Looking at our own reflections can be pleasurable. The mythological character Narcissus was enamored with his countenance and it cost him dearly. According to legend, he’d go down to a clear pond in the forest and gaze for hours at the attractive face smiling back at him. When he leaned over to embrace that beautiful creature, he fell into the water and drowned.
I used to dread looking in the mirror. But after following the Weight Watchers plan for months, I lost quite a bit of weight. And lately, I’ve put in lots of hours at the gym and more than a few in a tanning bed. So what I see in the mirror these days is less disturbing than it used to be.
But seeing a reflection can be a frightening experience for an animal. It’s comical watching dogs watch themselves in the mirror. Their reaction can be anything from confusion to horror to outrage, seeing another dog looking back at them so directly. A bizarre and unexpected incident happened the other day when a deer saw his reflection in a large, plate glass window. It was towards the end of the mating season, but powerful hormones still urged him to confront any would-be competitors.
The large whitetail buck emerged from a densely-wooded area surrounding a central Texas high school and ambled up to the building encircling a grassy courtyard. As he got closer to the windows, he noticed what looked like another big eight-point buck staring back at him, daring him to engage. After a few tense minutes of looking that big fellow in the eyes, the challenge was too much. He did what instinct dictated. He lowered his head and charged.
The impact of that mighty blow shattered the thick tempered glass with a bang. The force was concentrated onto the pointy tips of several antlers that actually hit the window. The startled deer burst into the empty hall of the school building and landed in an ocean of broken glass. He got to his feet and started running through the long, deserted hallway.
As he slipped and slid past classrooms, students and teachers flung classroom doors open to make sure they were not hallucinating. Some stuck their heads out of the doors for a quick peek. Others ducked back inside for safety, while still others trotted off down the 40-foot hall to see how the surreal episode would conclude. Security cameras captured the chaotic moments as the panicked animal skittered across the slick tile floor. He picked up speed, turned a corner and kept running. He then saw what appeared to be a way out of the terrifying maze.
Sunlight streamed through wide glass panels on either side of the exit doors. The outside world beckoned him. But the faster the deer tried to run, the more he slipped and fell, slender legs sprawling in all directions. He fell several times on the way down the hall, unable to get traction on the polished vinyl flooring.
When he came within a few feet of the heavy metal door, he slipped down again. That time as he went down, one of his front hoofs miraculously hit the crash bar of the exit door and it opened. The relieved deer bounded out the door and sped across the campus as the dumbfounded gawkers stared after him in disbelief. The last thing they saw was a final swish of a white tail as the deer disappeared into the woods.
The entire incident lasted no more than a minute or two, but must have seemed like an eternity to the frantic deer. I’m glad there is video proof. Otherwise, people who hear this — and even the eyewitnesses – might wonder if it was just another Texas tall tail…uh, I mean tale.