By Dave Carnie
A Mexican family was picnicking on a small strip of land that jutted into June Lake—“isthmus” is too strong a word, it was more of a bulge in the shoreline. They behaved like most Mexican families do near a body of water: the girls were screaming, the boys were swimming with their shirts on, and the men were fully clothed in jeans, boots, and cowboy hats.
Like them, the six of us were staying at the nearby campground with our four dogs. We sat on the rocks munching on grocery-store fried chicken while watching the two German shepherds splash around in the shallows. The older of the two, Randall, is fond of shitting in water. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a beach, a lake, a river, or even a pool: if he can get in it, he will shit in it. Randall also bites trees. Trees make him very angry for some reason. I hadn’t thought of it until now, but Randall would be a great executive for an oil or natural gas company because he seems to really hate Nature.
We were so busy sucking on fried chicken and watching Randall polluting the lake that we hadn’t noticed Junior until he was standing right in front of us. Junior didn’t say anything, he just stood in front of us and observed. Junior was probably eight years old.
“Oh hi!” Stacy said when she recovered her manners. “What’s your name?”
“Junior,” Junior said.
“Is that your family, Junior?” Stacy asked, indicating the aforementioned Mexican family.
“Jyess,” Junior replied shyly.
As Junior grew more comfortable talking to Stacy, we learned that he had come to visit us because of the dogs. Junior likes dogs. He especially enjoyed watching the German shepherds splash around in the lake.
“Do you shower alone?” Junior suddenly asked Stacy.
Everyone laughed. Stacy was a little taken aback by the question.
“Whoa, watch out, Stacy,” our friend, Corey, said laughing. “You’re going to jail!”
Stacy said that she usually showers alone, yes. She was not, however, able to determine whether Junior showers alone or with others. We later decided that his question was somehow related to the dogs in the water, but his English got tangled up.
Junior was most excited by my dog, a dachshund named Beckett. “A wiener dog!” Junior squealed when Beckett emerged from behind a rock. “My wiener is at home,” Junior explained.
“You left your wiener at home?” I asked. I couldn’t resist. “What are you doing out here without your wiener?”
I didn’t have a chance to respond to the accusations of child endangerment from my friends because a collective hush had fallen over the lake. A doe and two fawns had emerged from the forest and were headed towards the water.
The three animals walked timidly across the wide expanse of beach until they reached the water’s edge. We had already had numerous deer encounters at the campground thus far, but this march to the lake in broad daylight with no cover within 200 yards in all directions seemed especially bold, even for an animal familiar with humans. They took one last look around before bowing their heads to drink.
I’ve seen so many deer in my life that they should be on the same level as seagulls, but every time I see one, I think to myself, “Super Nature.” Super Nature is just nature, but I generally reserve the phrase for exceptionally wild animals and/or scenery. Like a monkey on a rhino under a waterfall would be considered Super Nature. Deer qualify as Super Nature simply because they’re so goddamn adorable, but also sorta evil. And because antlers.
The lovely scene that had unfolded before us, however, was interrupted almost as soon as it began when all three deer jerked upright, ears alert. The disturbance: a tourist creeping along the lakeshore in their direction.
I think everyone around the lake thought the same thing I did: “What the fuck does this fucking fuckhead think he’s fucking doing?” In our group, at least, everyone had adopted their best, “Really?” face and I could hear them lamenting under their breath, “Oh come on…”
The tourist was male, probably in his late 20s. His outfit leaned more toward the world of fashion than was appropriate for the outdoors. I had the impression that he was the type that wears pajamas on airplanes. Clutching his cellphone in two hands before him, he tiptoed along the shore towards the deer who eyed him with suspicion. As the tourist crept closer, the disapproval of those around the lake reached the level of a murmur.
Then, as everyone feared yet expected, the babies bolted. Zoom! They trotted off back to the safety of the forest. A few people behind us verbally admonished the tourist, as did we, but either the tourist didn’t hear our disapproval or he simply ignored it because he continued tiptoeing along his route. The mother deer remained at the water’s edge. I pulled my slingshot out of my back pocket and loaded a rock into the pouch.
“David,” Tania whisper-yelled at me when she saw me raise the slingshot in the direction of the deer and the tourist.
There are two things that come out when I go camping: my Leatherman, and my slingshot. I want to carry a knife around with me every day, but I’m a writer that lives in an urban environment so I rarely need anything other than a bottle opener in my daily life. When camping, however, I need a Leatherman in my pocket at all times for—well, for opening beer bottles. The slingshot is also just superfluous dude shit: it’s a weapon, sort of like a gun, but without the murder part.
As I lined up the tourist’s head in the fork, I wondered, what is he thinking? What does he hope to accomplish with this ridiculous endeavor? Does he think he’s going to touch it? Bear, from Alaskan Bush People, has said that he wants to become so good at tracking deer, so silent, so stealth, that he can sneak up on a deer and tap its ass before it knows he’s there (“tap” in the original sense of the word, not the bestiality sense). I doubt Bear’s quest is possible, but it’s an impressive goal because it would be the ultimate manifestation of his superior tracking skills. But what the fuck was this selfish prick sneaking around the lake in flip-flops trying to accomplish?
Shithead took one more tiptoe step—the tiptoeing was also baffling: the deer is looking right at you, who are you going to surprise?—and that was enough for mom. She bolted off towards the forest in the direction of her young.
Then something amazing happened. The entire lake booed the shithead who scared the deer off. “BOOOO!” Actual booing, like it was a hockey game. Junior didn’t need an invitation, he booed louder than anybody. “BOOOOO! FUCK YOUUUUU!” Junior’s family was booing, too. Randall started barking. It was amazing because everyone unanimously agreed that this shithead was a fucking shithead.
Shithead surely heard the booing, although I’m not sure if he interpreted it correctly because he seemed to think it was funny. Maybe he thought we were booing the deer because it ran off before he got to tap its ass?
I raised my slingshot, but Tania glared at me again. “David,” she said.
“But he wears pajamas on airplanes,” I argued.