Chapter 35 - "meeting a deer"
We decided to go home a different route than we came. I’m not sure how we came to this decision, but I never remember questioning whether it was the right one. It was two lanes for about a thousand of the sixteen hundred miles. But because of the lack of traffic, it has little consequence in the long run. Except for one minor detail—deer.
I’ve seen deer along side the road grazing in the peripheral glow of the headlights before. I’ve seen a deer get struck by a car in front of me. I’ve even hit a deer on one occasion. But those random and spread out experiences could not have prepared me for the glut of deer all but asking to be hit on our trip home.
Doug drove for the first 4 hours and then I took the wheel. By that time it was nightfall and the deer were literally everywhere. Doug made sure to let me know that I shouldn’t go any faster than 65mph so that if one ran in front of me, I had ample time to slow down or swerve around the creature with a signed death wish. I took heed and for about an hour, I didn’t see any crossing the road. They stayed off to the sides doing whatever deer do as they watch cars whiz by them.
I talked myself through a strategy of what I would do should one of these majestic beasts decide to play chicken with me. We had quite a load on the flatbed, so I knew that it wouldn’t be in our best interest to do much swerving so as to not tip over or throw our load. I came to the executive decision that I would hit my breaks and hope for the best. Going slower certainly gave me a better shot at avoiding a collision with one of those dumb deer. But I knew that if one popped out at just the right time, I would have little choice but to drill it.
Just as I was mulling over a my options, a deer bounded out almost as an instantaneous fulfillment of meditational prophecy. I carried out my previously solidified plan of action to a “t”. I hit the brakes firmly without slamming them, offered an abridged prayer to God, and proceeded to plow into him squarely. It was a direct hit in the dead center of the bumper sending the poor thing flailing into the air toward the ditch. I can’t imagine that it wasn’t death upon impact given the nature of our meeting. I am guessing that even though I hit the brakes, I probably still hit him going 55mph or so.
I came to a stop; Doug woke from his slumber, and I skittishly put the truck in reverse to look for the victim of this hostile encounter. Sure enough, the deer lay ever so still off the cooling pavement. We pulled the truck off to the shoulder and got out. We wanted to look the truck and deer over to assess the damage. The truck sustained minor injuries, while the dear was a mangled, tangled, lifeless mess. Thankfully, he didn’t suffer at all. He was in deer heaven faster than you could say, “look both ways before you cross”. Even though I’m no animal rights activist, I certainly feel sad when I see them die. I wonder if their family is watching from a distance shedding tears and hugging each other in a nearby field.
After a couple minutes of retelling the story, we hopped in the truck and resumed our trip. I was way more cautious and paranoid at that point, almost hallucinating about deer crossing the road even when none were around. It’s crazy the tricks your mind plays when you’re tried, it’s dark, and you’ve just witnessed something semi-traumatic.
One good thing is that it kept me awake for almost 5 hours of good night driving giving Doug a longer stretch of sleep. But at about 5 hours, I was dying to climb into the extended cab and get some shuteye. We were still about 22 hours away…which felt like an eternity.
As I laid my head down and found an in-the-ballpark comfort, I dozed off and dreamt of deer--large deer with fangs seething with bitterness. It wasn’t the most restful sleep, but at four in the morning, you take what you can get.