Richmond Park is famous for its deer. I’d been meaning to go seek out their sylvan mystique for some time, but until a few weeks ago had not yet made the journey. We went with the express purpose of seeing these world-famous deer. (Also because we noticed a spot on the map marked ‘Spankers Hill’ and we in fact have the sense of humor of thirteen-year-old boys.)
Anyway, there we were, wandering about the park on a summer’s day so beautiful it could be captured as the Platonic ideal of summer days. Over fields and through glens, past ponds and around hedges. When suddenly, there they were: deer!
A herd of deer was standing placidly in a grassy area around the gamekeeper’s house. Various parties of picnickers settled around them staring at the charming scene of sweet baby deer nibbling mildly at grass, occasionally lifting their heads topped by nubbly antlers-to-be to stare back at the onlookers.
Except…they weren’t really all that sweet. For one thing, they were just about the sneeziest group of deer I’d ever seen. Every few seconds one of them would make a noise somewhere between a sneeze and a snort, a little bit like Felix Ungar going “fmeh!” in ‘The Odd Couple.’ I swear one of them farted as well. My illusions of the mystery and glory of nature began to tarnish somewhat.
Never mind…the thing that really confused us is that it seemed to be a herd completely made of fawns (with their spotted backs and gangly legs) and there didn’t seem to be any big deer around. Later in the day we did find a herd of full-grown deer, regal and imposing. Absolutely no sneezing going on among their ranks. We pondered this age-segregation amongst the deer: surely it was dangerous to leave all the babies unattended?
It was only later that we found out they were in fact two COMPLETELY DIFFERENT species of deer. Red deer are the big majestic ones, and the ones which shall ever more in my head be known as sneezy deer are the smaller fallow deer (who apparently have spotted backs all the time, not just as babies.)
We never did make it to Spankers Hill.