It's time for Umatilla County Fair entries again and the household out Highland has been depressed. The floral entries, Pappy's prized roses and the assistant's photos are not looking good at all.

It's not that the rose bushes are failing to do their part. On the contrary, they have been growing vigorously, branching out and budding beautifully. But to enter in the fair, one actually has to have blossoms. Pappy's bushes look as if someone gave the patch a crew cut.

His erstwhile assistant told him last winter the pets of winter would be the pests of summer and for a change, the assistant was right. The resident deer herd, most of whom have been around long enough for Pappy to name them (ol' Limpy, Twitch ear, etc.) believe rose buds are right up there with bird seed as entrees at the Highland Avenue Deer Buffet.

And so, Pappy's prize roses get a regular (and close) hair cut.

Years ago, Pappy tried to get some relief from the county with the deer problem. The sole suggestion? Get a big dog.

So now, any vegetables Pappy really wants to have are in pots on the back deck with the deck door closed and locked at night. If you think deer won't come up and get on the deck if left to their devices, we have a couple of tomato plants that would like a word with you.

The local deer population seems to be of a rather strict hierarchy. Ol Limpy, the herd doe, is the top of the heap, looking sleek and fit despite a pronounced limp. Of course, the condition of Pappy's garden is all the explanation one needs for her general condition. There is nothing like a steady diet of whatever the humans are foolish enough to plant to put pounds on a deer.

Regardless, Limpy is the boss. The yearling does and fawns keep out of her way, and the occasional bachelor buck (in velvet) wants nothing to do with her temper. All of them give her first choice of the best of the bird seed, the roses and, of course, the ever-so-tasty zinnias.

Recently, the herd had a visitor from the West, a nice little doe. There was some debate where she was from possibly Orchard Extension. Regardless, as a single deer at this time of year, she was an outcast. She seemed to mean no harm to anyone except Pappy.

The interloper started to make herself at home under the apple tree, munching on the immature apples that have dropped off. Ol' Limpy, looking out from the brush, saw her and came charging up out of the brush bent upon eviction. She chased the little doe in a merry circle around the apple tree for some time before the interloper got the hint and took off for greener pastures.

Meanwhile the debate rages: Will the floral judges allow the bitten off stems in the rose competition?

Tom Marks is a born-again Hermiston native who moved back a few years ago having grown tired of wet feet and cold clammy sheets in the West. He is available at icedtea@eoni.com.

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