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Oh, deer! Winthrop gets some bang from a buck

Winthrop University employees, from left, Chad Russell, Rick Walker, Dennis Blancke, Tommy Collins and an unidentified security officer move a deer that ran into the computer center in the basement of Tillman Hall on Thursday. The 90-pound buck slammed into a glass door. Workers were able to tie him up before removing him from campus and releasing him.
Winthrop University employees, from left, Chad Russell, Rick Walker, Dennis Blancke, Tommy Collins and an unidentified security officer move a deer that ran into the computer center in the basement of Tillman Hall on Thursday. The 90-pound buck slammed into a glass door. Workers were able to tie him up before removing him from campus and releasing him.

Somewhere, a deer with two broken antlers is wondering why he was unlucky enough to smash into a computer room Wednesday and end up a few minutes later with a 300-plus pound carpenter named Tommy sprawled on top of him.

Yes, a deer of about 90 pounds crashed through a glass door at Winthrop's Tillman Hall basement Wednesday. Then the deer thrashed around so much that a male computer technician -- over the screams of his female counterpart -- braved the deer's charge before he locked the deer in a storage room. And that was before hundreds of pounds of carpenters in tool belts saved the day with a wrestling pile onto the deer, a subsequent hog-tie with a handy rope, and then a release back into the wild.

"Thought it was just a regular day when I got to work Wednesday," said computer technician Mike Connolly. "Before the deer came right at me, though."

At around 1:30 Wednesday afternoon, a crash shook venerable Tillman Hall. Tillman is that big building on the Winthrop University campus with the clock tower in its belfry.

"I saw something dart across the hallway, all I saw was fur," said Leslie Burch, a 24-year-old graduate student and future teacher working in the center who thankfully majored in biology. She knew it wasn't Sasquatch, a yak or an ox. "It smacked into the glass six feet from us. Smacked with its face."

Those screams? Burch.

"More of a shriek," Burch said.

Connolly backpedaled from the deer -- computer guys are smart -- as another computer guy named Mike Stroud ran in to see if the crash and screams meant the coffee and doughnuts had run out.

"It sure was a deer, thrashing all over the place," Stroud said. "It was so loud I thought maybe one of those pushcarts we move computers on rolled down the steps and smashed the door. But it was a deer. One antler broke off right there in the glass."

Connolly, a quick thinker and hunter who one time bagged a big 10-point buck, braced the door to keep the deer out. Then the deer opted for an adjacent storage room, where Connolly -- again, computer guys are smart -- shut the door behind the deer.

But then these computer people who save the rest of us dummies from ourselves were stuck with a deer in a small room. The deer apparently didn't think much of the arrangement, either. He was knocking boxes around, bleeding from the superficial skin cuts from the glass, making what a teenager would call "a hot mess."

Thankfully, the cavalry arrived immediately.

'A little problem'

Some campus workers had just seen two deer headed south on Eden Terrace, across from campus, straight across Oakland Avenue on a beeline for Tillman. Telecommunications workers Christina Burton and Rick Walker spied the two brazen deer hightailing it through the grass. A gaggle of people who bureaucrats would call structural workers in facilities management -- what regular people call carpenters -- rushed over after a call from the computer office that stated: "We got a little problem. Can you come over?"

Chad Russell, Tommy Collins, Frankie Bell and Fluff arrived. Fluff has a real name of Dennis Blancke, but not even his mama ever called him anything but Fluff.

Along with Walker the telecom guy, these carpenters found the deer in that tile-floored room. Collins, the biggest of the carpenters and therefore the spokesman, described the scene as, "The deer was slipping around like he was on ice. Like he was drunk."

Well, carpenters named Fluff and Tommy and Frankie and Chad know how to handle a drunk. The deer was worn out by then and had lain down. Fluff grabbed a rope from the floor and did what any self-respecting blue-collar guy would do.

"I lassoed him," Fluff said.

Collins then dropped a body slam on that deer faster than a college professor picks up a free meal after a tenure appointment.

"Then we all dove on him," Russell said.

In the words of Fluff, then: "We hog-tied him and hauled him out of there."

The hauling was done on a computer cart.

Winthrop police and York County animal control arrived. Animal control said something along the lines of, "Dogs, yes. Cats, yes. Deer, you are on your own."

Cutting a break

Winthrop Police Chief Frank Zebedis listened to the carpenters -- every one is an experienced deer hunter -- and determined the deer was cut, both spike antlers gone, but otherwise OK. Zebedis, a longtime cop, knew that a couple of years ago, a deer ran through the halls of Tillman, leaped through a window and disappeared into the back garden of university President Anthony DiGiorgio. And just a few months ago, another deer sprinted through Tillman. Zebedis agreed with the carpenters that the deer needed to be released on a natural part of the campus, near the basketball arena, called Winthrop Farm.

"I cut the deer a break," Zebedis said. "I sprung him."

A spokesman with the state Department of Natural Resources, Mike Willis, is no stranger to frightened deer stories.

"We get them breaking front glass into stores, even into houses," Willis said. "I know of one guy who locked a deer that got into his house in the bathroom. But never a computer room."

Willis said the carpenters did the right thing in releasing the deer, because it appears the deer was more scared and tired than seriously hurt.

Late Wednesday, the carpenters took off their tool belts and grabbed their rifles. All are in a local hunt club.

Said Fluff: "And we didn't even see a deer all evening. Guess the deer during the day made us unlucky."

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