Monday, September 21, 2009

Ungulates abroad

The story of Saint Eustace is of particular interest to hunters and historians. He is the patron saint of hunters. Yet Butler characterizes his story as a "worthless legend." He has no dates. According to the worthless legend, Eustace was a general under the Roman emperor Trajan(AD 53-117. One day while out hunting, Eustace was approached by a stag bearing a crucifix between his antlers. The stag in question had a very large rack. Either the stag or the crucifix spoke to Eustace, who was immediately converted. He then converted his wife and sons, so that quite soon the whole family was martyred together in a rather cruel and creative manner: they were placed inside a bronze bull and roasted to death. Saint Eustace became one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, a group of saints especially invoked in Europe during the Black Plague.
The Catholic church - no stranger to unlikely stories of miraculous appearances - has in this case agreed with Butler's estimation and removed Eustace from the calendar.

But that did not stop me from thinking about Saint Eustace yesterday as we drove north on the Saw Mill Parkway (in the correct direction I am happy to say) and saw a rather large deer lying on the shoulder, peaceful and unbloodied. But for the stiffness of its legs he might have been resting. Having disposed of a few dead raccoons of late I found myself wondering which agency was responsible for the removal of the carcass. State, county or town? Police or Public Works? Health department? Who will get the antlers. Could this have been the same deer who was greedily nibbling our apple trees earlier this summer?

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