by Pauline Montemayor
Let’s set the scene here.
Imagine, if you would, a serene garden with about ten people in it. Three of them (let’s name them Rachel, Justin, and Laura) are clumped together and discussing the tasks to be dealt with that very day. The rest of them are either walking through, barely getting their morning started, or they’re already busy with whatever garden task they need to do. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. It’s peaceful. The smell of morning dew is still in the air, the mourning doves are cooing. Cue Rossini’s “Ranz de Vaches” (A song most everyone’s heard in Looney Tunes cartoons without knowing what it’s called. So here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PAEuqHJ6Z4)
Now coming into the scenery is a baby deer, a fawn. It’s cute, right? There is something odd about this scene, however. We have a fawn, but no mother. Where is she? Well, rest assured that Mother Doe is safe and sound behind the fence, and out of the garden. Little Bambi, however, is not.
Let’s pan back to Rachel, Justin, and Laura. The three of them are mid-conversation, until each of them pause and furrow their brows into a look of confusion. Because running past them is Little Bambi, in a panic. Chasing the fawn in a full-on sprint is a girl, who appears to have raided GI Jane’s wardrobe. She’s already out of breath, yet hurdling over the various crops and other obstacles. She’s not chasing the deer out of fun, let’s make that clear. Instead, she’s channeling her inner Border Collie and is herding the scared animal out of the garden so it can get back to its mother and therefore not do any more damage to the plants. It’s a win-win. However, things aren’t boding well. Little Bambi is nowhere close to an exit and and is still running across the field with the girl right behind it, hurdling over snake and gopher holes. That is until the girl stops dead in her tracks. She inhales sharply at the sight in front of her and then utters a few expletives as she exhales. She has, inadvertently, found where Ridgewood Ranch keeps their bee colonies. So, she waits a moment and weighs her options. Run and chase the deer from behind the hives with the risk of getting stung multiple times? Leave? Wait?
Then she decides to toss a rock towards the deer, in hopes of scaring it out of its hiding place. Success! The fawn bolts out. By this time the girl has squatted in the tall grass so she won’t be seen. She waits until the deer is close enough to a gap in the fence and then sprints after it again, yelling to scare it and make it run. “GO BACK TO YOUR MOTHER!” the girl screams and Little Bambi does just that. Now the girl can breathe and take her sweet time heading back to the trio, Rachel, Justin, and Laura.
Saving a fawn. All in a day’s work.
My day was barely getting started.
With my internship coming to an end, one would think that I’d be used to the wildlife on the ranch. But with animal encounters like mine, it’s pretty damn hard. Remember: snake catching in the bathroom, rattler decapitation, bunny staring contests, and now deer chasing. However, what I have gotten used to is the work and working in the heat despite my sweating like an NBA player. I’ve gotten so used to it that I’m not sure if I can part with it so easily. And even though some of the tasks were meticulous, I was able (and this might just be me) to get through it by turning it into a game. For example, whenever we had to flat seeds I secretly raced against Laura and wouldn’t tell her why I was exclaiming “Yes!” She later figured it out.
In my last two weeks, I was dreading the day I had to leave. At Ridgewood Ranch, there was never a boring moment and I enjoyed the freedom that came along with living on a 5,000 acre property. I got a huge share of agricultural education while also having my share of fun. I gave myself a refresher on archery and got to practice it. I do remember Rachel’s word of advice on the topic, and that was: “Not at people.” Suffice to say, no one was harmed in Pauline’s archery practice except Pauline. I wound up getting a large welt on my forearm from the string’s recoil.
In addition to that, I also learned more about the history or Ridgewood Ranch before Charles Howard owned the property. Apparently there was a family who lived on the property during the mid-19th century and was made up of about thirteen children. Nine of the thirteen children died tragically after contracting diphtheria from a traveler who stayed at the property. As a result the children, along with their father, were buried on the property. Where on the property? A little less than half a mile from the house I stayed in. I had to ask one of the longtime residents a question that had been burning in my mind since day one, but I was too chicken to find out the answer to until the last day. The question was: Is this place haunted? Now I’m a scientist and rely on data for my education, so it’s expected that I don’t believe in ghosts. But I also grew up with a superstitious mother. The short answer to my question was: Yes. So when I packed up my bags and loaded up my car to head back to my air conditioned home I couldn’t help but say this in my head as I left. “I’m sorry if I disturbed you. I meant no harm. So please don’t haunt me, curse me, hover over me, and/or sing ‘Unchained Melody’ while I handle clay. Just please don’t make your presence known because I will sh*t myself.”