Shirley Holcomb's daughter just started singing that popular Elmo & Patsy song to her children, not for the catchy lyrics with Sonoma roots, but because it happened.
Holcomb, a 46-year-old grandmother of three, was run over by a black-tailed deer — not a reindeer, as the song famously says — near her office in Oakmont last week and still has hip and leg bruises to show for it.
"She hit me so quick, I didn't see her coming at all," Holcomb said at the scene of the collision along Oakmont Drive. "It kind of freaked me out a little bit."
Oakmont, home to more than 4,500 residents in the Valley of the Moon, is also a haven for herds of deer on its lush golf course, while smaller groups of deer feast on residents' ornamental plants and gardens.
Deer also get killed by cars along Oakmont Drive, the senior community's main drag, and what happened to Holcomb on Sept. 18 came close to turning the tables.
At lunch on the patio behind the Tenant Screening Center, where she works, Holcomb had seen an antlered buck, doe and smaller deer in an adjacent creekbed. Feeling threatened when the buck crossed onto her office property, Holcomb said she went back inside.
A bit later, Holcomb walked to the Oakmont Village Market on the other side of the creek, and saw the doe "staring at me" as she crossed the parking lot.
On her way back from the market about 1 p.m., Holcomb said she "heard some rustling" in the creekbed. Suddenly, she was bowled over by the doe, catching a glimpse of the deer's posterior as it bolted across the road.
Holcomb fell into the roadway, and was nearly run over by a car that stopped close to her head.
A passerby helped her up, and Holcomb said the bruising from the deer's impact and her fall "felt like my body was one fire."
Holcomb missed two days of work, and her daughter, Brandy Wood of Clearlake, is now singing "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" to her children.
"What are the odds of this happening?" Holcomb wondered.
Pretty small, according to Mary Sommer, acting deer coordinator for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
"That sounds like an accident," said Sommer, an environmental scientist. "It's real unusual for a doe to jump up and run into someone like that."
Deer do attack people, most often bucks during the fall mating season, which starts in late October, and does protecting a fawn in spring, she said.
A black-tailed doe, weighing 80 to 100 pounds, will butt with its head and strike people with its front legs.
"It's pretty intense," Sommer said. "They are very tough animals."
If a deer seems to be acting aggressively, it may be because it feels cornered. A person should get out of its way and take cover, said Janice Mackey, a Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman.
Should a deer repeatedly act in a threatening manner, people should call the agency's regional office in Napa at 944-5500.
Cases like that are rare, Mackey added.
(You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)