Deer have just enough cuteness that we feel compelled to express sympathy toward them, thanks largely to Bambi, a movie my mother would make me watch on the days I was particularly agitating, i.e. almost every day. I’d like to share a soul-enriching experience I had with a deer a few months back, but I thought it would be a good idea to give a little background on the whole thing first.
For the faint of heart, I’d like to assure everyone that no deer were hurt by the writing of this column, although several will be hit by a variety of vehicles, including tricycles before I’m finished. Such vehicular deaths occur regardless of the time of year, thus providing drivers with the thrill of the unexpected, therefore adding a bit of variety to their otherwise dull lives.
To set the stage a little bit, I should note that deer have perfected their natural instinct to survive by coming to the collective conclusion that the best way to cross a street is to wait patiently on the side of the road, hidden in the brush (not a difficult feat since deer can blend in everywhere, even at Walmart). When a car approaches, the deer strategically time their crossings to give them a generous margin of .00000001 of a second to change their minds should they miscalculate. I’m not entirely sure what their success rate is, but the significant number I’ve seen crumpled on roadsides makes me lean towards “moderately unsuccessful.”
Building on that notion, I remember a woman calling into a radio station a few years ago about dead deer on the sides of the road. Apparently the fairly numerous deer corpses distributed at various intervals had finally pushed her to the point where she felt she had to do something to save these poor creatures (the fact that calling a radio station was her first choice should indicate her reasoning abilities). With a passion usually reserved for more important things like telling drunken stories of one’s ex, she unloaded her sadness on the somewhat perplexed host. As her diatribe continued, she kept getting angrier and angrier at the deer rather than at the people who hit them. Why, she asked, couldn’t deer just use the deer crossing areas that we’d already set up for them? Rumor has it she got elected to government.
With such thoughts bouncing around in my head, the prospect of hitting a deer was driven home rather forcibly while a friend of mine was driving the two of us back from a meeting. As we drove along through rural Pennsylvania, a doe took it upon herself to keep pace with us as we were driving. (If you like trees, occasional houses, more trees, and a variety of potholes with such diverse widths and depths they have their own periodic table, take a drive through PA). This behavior was a bit perplexing since this doe didn’t subscribe to the “hide in the brush” method I described earlier. Against all odds, I thought we had finally found an intelligent deer.
As the doe kept pace with the car, I saw her movement as a symbolic contrast between the mechanized world and the purity and brilliance of nature. You could say it was a Pocahontas moment (without the music and all the lice everyone had back then). How could industrialization replace the symphonic beauty of nature? The deer and I made eye contact for a moment, and she began to turn away from the car to glide through the meadows on our right with a delicate grace rivaled only by pop singer backup dancers.
At this moment, I received the first indication that this doe’s brains were as functional as a bowl of moldy tapioca. Somehow, she got the idea that, instead of running into the vast and decidedly car-free meadow to become one with nature, it made much more sense to become one with the car. The meadow clearly lacked the requisite levels of existential excitement, so she veered sharply to the left to get a better idea of what it would feel like to have a bumper slam into her rib cage.
Pieces of bumper flew gleefully in the air like sharp, plastic confetti, and the deer performed a sloppy somersault that would not have impressed Olympic judges, mostly because she didn’t stick the landing. And also because she tumbled into a rain ditch with the grace of a drunk trying to perform heart surgery with a spatula. So that was one point for industrialization.
We pulled over, mostly because Hollywood movies have taught us that cars explode when anything bigger than a pebble hits them. Since the car hadn’t exploded yet, I looked at the side view mirror just in time to see the doe rise out of the ditch like a deer-shaped Lazarus and hop back into the meadow, which she had now decided was better for her rib cage than blunt force trauma.
My friend called the police, and about ten minutes later a cop showed up. I, being the good citizen I am, provided the officer with a detailed description of the doe and a rough sketch of her face in the hopes that he could track her down for further questioning. He mumbled something about how he’d look into it. He didn’t keep my sketch, but his hand edged toward his Taser.
The biggest lesson I learned through all of this is that when driving through Pennsylvania, it’s best to leave your car at home and let someone else drive.