of lying about a test grade. The thing was, my brother sucked at hiding things. Not only did my father find the stick magically, but he really beat my brother's behind.
Knowing my dad meant business and coming to peace with the fact I wouldn’t see Tori Spelling chopped to pieces I began to bark with all the fierceness of a pitbull. As I barked, I realized this was more fun than seeing Death of a Cheerleader as the Lifetime Movie. Suddenly it all made sense. In barking I was becoming a good daughter. I was becoming a selfless human being. I was helping my long suffering mother in her long war against the deer. That way, if we barked with enough commitment to scare away the deer then my mother wouldn’t be the psycho of the neighborhood chasing them with her broom. My sister wouldn’t have to worry about Bambi attacking my mom. My brother could play his video games. I could get back to my trashy teen movies. Things could be back to normal.
My father was a genius!
The following night we installed the barking system and to the surprise of everyone it worked. The deer stayed off of our lawn for the rest of the summer and into the fall. No longer did my mom chase the deer with her broom but rather went back to enjoying her coffee on the toilet with the newest romance from Amanda Quick. All and all, things were good.
As for the family friends who came to visit they all wanted to know if we had gotten another dog since our beloved Snapper had passed years ago. And they also wanted to know who the loud PMS avenger bark on the tape was. My dad laughed and said, “Oh, that’s April. Committing to her bark.” I would roll my eyes back as he would give me the noogie of ha ha. The irony of it was I had the best bark on the tape after all. And I always knew I would do great things even then.
When it came to the bitches from the Christian Church who uprooted my mama’s flower’s on the front sidewalk. Well they walked by and of course my mother gave them the big hello. However one day they asked, “Did you get a dog?”
At the time I was with my mom. Liking to see morons pay for their actions and baptizing myself Captain Kharma I said, “Oh yeah, a big black one. He’s a Pitbull, German Shepherd Mix. He only sounds like he wants to attack but really he’s quite nice.”
“Oh dear.” The first one said.
“See you. Nice day.” Said the second.
My mom gave me a two second talking to and then I told her because of me she was never going to see those two broads again. And she didn’t. I think they changed their walking route. Christian Bitches, 0. Brucker’s 10. What can I say, they should have paid attention in church when Jesus was talking about loving your neighbor. Then again, most Christians tend to sleep through that sermon in my experience.
So it became official that summer. Although she didn’t have a shotgun or a broomstick, with her husband and children acting as dogs my mama became the deer slayer.
So at the end of the summer it became Mrs. Brucker 100, Deer 0. Yes Bambi, you were defeated!