The winter’s night was blanketed in the cool wrap of a patchwork of fog.
Fog has always been one of my favorite weather phenomena. It just seems like the oddest of things. Look. Behold a cloud. On the ground! What? Why aren’t they always on the ground? Now, before some of you weather enthusiasts begin to berate me over my supposed lack of meteorological education, let me tell you this: I know how fog works. I do. I just find the concept of clouds, that will sometimes on the ground, to be fascinating, that’s all. To only be able to see random distances due to the thickness of the cloudy wisps that wrap the local landscape at that particular moment in time… That’s just cool.
But, I have digressed. Apologies. There was a time, many years ago, that lives in my romantic memory. A time that my now wife and I found ourselves hunting, together.
Cindy and I were just a couple of teenagers out for a stroll on a dark winter’s night. The snow was abundant, as was the cold. Also, as was previously mentioned, a beautiful fog had lowered itself about the sleepy town of Manti. As the two of us wandered the streets, discussing this, that, and other things, we decided to head toward the city park. This was a place I was too familiar with and knew there would be a dry place where we could just sit and chat.
Upon our approach, we noticed something that wasn’t all that common of an occurrence, while it still remained perfectly normal: Deer.
See, due to the fact that the little village of Manti is placed right next to a mountain, it was never uncommon for wildlife to wander into town during the colder months to forage. I have lost track of the number of winter mornings I had found deer in my—at the time—neighbor’s yard, devouring his shrubs. I can only assume this was due to the closer-than-normal proximity of his home to the mountain’s edge. And, at the time that this story takes place, the park had so much more vegetation than it does now. There were bushes placed all about the park as sort of make-shift-natural barriers of the different sections for the variety of activities the park would play home to at any given time. Still, during the entire time I had lived there, I had never seen that many deer, together, that far into town, at one time.
Cindy and I were awestruck. The deer were well within 300 yards. While they may have taken notice of us, they were more concerned about eating—as they continued their midnight buffet. With a new center of attention, we changed our intent and began to advance on the deer, slowly and as stealthily as possible. We just wanted to get closer. To see them better. To just enjoy them.
As we approached the boundaries of the park, there was a slight problem: Cindy’s shoes. They were just that: Shoes. They were not intended for mucking about in snow and slush. The park was enclosed about in the aforementioned snow and slush. The city, in its attempts to clear the roads for daily travel, had not taken into account the late-night foot traffic of young teens and their inadequate footwears. Very well then, only one option: Carry her.
I offered to carry Cindy through the wet and sloppy snow, but, she felt she could sufficiently navigate it on her own. It only took her a few steps to discover that she was mistaken. I was already on the other side of the slush barrier, and, to our amazement, the deer were still in place—albeit, now more attentive to us than their food source.
I went back for Cindy and then proceed to carry her, in my arms, toward the park and deer. This was too much for that small herd, as it was upon this that they bolted. Nurtz…
Most of the group went off together, in the same direction. The few deviants that opted for alternate evacuation options quickly redirected and joined the main group as it headed into the nearby backyards of local residents. The soft sounds of subtle clip-clops of the deer’s cloven hooves over the paved streets were quickly replaced by the louder snapping of branches as they burst their way through backyard bushes and low-level tree branches. Cold amplifies sound. It’s a science fact. One might have suspected that all the ruckus would have alerted anyone in the vicinity. Nope. It was still just Cindy, myself, and the deer.
We waited until the crashing of foliage came to a halt. It didn’t take long. The deer would still be nearby. Knowing the neighborhood as I did, I was certain that the little herd had opted to not jump a backyard fence and had continued their fest on the new cuisine of evergreen discovered in their current locale.
Once again, I transported Cindy, via arm-carriage, through the snow and slush, toward where I suspected the deer were to be. Sure enough, I was right. They were only a few yards (people’s backyards, not the measurement yard) away toward our direct South. Spotting the group of wildlife through the obvious opening between two homes, Cindy and I just stood and watched. The deer, having been recently startled, were much more wary of our existence and presence. What they didn’t know was that we only wanted to see them. Just be near them.
This was not what they wanted. Once again, they bolted.
We had only been watching for a minute, or two, when the herd decided to move. I guess they figured we were an actual threat. Being older, and having more experience with wildlife than I did then, I would have not followed the deer as much as I did that night. But, hindsight almost always seems to be more in focus than foresight.
The herd of deer burst out, toward the two of us, as though they were intent on running us over, then darted around us to another nearby backyard. If this had been the mountain, the deer would have left Cindy and myself far behind. However, it wasn’t. This was my neighborhood, and I knew exactly where they were now.
Moving more slowly than before, Cindy and I—once more—advanced on the group of lost deer. Again, I suspected they were corralled and would not have gone very far. I was right. They were huddled together in the corner of another yard. They were not opting for leaping the fence. There were no bushes to consume. The deer were just there, confused and unsure of what to do next. Same with the two humans who were observing the scene.
I almost always knew where they would end up, whenever the herd bolted. Due to the thickness of the fog, at times, it was difficult to spot the animals in their exact locations—sometimes until it was too late. It was when we became too close that the herd would dart off, once again. As much as it was difficult for us to spot the deer through the fog, it was also difficult for them to see us. There were multiple times when moving forms were only vague outlines amongst veils of white. The density of fog would come and go, much like the herd of deer. On occasion, one or two strays would stop and stare at us. Almost as if asking us where the others could be found.
Over the next hour, or so, Cindy and I would attempt to follow that small herd of deer from yard to yard. We sometimes would outsmart them and be in front of their movements. Other times, they were way ahead of us. A few times, our two groups would collide and the deer would dash around us. It was a magical evening that I hold as a treasured memory of time spent with my future wife on a dark and foggy cold winter’s night.