Sometimes a learning opportunity comes about when you’re least expecting it to. Sometimes a moment of beauty takes a mundane experience into transcendence. And sometimes you get truly lucky and get both at the same time. Such was the case just two weeks ago, when my wife and kids had a close encounter with a friendly deer while on vacation.
They had gone to Chincoteague Island, Virginia, with some friends of ours, to relax and spend a lot of time on the beach. My kids and one of the other kids have gotten very good at riding their bicycles, and so they were out riding around near the rental house, when a young male deer came to investigate the goings-on. Now, most deer in populated areas are understandably fairly skittish around humans, but not this one. He came right up to the kids, who had of course stopped to look at him.
The deer, who (they found out days later) had been named “Charlie” by some of the locals (who also put a flea collar on him), let the kids and grownups pet him, and ate some bits of fruit out of their hands. Then Charlie started to trot away, and the kids started riding their bikes back and forth in the neighborhood. Charlie spotted them doing this, and must have decided it looked like fun, because he returned and started running along behind them. He came back up to the house, and even tried to get into my wife’s minivan (the hatchback was open to get something out of it).
My wife and our friends seized on this pretty amazing event as an opportunity to teach the kids about deer and their habits. They already knew some, of course, but their interest was piqued for obvious reasons. We’d thought trips to the zoo were good for getting the kids interested in learning more about animals, but there’s really nothing like a really close encounter with wildlife to make them want to know more. Of course, not all wildlife is as friendly as Charlie the deer.
My only regret is that I wasn’t actually there to witness it, though it was great watching my kids’ faces light up as they told me all the details of what had happened (I arrived in Chincoteague later that same day). I don’t know if I’ve adequately described just how strange and wonderful an experience it was. Let me say this: I can almost picture my kids, when they’re my age, telling my grandchildren about that time on Chincoteague they rode their bikes with a deer.
I’ve uploaded a few other pictures to a public Flickr set, which also contains larger versions of the pictures you see here.