There are many callings. Some people teach. Some people write. Some people sing operas, and some train dogs. And some get up in the middle of the night to sit in the woods next to a stuffed deer head.
I learned this today. I work as the court advo-
cate for SAFE (Shelter Available for Family Emergencies), a program for survivors of domestic violence. I accompany women in court when they need to get restraining orders from battering husbands or boyfriends, or when they testify in assault cases or custody hearings regarding their children.
In this line of work, it's something to be thankful for when business is slow. The time between Christmas and New Year's was, unfortunately but predictably, the busiest season. Holidays seem to bring tension and anger to the surface for some people as easily as they bring joy to others.
As I write this, we seem to be in the lull that comes after the storm. Still, I sit in court two days a week, on the lookout for women who may be in need of our services. And so I get to view a slice of life I might not otherwise see.
TRANSYLVANIA County, North Carolina, is known as the "Land of Waterfalls." A third of the county is covered by the Pisgah National Forest-aptly named for the mountain from which Moses glimpsed the Promised Land. This is a land of tall pines, flowering laurel and rhododendron, and rushing water.
Around here most sins seem to revolve around impaired driving and the heinous deeds of the "trout criminals," caught with undersize fish, unlawful bait, or illegal hooks-or charged with "careless fishing" (don't ask me to explain that one). Some-times people are charged with camping in the wrong place or leaving their old washing machine at the side of the road or letting their livestock run loose. And there are always a few cases that get referred to the Dangerous Dog Review Board (though I personally think that dangerous dogs have no business reviewing anything).
Occasionally somebody is discovered cultivating marijuana in the mountains. Then there's the kid who was caught in a cow pasture at midnight, searching for "magic mushrooms," a hallucinogenic fungus that grows only in cow pies (that's manure, for you city folk-don't ask me to explain that either). And since the county started serving liquor by the drink in restaurants last May (a phenomenon that made The Wall Street Journal), there have been a few barroom brawls.
One day somebody was charged with "running a disorderly house," which had me worried for a few seconds as I thought about the state of my own apartment-until I recognized the euphemism for housing a variety of unlawful sexual and drug-related activities. I missed the day they brought in 40 men on cockfighting charges (you have to go to South Carolina to stage gamecock fights legally).
This is the kind of place where judges generally listen patiently to endlessly creative stories. One young defendant was charged with giving false information to a police officer; he gave the name of the local radio weatherman, whose predictions are, well, occasionally reliable. The judge was lenient, declaring, "Anyone who claims to be [name deleted to protect the innocent] has already humiliated himself enough." It's the kind of place where, if your crime isn't too awful and you get sentenced to jail for a weekend or two, you have to call ahead to see if there's room.
I've seen some interesting things in court, but none as interesting as today. There were seven cases of "spotlighting deer." You're only allowed to hunt deer during certain weeks, and then only from dawn to dusk. The phrase "looking like a deer caught in headlights" is grounded in truth-they freeze when a light shines their way. Some hunters take advantage.
So the wildlife officers have created a decoy. It's a stuffed deer head on a plastic body-"motorized, so its head sort of bobbles around," one court official explained to me. They set it up near county roads at night or in the early morning. When hunters see it, some shine their spotlights or headlights at it and shoot. Then the wildlife officers come bounding out of the woods and arrest them. Another victory for "Robo-Bambi," as the decoy is affectionately called in these parts.
The penalties are stiff-heavy fines, jail time if it's your second offense, revocation of your hunting license for two years, and a hefty contribution to the Wildlife Commis-sion if you want to get your gun back. The officers say it's to protect the deer, who become helplessly mesmerized victims in the light.
Indeed, there are many callings. I'm glad this isn't mine. But I'm also glad somebody makes it their business to care about deer. Mostly, I guess, I'm just amazed at how many things go on in the world that we don't get to hear about. I thought you'd want to know about this one. Chalk it up to "You learn something new every day." If you really want to.JOYCE HOLLYDAY, a former Sojourners associate editor and now a contributing editor, writes, leads retreats, and works with survivors of domestic abuse in western North Carolina.