We've got deer trouble.
It's a price to pay for living right over the fence from Haleakala Ranch in lower Kula. Those thousands of majestic acres have been through many evolutions, just in the decade we've lived here. They've been dry, rolling meadows punctuated by huge eucalyptus, silver oak and cactus. They've been through droughts and wattle outbreaks.
For a few weeks each year, the ranch runs cattle through the pastures, like living, breathing, snorting lawn mowers. When it's bulls, they sometimes make strange, lonely, horny noises on the slopes under the moon and stars. It sounds like you're living next door to a zoo. When it's cows, they walk right up to the fence, getting so close I can look them in the eye and take their portraits, including the numbered tags in their ears.
I'm reading Maui author Jill Engledow's wonderful "HALEAKALA: A History of the Maui Mountain" right now, and have visions of legendary Haleakala Ranch manager Louis Von Tempsky's gallant ghost thundering through the gulch, throwing his lasso over the wide horns of charging wild bulls. But being this close to the semi-natural world also presents challenges. Currently, it's axis deer, suffering like the rest of Kula from the lack of rain. Ever since the ranch cowboys harvested the trees into makeshift lumber mounds, the deer are easier to spot.
Little packs follow a trampled trail along the fence line across the ravine. With their Bambi faces, white chests and white-speckled tan flanks, they tentatively follow the leader, breaking into leaps and bounds whenever something startles them.
They're easily startled. They're also adorable . . . right up to the morning you wake to find that while you were sleeping, Bambi and friends leapt the barbed-wire fence and turned your garden and fruit trees into a three-course, vegetarian feast.
Their introduced species has grown exponentially in recent years. They leave their calling cards on golf courses where night sightings of tens and even hundreds are becoming more common.
Their transformation from lovable cartoons to environmental menaces is accompanied by a similar evolution in consciousness, from oohs and ahhs to thoughts about sensor lights and crossbows.
Odor can be a deterrent. Cling-Free dryer strips and Irish Spring soap are recommended. I've also engineered wire and mesh into cages, like gated communities for our trees and veggies.
Then there's the wolf solution - marking your territory the way canines do. Supposedly, only male urine works, maybe because that's the gender associated with hunters in the collective memory of the prey. There's definitely something satisfying to claiming your property boundaries this way - but it's hard to forget that although we're higher in the food chain, most species are way better at being animals than we are.
Questions of our animal nature are fresh in my mind after sitting through two and a half hours of Quentin Tarantino excess in "Django Unchained." It stars Jamie Foxx as a slave transformed into a racial avenger by a engagingly nuts German-born bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) in the years just before the Civil War.
Brimming with violence, casual racist jokes about "that N-word on a horse" and buckets of blood,"Django Unchained" is a signature Tarantino mix of vivid visuals, offbeat humor and gratuitous sadism, irresponsibly rewriting American history along the way. Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson co-star.
Not knowing where over-the-top begins marks Tarantino as a genius in some quarters, but produces other reactions among others of us. Like nausea, for openers. Or disgust at the assumption that moral anarchy is fun, or that this auto-erotic approach to gun violence has nothing to do with school shootings and other insane violence permeating our culture.
I'm not the person to ask why "Django Unchained" has topped the box office or scored so many Golden Globe nominations. I've got my hands full with deer. I don't have time for other vermin.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org