By Kim Johnson
We have a dog. It is a really big deal. Since owning a dog I have noticed an 80 percent reduction in our deer nibbled orchard trees. This is significant because I don’t have to do anything other than maintain the dog in order to receive this benefit. As I am essentially lazy this works well for me. Don’t get me wrong, I spent many a pre-dog hour trying to reduce the damaging effects of deer on the orchard. There were the sprays. Hot chili spray would stop the destructive ways of deer because, the bottle said, deer don’t like spicy food. At $15 a bottle it was guaranteed to work. Ten bottles later, a representative from the company informed me that I must be plagued by a strain of deer with a varied pallet, and had I considered Coyote urine spray? Bobcat urine spray? If not their sense of taste, their sense of fear: deer would smell the odor of predators and flee. At $26.50 a bottle it was guaranteed to work. Who knew waste products could be so lucrative?
Many of the library books I checked out touted the benefits of soap. Soap has a strong smell. Deer don’t like strong smells. It offends their delicate olfactory receptors. A bar of soap hung in an orchard tree would repel deer. All one had to do was bore a hole thru one end of the soap and simply run a length of twine through the hole and attach the soap to the branches of the tree using the twine. It was a great afternoon craft project; the library is full of great ideas. I spent four hours trying to bore a hole through a bar of Irish Spring. It turns out that soap is very dense. I did some more reading. A handy tip in one text suggested using small bars of hotel soap. It would be easier to drill a hole in and they could be picked up for free. After the poor cost benefit ratio of the chili spray I made a mental note to collect hotel soap. I mentioned the idea to my husband and he pointed out that we were not going to stay in a hotel that evening simply to collect small bars of soap. They would not be, he pointed out, “free” if we were paying $80 for the hotel. The soap, he pointed out, would be $80. I made a mental note to collect hotel soap the next time we had plans to stay in a hotel. It turns out I didn’t have to wait long.
A couple of months later we decided to attend a family reunion outside of Durango, Colorado. The good news is that we had to do a lot of driving which implied that there would be hotels. The whole extended family would be driving, which to my mind spelled soap. One morning over continental breakfast in the hotel I asked all of the family if they wouldn’t mind saving their little bars of soap for me. I received 10 tiny bars at lunch. Although 10 tiny bars may seem like a lot, I was on a quest for more. I began asking perfect strangers for soap. I spied an older couple at breakfast. I asked about the soap and explained my plight. The gentleman perked up and told me to have a seat, his wife rolled her eyes and returned to the buffet.
The man had owned a commercial orchard in California and was well apprised to the ways of deer. Complicated creatures that were not easy prey to the trickery of humans. He seemed like a nice enough older man, not particularly prone to violence, so I was surprised when he suggested that I purchase a bayonet. It was not just a relic weapon from World War II he informed me, it had great usefulness outside of shooting people and then stabbing them. I would be better off sleeping in the orchard with a bayonet than to waste my time with soap. It was unclear to me whether I should shoot the deer and then stab them or stab them first and then shoot them. I couldn’t imagine getting close enough to a deer to actually stab one. I pointed out that it seemed kind of redundant, shooting and stabbing. He jabbed me several times in the solar plexus with his index finger to illustrate his point.
“A bayonet (jab) is (jab) your (jab) only (jab) friend (jab).”
He had used a bayonet to fight his way out of the Crane Valley in 1965 after taking some shrapnel in the back. It was a lesser known battle but he was sure that America’s freedom and/or laurels rested on it. He kept one by his side faithfully to this day. 2 hours later I thanked him for his stories and promised to buy a bayonet.
When we returned home from vacation I busied myself with the hotel soap. Our orchard was cheerful looking with its petite soap ornaments but more importantly, it was protected. The next morning I went to survey my results. After some scattered nighttime showers the orchard looked like a drunken Laundromat. There were gelatinous globs all over the grass which had turned grayish white. The twine that had once held perfect little bars of Lifebuoy soap hung limp and bubbly. The Van cherry tree, my prized pollinator, had only two actual leaves left, it had been nibbled to a nub. That was the last straw. I went to Craig’s List and typed in “DOG”.