As I greeted daughter Amanda at the front door the other day, she pointed to something on the deck — a narrow strip of thickly-furred deer hide, a foot long, recently detached from its owner.
She sighed. “Mom, are you bringing dead animals home again?”
The family has never allowed me to forget that decades ago, I once picked up road kill. Arriving home, I called, “Guess what I’ve got in the trunk?” Family came running. No one answered.
“A dead body,” I whispered. The Preacher almost swooned — likely more from the stench than the shock. But I used the quills I harvested from that dead porcupine for years.
They also insist on bringing up the half-dead squirrel I dragged home from a picnic. (The children insisted, but that part seems long forgotten.) We cleared the food from the cooler and put the squirrel in, hoping to doctor it at home, or at least let it die in peace. Somehow it got loose in the car. I’d rather not talk about the lesson I learned that day — but the policeman who pulled me over may still be.
“I wanted to show it to the beans,” I said, of the strip. Amanda rolled her eyes, likely remembering the brown bat in Neighbour Ed’s yard. I thought it would make a good nature lesson, with its carefully designed wings and soft fur — and I didn’t stop her when she picked it up. It seemed cute — until it bit her palm.
In retrospect, the bat taught us mostly about the science of medicine. Five of us, including the neighbour and his son, needed a month-long course of rabies vaccinations. (The Preacher didn’t touch the creature — he mentions that often.)
“This time it’s only a wee bit of the animal,” I said of the fur. She seemed not overly relieved.
A few hours earlier I and a pair of friends, out cross-country skiing, had found that piece of deer draped over a sturdy, though short, tree branch, about eight feet up. Using my ski pole, I dragged it down for inspection, wondering how it got there. It reminded me of the pair of antlers the Preacher had spotted hanging about thirty feet up in another tree. That mystery on Yorkton’s Hjertas Nature Trail puzzled us each time our family hiked there.
“That likely happened during the night,” my friend said. “The deer was probably trying to escape a predator.” The visual images of those frenzied minutes made me shudder — but clearly the animal had escaped.
I’ve kept the hide. It reminds me how crucial it is to flee from the enemy of our souls — even at the risk of leaving a strip of skin behind — whatever form that skin takes.
Got an attractive temptation, an unhealthy relationship or habit? Considering an unethical deal? Take a lesson from the deer — leave it behind. A strip of skin is a small price to pay for your spiritual survival.
Even Amanda agrees — that’s a lesson worth bringing home.