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Deer And His Friends(1)

2006-08-11 13:19

  The deer had been struck and killed by a car. A passing motorist on the narrow mountain road saw a slight movement and stopped. Huddled beside the dead deer was a fawn with the umbilical cord still attached. “I don't suppose you have a chance," the motorist told the tiny creature as he tied off the cord, ”but at least I'll take you where it's warm.“

  The nearest place was the powerhouse of New Jersey's Glen Gardner Center for Geriatrics, a state institution. Maintenance men there quickly produced rags to make a bed behind the boiler for the fawn. Then they took a rubber glove, pricked pinholes in a finger, diluted some milk and offered it to the fawn, who drank eagerly.

  With the men taking turns feeding the fawn, the little deer's wobbly legs and curiosity soon grew strong enough to bring it out from its bed behind the boiler. On their breaks, the men petted and played with the baby. "If it's a female, we'll call her Jane Doe,“ they laughed. But it was a male, so they taught him to answer to "Frankie," short for Frank Buck.

  Frankie became especially attached to one of the men, an electrician named Jean. On nice days, Frankie stepped outside with his new friend, enjoying the fresh air and scratches behind the ears. Sometimes other deer came out of the woods to graze. When Frankie caught their scent, his head came up.

  "You'd better tie him or we'll lose him,“ someone commented. Jean shook his head. "He'll know when it's time to go," he said. Frankie began following Jean on his rounds, and the slight, white-haired man followed by the delicate golden fawn soon became a familiar sight.

  One day a resident, noticing Frankie waiting by a door for Jean, invited the deer in. Glen Gardner housed old people who had been in state mental hospitals and needed special care. When Frankie was discovered inside, the staff rushed to put him outside. But when they saw how eagerly one resident after another reached out to touch him, they let him stay. When Frankie appeared, smiles spread and people who seldom spoke asked the deer's name.

  Discovering a line in front of the payroll's clerk's window one day, Frankie companionably joined it. When his turn came, the clerk peered out at him. "Well, Frankie," she said, "I wouldn’t mind giving you a paycheck. You're our best social worker!"

  The deer had the run of Glen Gardner until late fall, when the superintendent noticed he was growing antlers. Fearful he might accidentally injure a resident, the supervisor decreed banishment. Frankie continued to frequent the grounds, but as the months passed he explored farther afield. When he was a year old, the evening came when he didn't return to the powerhouse; now he was on his own.











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