The boys and I just got back from Palmer to visit the reindeer farm in the valley, about an hour north of Anchorage. David [age 2] and Spencer [age 5] couldn’t wait to check out the deer and see if they were in good flying condition.
When the tour began instead of the customary two or three adult guides, we were met with a teenager who obviously was not enjoying our hardy 10 below temperatures. She silently handed us some cups of feed and led us out to the raised, fenced deck that overlooked a large pen and about 35 reindeer. FYI: all reindeer have antlers, male, female, and fawns, an important piece of information as our story unfolds.
She gave us no instructions other than a casual gesture toward the pen and a warning to stay away from the big male named Ruldoph who evidently has such a mean temper that he'd recently been castrated, a Christmas bonus that had not improved his disposition I'm sure.
Spencer was hanging back so I went first, gingerly stepped through the gate down into the pen. It was difficult keeping David upright who, in his bulky winter gear, kept slipping on thick puddles of frozen reindeer urine and though eager to see the animals up close, was nervous once he was at tooth-level.
Immediately five or six reindeer were upon us, looking for food, but reindeer aren’t tall and their antlers were right in my face. They crowded around us from every side, blocking our way back to the deck, and as I realized I was surrounded by strange animals with weapons on their heads I started to worry about David, who struggled as my grip tightened.
They jabbed at me with their antlers, stepping forward with their heads lowered and tossing up their wracks into my body and face. Reindeer may not look particularly strong, but they can really throw things around when they want to and I went from "slightly nervous" to full-blown "anxious" as their pushing grew more aggressive.
Despite my rising panic about the surrounding situation I could tell there was movement behind me but my attention was focused on keeping the animals from jabbing David or keeping him from slipping and being trampled. That's when the teenage guide jerked to life and squealed, “Look out! Rudolph is behind you!”
I heard a puffing sound just before I was hit by a full set of Rudolph antlers. He’d charged at my legs and caught me, throwing me up against the antlers of the reindeer in front of me, pinning me between them. Luckily David had slipped from my hand and was on the outside, unhurt, but there I was, stuck between two killer reindeer while the guide did nothing more than repeat, "Watch out!"
“Well what am I supposed to do here?” I finally snapped, irritated at her pointless directions. She gaped for a second. Then Rudolph suddenly stepped back--I thought he was backing up for the kill--giving me enough room to escape when the guide, finally earning her keep, entered the pen and chased him off.
Who would have thought Rudolph had so much anger? Luckily he didn’t break the skin, but I’ve got purple bruises up and down the back of my legs as a souvenir--forget about the bulls of Pamplona, watch out for the reindeer of Palmer. Needless to say, the boys wanted no part of life in the pen after that, they were content to pelt the animals with feed pellets from the fence. Merry Christmas all.
Technorati tags: Alaska, reindeer, motherhood, Christmas