A close encounter in the dark

About half an hour ago, I experienced one of those rites of passage that American drivers face and then share with one another. Tonight I hit a deer with my car.

Before I go any further, let me assure you that I am unharmed, the car is unharmed, and even the deer is fine. I cannot report how the deer feels about this experience, but I am very thankful to be able to report no damage from our collision.

I was driving a back road between towns, taking the long way around because the main highway is under construction. It was dark, of course, and I was traveling at the speed limit, which is 35 mph on that road. A lot of people speed on that road—if I had been going 50, this story would have been different. As I drove over the crest of a hill, I saw two deer: one standing on the shoulder of the road, and the other standing on the opposite lane from the one I was using. I began braking—not a stamp-on-the-pedal frantic break, because a second car was not far behind me, but still cautious slowing of the car. The deer on the road began running away from me down the road. I thought that this could be okay; I once followed a deer more than a mile down the road because it figured it could make better time on the pavement than into the trees. It was going full speed; I was crawling at ten miles an hour or so. Eventually, it changed strategy and left the road.

But that was a long time ago. Back to tonight. The deer that was on the road swerved in front of me to get off the road. By this time I was probably moving about five miles an hour. The car hit the shoulder and flank of the deer and came to a complete stop. The deer rolled over twice, leaving the road as it did so. Then it scrambled to its feet and headed for the trees; it did not appear to be limping.

The car behind me had also stopped in time, so we got rolling again, and I headed home. I had a brief alarm when I was stopped at a traffic light, because only one of my headlights was reflected from the back of the pickup truck in front of me. When the light turned green and the truck moved, however, I could see the reflection of the other headlight—the single reflection was just an oddity of our relative angle.

I know many drivers who have hit deer. Most of their stories are not as uneventful as mine. I was planning on writing a tribute to Mozart to post on his birthday tomorrow, but that tribute will have to wait for another time. Tonight I just had to share my dear deer story. J.

 

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