Fawn’s Foreleg

Stuart Watkins

Taking my dogs for a walk in the desert, as I often do, this walk turned out to be more of an adventure than I expected. The desert landscape was being prepared for a new housing development called The Preserve. Cats dug new trails, leveled land, and plowed the outlines of new roads. Backhoes dug up cacti for use in future landscaping where needed.

Buzzards circle overhead seeking the kills from the heavy equipment that might have run over rabbit holes, ground squirrel holes, snake holes, lizard holes, and everything that might be in their surveyed path.

We just walked along, and I let my dogs off their leashes.

Strider, the black Lab, would run ahead, then retrace his steps to see if I was still following, then he would bound ahead. Ruby, the golden retriever, would just wander and circle. She would often look to see if I was still in the general vicinity.

When I direct them with my arm to walk up a ravine, follow this path or that, they both would head in the direction I signaled. We were a team. When I called their names, they would come bounding. This was usually water time, treat time, or both. Then I would put their leashes back on, and we would walk together for a spell.

Ruby spotted the foreleg first. A fawn’s front left foreleg was curled up as if it awaited the coyotes to attack. That was all that was left; no spine, ribs, head, or vertebra. Some small bones were scattered around, along with hide scraps, but there it lay; the foreleg.

Pulling out a plastic bag, I retrieved the foreleg, feeling that it shouldn’t be left out in the desert. It died such a fearsome death. It had been circled, snipped at with snarling teeth, and became so exhausted and tired it just lay down and waited. A strong sense of sympathy for the dead deer came over me, and I decided to take it home as a souvenir.

We heard the thunder before seeing the lightning. Rain started lightly and then became a real downpour. Both dogs were glad when they heard me say, “Home, we are going home.” They turned and pulled on their leashes.

Lightning streaked all around. Thunder boomed directly overhead. Rain slashed down, driven by gusty winds. Strider pulled ahead on his leash. He knew where he was headed. Ruby kept cringing with each loud burst of thunder. She would look at me with pleading eyes as though asking me to get her home as quickly as possible. We were drenched.

All of a sudden, I decided to stop and take the fawn’s foreleg out of the plastic bag and sat it down under a mesquite tree. It belonged here in the desert, not on a shelf in my office. Looking at the dark sky, rain washed out the tears streaming down my face.

Thunder and lightning rolled across the desert as we made our way home.